By John Levesque, David Volk, Sarah Dewey, Anthony Adragna & Karen West December 1, 2011


Illustrations by Tom Richmond

They Stock the Hottest Titles
Workers at Amazon.coms Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, book distribution center complained of near-sweatshop conditions, with work quotas constantly being raised and reports of staffers succumbing to the heat last summer in 100-degree temperatures. Instead of opening its doors to cool down the facility, Amazon thoughtfully paid a local ambulance company to station paramedics outside to treat anyone who wilted. Management has since installed air conditioning. David Volk


What Are Friends For?
Kurt Lidtke may be a two-time loser, but at least hes consistent. The former Pioneer Square art dealer, who received a theft conviction in 2007 for selling works of art on consignment and then pocketing the proceeds, was back in court this year, again for crimes against the humanities. This time around he got a four-year prison sentence for his part in a scheme to sell art stolen from Seattle area homes. Lidtkes accomplice in the second scheme? His cellmate from his first incarceration. D.V.


Bottom 10 Stocks (click to enlarge)


[personal finance]
Thats check and mate, mate
Selling retailer gift cards may not necessarily be a bad thing, but charging interest for them is. Thats just what the payday loan business Checkmate was doing when the state Department of Financial Institutions slapped the firm with a cease-and-desist order. Although Checkmate called the scheme to sell its customers $100 gift cards a retail installment loan program, there was only one installment, it came very quicklythe customers next paycheckand it had a hefty price tag: 391 percent interest. Oh, and did we mention the program was marketed to folks who were already at their eight-loan limit? D.V.


An Ounce Shy of a Quart
Its not bad enough that Starbucks insists on calling its smallest advertised drink size a tall and its medium drink size a grande, but last spring the coffee megacorp introduced a cup so big that it holds more liquid than the capacity of the average human stomach. And just to perpetuate the culture of confusion, the new 31-ounce size is called a trenta, which is Italian for thirty. Apparently, Starbucks doesnt think we can handle three-syllable foreign words yet. The Italian word for thirty-one is trentuno. D.V.


This Is How You Thank Us?
Theres the right way to show gratitude and then theres The Boeing Company. After initially losing to Airbus a contract to build tanker planes for the Air Force, then winning on appeal, largely on the strength of lobbying by Washington Senator Patty Murray and Representative Norm Dicks, the Chicago-based aerospace company found the perfect way to say thanks. It overbilled the U.S. Army for helicopter replacement parts at sky-high rates. In one case, Boeing charged $644.75 for a part that cost another Pentagon agency $12.51. D.V.


Can You Bill Me Now?

A report by the Washington Policy Center revealed that Washington state residents pay more taxes on their wireless phone bills than any state other than Nebraska. Were not sure why we pay a tax of 23.53 percent when the average rate is 16.26 percent, but were willing to bet it has something to do with all those custom-made pink outfits worn by the perky spokesmodel for Bellevue-based T-Mobile. D.V.

Follow Us