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Consumer Briefing

December 20, 2009

INTERNET

McDonald's to offer free wireless

McDonald's Corp. said it would offer free wireless Internet access at most of its U.S. fast-food restaurants as it tries to broaden its appeal.

The company has offered Internet access for about five years. In mid-January, it will lift the $2.95 fee it has charged for two hours of Internet access at 11,000 of its 14,000 U.S. locations. There will be no time limit after the fee is lifted.

"We don't mind at all if people step in, take advantage of the Wi-Fi and linger a bit," said Dave Grooms, chief information officer for McDonald's USA.

McDonald's is providing the wireless service through a partnership with AT&T Inc. The company declined to disclose the terms of the contract or how much it would spend on the change.

AUTOMOTIVE

December big for car lockouts

Here's a little-known December activity: locking yourself out of your car.

The four busiest days for lockout services last year were in December, according to member roadside assistance statistics compiled by the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Overall, lockout calls made up about 17% of all roadside assistance calls last year, the group said.

"Harried shoppers with packed schedules make for a potent recipe for car keys stuck in vehicle ignitions, or ending up in trunks where shoppers' packages are stored," said David Lang, vice president for automotive services.

Lang's advice: Don't become distracted when getting into or out of your vehicle; get in the habit of exiting your vehicle with your car keys in hand and using the key fob security system to lock doors; never leave a spare ignition key hidden in or attached to the vehicle, because it could be used to steal your car.

TRAVEL

Shorter vacations more common

Travelers are taking shorter holiday vacations this year, selecting less expensive destinations and taking vacations that involve only short flights, according to a survey of American Express Travel agents.

The survey was conducted in November among more than 460 American Express Travel specialists, and about three-fourths of them reported noticing the money-saving vacation trends among their agents.

Agents also reported more last-minute bookings and more inquiries from travelers who want to use credit card rewards to save money or get more value from their vacations.

About 40% of the agents said more travelers were choosing cruises and all-inclusive vacations, such as hotels and resorts where meals and activities are included in the price.

RECALLS

Choking risk in toy dart gun sets

After the 2007 choking death of a child, a Los Angeles company is recalling about 22,000 "Action Team" toy dart gun sets, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

Consumers should take the toys away from children immediately and return the sets to OKK Trading for a $3 payment. The play sets, which were sold at discount stores nationwide for $1 each, include a toy gun, three rubber darts, a SWAT watch, a baton, a walkie-talkie, a whistle and a badge. For more information, contact OKK Trading at (877) 655-8697 or at www.okktrading.com.

* About 2,000 Hampton Bay dehumidifiers, sold at Home Depot, are being recalled because the product can overheat and pose fire and burn hazards. The company received 18 reports of the dehumidifiers catching fire. One consumer reported a burn injury to his arm. The recall involves model HB-50. The recalled dehumidifiers were sold at Home Depot stores from November 2000 to May 2007. For more information, call (800) 553-3199 or visit www.cpsc.gov.

-- times staff and wire reports

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