retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Christian Science Monitor reports that "the European Union's antitrust regulator has launched an investigation into tax deals that Apple, Starbucks and Fiat struck with some European countries, the start of a wider push to keep multinationals from taking advantage of loopholes. EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Wednesday a preliminary probe by his office has found the arrangements are improper, though the companies as well as the countries involved — Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — must be given a chance to respond."

While tax deals are allowed, they apparently go too far when they give certain companies a financial advantage over competitors that don't get the same deal.

I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea if these deals are legal or illegal. But it occurs to me that of course these tax deals give certain companies advantages over others … isn't that the whole point of a tax deal?

• Starbucks and Duracell have announced a partnership that will lead to the installation of wireless phone chargers in Starbucks and Teavana locations around the country.

"Starting at stores in the San Francisco Bay Area," USA Today writes, "consumers will be able to set their cellphones down on designated spots on their tabletop, and their batteries will charge as they eat, drink, read or chat. No plugs. No cables. No cost. No joke.

"Over the next three years, more than 100,000 table chargers — built-in Powermat charge pads — will be installed in Starbucks' 7,500 company-owned stores in the U.S. That's about a dozen per store."

USA Today reports that Anheuser Busch and Miller Coors "are getting cold water thrown on their long-held policies of not disclosing all of the ingredients in their brews."

The reason beer is not required to have its ingredients labeled is that the industry is regulated by the Department of the Treasury, not the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But now food blogger and nutritional activist Vani Hari, creator of, has launched an online campaign to change the rules and mandate ingredient labeling.

The paper writes that "among the ingredients Hari has discovered in some beers sold by the big beer makers: Prolyene Glycol, which is commonly used in airplane de-icing liquids, but used by some beermakers to control the head on their beers. Also, something called Isinglass, which comes from fish swim bladders, is used to make beer more clear. Some use high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and stabilizers that are linked to intestinal inflammation, she says."

• Disgraced former Food Network star Paula Deen said this week that she will launch an subscription-only online cooking network this fall, with fee-paying fans able to access videos, recipes and cooking tips at any time.

Time notes that Deen "lost most of her endorsements, her book deal and her TV deals in 2013 after she acknowledged having used racial slurs—including the N-word—in the past."

"The fans are going to see things they have never seen before," she tells Time. "They are going to see all of me."

As far as I'm concerned, I've seen and heard about as much about Paula Deen as I care to.
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