Desiree Stennett - The Penny Hoarder

When restaurants print the suggested gratuity at the bottom of a receipt, it can be helpful for everyone.

It saves diners from calculating complicated percentages on a full stomach, and it makes sure the service staff is adequately tipped for their work. Everyone leaves happy.

That is, until restaurants start gaming the system and leaving their customers feeling cheated.

That’s how a Cheesecake Factory customer felt after she realized incorrect percentages were being printed on receipts, BuzzFeed News reported.

Now the restaurant chain is facing a class-action lawsuit.

This Lawsuit Says the Chain’s Suggested Tip Is Wildly Inflated

The lawsuit was filed after Marcel Goldman, a Cheesecake Factory customer, says she split the bill with a friend. Goldman’s share of the bill was $38.50, and the receipt broke down the suggested gratuity like this:

  • 15% -- $11.55
  • 18% -- $13.86
  • 20% -- $15.40
  • 22% -- $16.94

Goldman tipped the amount listed for 20%, which is what we suggest you tip servers at sit-down restaurants in our Ultimate Guide to Tipping.

The problem is that $15.40 was not actually 20% of her half of the check; it was 20% of the total check. That meant Goldman, trusting what was printed on her receipt, ended up tipping twice as much as she meant to tip.

The practice of printing suggested gratuity amounts for the full check on split checks happens at 200 Cheesecake Factory locations and the chain’s 13 Grand Lux Cafe locations nationwide, according to the lawsuit.

While Goldman says she’s not asking for hardworking service industry professionals to be paid less, she and her attorney want restaurants to be honest with customers who dine with them.

"Consumers should be aware," Goldman's attorney, Julian Hammond, told BuzzFeed News. "Why are we left to our own devices to do arithmetic acrobatics when the suggested gratuity represented is not true? The mathematic calculation is misleading. It must end; it needs to change."

Cheesecake Factory’s Tip Math Has Been Questioned Before

Cheesecake Factory has been called out for its creative tip calculation in the past, BuzzFeed News reports.

Customers have called the company out on Twitter for printing tip calculations based on check totals after tax rather than the pretax subtotal. Customers thought this practice was also misleading.

Here’s what Cheesecake Factory spokesperson Alethea Rowe had to say about the math on their receipts.

"​All gratuity amounts listed on our guest checks are suggestions only,” Rowe said. “Guests are free to tip as they please. We believe our guests appreciate service provided by our hardworking staff and tip accordingly.​"​

The lesson here: Tip your wait staff well, but do your own math.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Eating like a king or queen doesn’t have to cost you the crown jewels. At least not if you head to Morton’s Steakhouse on Monday.

On Aug. 14, you can have filet mignon, in the form of a petite sandwich, for just $1. And if one is not enough, have a dozen. With this deal, you can have up to 12 sandwiches for just a buck each.

Although Morton’s has locations all over the world, only its U.S. restaurants will participate in $1 Filet Day.

If you want to dine in the lap of luxury without a huge bill, we recommend showing up early. This deal is for dine-in customers only, and you have to sit at the bar. So depending on the size of the Morton’s near you, seating could be very limited.

The deal starts when the Morton’s near you opens and ends at 10 p.m.

Desiree Stennett is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

If you live in one of 10 major cities in the U.S. and Canada, Uber may foot your ice-cream bill every Friday for the rest of the summer.

These cities are Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Miami, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and Toronto.

If you call one of those cities home or are just visiting, simply open your Uber app today starting at 11 a.m. local time and request ice cream. If you’re matched to a nearby Uber ice-cream truck, it will come your way with a free cone for you and up to four friends.

That ice-cream cone will also come with a limited-edition -- limited as in the Uber ice cream trucks could run out so order your ice cream right now -- collectible cone and a punch card.

Make sure to hold on to those two things because they’re your tickets to free ice cream every Friday for the rest of the summer.

Simply take your cone and punch card to any participating McDonald’s location every Friday between now and Sept. 22, and get another free ice cream.

It’s not clear how much ice cream the Uber trucks will hand out today, but they completed 123,000 ice-cream requests throughout 2016.

Remember, if there is no truck near you when you try, don’t give up! The trucks are always moving. You don’t want to miss out when one comes near.

Desiree Stennett is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Every now and then, a fantastic piece of journalism is released. It digs deep. It asks the tough questions. It gets us the answers we have all been seeking.

Eater, “the source for people who care about dining and drinking in the world’s best food cities,” according to its Twitter bio, brought us such journalism this week.

On Wednesday, Eater played the role of David, and California-based Trader Joe’s was Goliath. Although the war still wages, this time, the battle goes to David.

For years, journalists have tried to answer a simple question: Who is supplying the cheap, delicious food sold in the Trader Joe’s chain of grocery stores? For just as long, Trader Joe’s has been notoriously evasive.

But now, after ingredient comparisons and an impressively creative Freedom of Information Act request for public records about recalled food involving Trader Joe’s from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, we have some answers.

Who Supplies Trader Joe’s Food?

Unfortunately, Eater doesn’t have all the answers.

Eater provided a list based on manual ingredient comparisons and items that have been recalled at some point in the past 10 years. Because the list is incomplete, we still can’t tell you who supplies Trader Joe’s cookie butter.

But here are a few of the more interesting ones we do know about:

  • Trader Joe’s dry-roasted and salted pistachios are made by the same company that makes Wonderful Pistachios.
  • PepsiCo-owned Naked has supplied Trader Joe’s with beverages in the past. Eater notes that the TJ’s mango smoothie and Naked’s mango smoothie have the same ingredients. The Trader Joe’s Very Green juice smoothie is also suspiciously similar to Naked’s Green Machine.
  • The ingredients in Trader Joe’s pita chips match perfectly with those in Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. Stacy’s is owned by Frito-Lay Inc.
  • Finally, TJ’s pretzel slims and its dark-chocolate pretzel slims are nearly identical to Snack Factory’s pretzel crisps.

Generally speaking, Trader Joe’s products are cheaper than the name-brand foods you get from other grocery chains. So this list should prove that you are not sacrificing the quality for low prices.

To see the full list of the Trader Joe’s products we’re now pretty certain are made by big brands, head over to Eater.

There are still many more products that have not been matched to a supplier. So keep fighting the good fight, Eater and Vince Dixon.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has a deep appreciation for journalists who don’t give up when a company refuses to answer your questions.

Amazon is stepping into yet another moneymaking lane, and knowing who the potential customers are, it’s likely going to bring in cash by the truckload.

What’s the new idea, you ask? Audiobooks… for dogs.

Yes, Amazon wants you, an otherwise reasonable adult, to pay for a monthly subscription to Audible to make your dog the most well-read pup on the block.

And while it sounds ridiculous to me, I totally understand exactly why Amazon thinks this idea could make bank -- dog owners love their dogs past the point of reason.

Don’t try to deny it.

I’ve seen your let your dogs lick your faces knowing they used those same mouths to lick their butts. I’ve seen the “dog bars.” I’ve seen you bring your dogs to indoor gatherings. I’ve seen you get offended, or skip them altogether, when friends invite you to events that are not dog friendly.

So when I read Amazon’s pitch that claimed “listening to audiobooks outperformed music in reducing stress in canines” and that dog owners who had tried it felt less guilty about leaving their dogs home alone while they were at work all day, I knew this idea had the potential for success.

And I don’t blame Amazon for taking advantage of you by offering a curated list of books your dog will love and dubbing it Audible for Dogs.

In fact, I blame you. Audible for Dogs is a ridiculous nightmare of your own making, dog lovers.

But Seriously, How Does Audible for Dogs Work?

There might be a part of you that assumes there is something that makes the audiobooks particularly dog friendly. But you’d be wrong.

You are literally just using the same audiobook you would listen to yourself and playing it for your dog instead. The only real difference is an introductory video at the beginning of each book by famed and mildly controversial dog whisperer Cesar Millan.

Millan and Audible joined forces to test the audiobooks on 100 dogs before launching them. In 76% of cases, “dog owners who played audiobooks for their dogs reported an increase in calm, relaxed behavior in their pets over a four-week period,” a press release said.

Of course, that means 24 of the 100 dogs either had no change or were possibly worse off. That is a lot of dogs!

In some of the books, the dogs are the main characters. But some of the other picks are just regular books that even cats or humans without pets might like too.

The Audible for Dogs curated titles with Millan’s introductory videos are:

  • “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. Bruce Cameron
  • “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein
  • “Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes” by Maria Goodavage
  • “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

Should You Buy Audible for Your Dog?

It’s your money, so I can’t decide what you do with it.

The woman who Audible featured in its case study, Leslie from Santa Clarita, California, seemed to love it, of course.

“I would always feel guilty about leaving my dog, Buddy, alone, but with Audible for Dogs, I felt like I was leaving him with a friend,” said Leslie, whose last name was not included. “The different voices, the different stories. It was like leaving him with a different friend every day.”

It’s possible that your dog will, in fact, love this.

There is an exception for those who happen to enjoy audiobooks. If that’s you, by all means, get a subscription for yourself and share it with your dog. That is reasonable.

But I beg of you, don’t buy it just for Fido.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She doesn’t own a dog. Obviously.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the paleo diet. Or maybe you know it by another name. The caveman diet? The Stone Age diet?

Whatever you call it, the idea is the same. Paleo dieters aim to eat the unprocessed, healthy foods our ancestors would have eaten, rather than the processed stuff loaded with ingredients we can barely pronounce.

You know what I’m talking about. All the stuff you’re used to seeing advertised on big, glowing sign as you commute home from work.

That not only means you should skip the McDonald’s drive-thru in the evening, but the whole milk with Frosted Flakes you had for breakfast is also a no-no.

This doesn’t mean food has to be boring.

You still get to eat your fill of meat, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods our Stone Age ancestors might have snacked on.

Paleo Recipes Can Get Pricy, but They Don’t Have to Be

Eating a paleo diet at a time when processed foods are getting the blame for everything from obesity to cancer might sound great. But when the conversation shifts to grass-fed, organic beef and wild-caught salmon, most of us probably stop hearing the benefits and start seeing dollar signs.

While paleo traditionalists do believe higher quality and more expensive meats are the best option, you shouldn’t let the price tag deter you from switching to a healthier diet.

Instead, follow the principle that unprocessed foods with limited ingredients are better than their processed and packaged counterparts -- even when that mean choosing nonorganic options.

And while we’re on the subject of traditionalists versus average paleo eaters, we have to talk about salt. Loren Cordian, the researcher and author who popularized the diet, is against all forms of salt, even from kosher and sea salt.

However, those who eat paleo but don’t subscribe to the most stringent rules still eat sea salt. After all, it’s just evaporated ocean water.

Some of the recipes we include below call for salt. We’re trusting you to decide whether you want to include it when you cook.

Kick Your Day Off With a Paleo Breakfast

[caption id="attachment_63029" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Ham and egg breakfast cups with a side of berries Ham and egg breakfast cups with a side of berries. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

We got this recipe for ham and egg breakfast cups from Wellness Mama. It only takes a few minutes to prep and cook 12 of these, so making breakfast for the entire family in the morning (or yourself for a whole week) is a breeze.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 12 to 24 slices of nitrate-free ham: $5.22-$10.44
  • 12 eggs: $1.19
  • 2 green onions: 17 cents

The original recipe includes cheese as an optional topping. But as you already know, dairy products are not paleo. If you try this recipe, skip the cheese.  

Remember, you’ve got some options for toppings, like salsa or parsley, if you want to add a little something extra.

For full preparation instructions, check out Wellness Mama.

We also want to remind you that although this paleo recipes calls for pricier nitrate-free ham, it’s fine to start out with conventional meat.

The total cost rings in at $6.58 to $11.80, which should make about 12 cups (55 cents to 98 cents per cup).

We’ve Got a Cheap Paleo Lunch Idea Too

We eased you into this whole paleo thing by mentioning you can’t have dairy. Unfortunately, I have more bad news: no pasta either.

I don’t make the rules, but I do have an alternative for you.

Zucchini noodles. Zoodles for the initiated.

If you ask Pinterest, it will say you need a fancy spiralizer to make zoodles at home, but there’s no need to buy yet another kitchen tool -- even if you plan to eat zoodles every day. You can use a vegetable peeler to make these. Sure, you end up with wide ribbons instead of spaghetti-like noodles, but they are just as tasty.

Once you’ve got your zucchini cut, you’ll need to make a tomato sauce to go with it. Skinnytaste has an awesome meat-free zoodles recipe.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil: 8 cents
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped: 18 cents
  • 3/4 pound grape tomatoes, cut in half: $4.71
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil: 23 cents
  • 1 large zucchini: 65 cents
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Skinnytaste recommends this as a side dish, but you could add meat or more veggies to make it a bit heartier.

The awesome thing about this is you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already. And if any of the ingredients for the sauce are unavailable or too expensive, you can get by with canned tomatoes and dried basil or a paleo-compliant bottled sauce. Just remember to check the ingredient list.

The first time I made this, I was concerned the zoodles would get soggy if I cooked them the night before and reheated them at lunchtime. I’m happy to report that I’ve refrigerated them for up to two days and microwaved them with no problems.

This meal costs under $6 -- about $5.85 before the salt and red pepper flakes. If you decide to enhance the recipe with some protein or additional veggies, the cost will rise.

Cap it All Off With a Paleo Dinner

[caption id="attachment_63033" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Tomato basil chicken thighs being cooked in a pan Tomato basil chicken thighs. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

After all getting your fill of delicious but cheap paleo meals for breakfast and lunch, you can go for the gold with dinner.

Ancestral Nutrition has a fantastic-sounding recipe for tomato basil chicken thighs.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 4 thin chicken thighs: $3.19
  • 2 tablespoon ghee: 35 cents
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half: $1.49
  • 4 large basil leaves, sliced: 46 cents
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced: 12 cents

Follow Ancestral Nutrition’s recipe to cook this $5.61 meal along with a few cups of roasted vegetables, and you’ve got dinner for several days.

You can switch the chicken thighs out for chicken breasts, but that changes the flavor -- chicken thighs are juicier -- and the more expensive chicken breasts up the price.

In case you’ve never heard of it, ghee is clarified butter with all the dairy removed. It can be a little tough to find. If you can’t find it, you can replace it with olive oil. Remember, altering recipes to fit your needs is the best part of cooking.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Realizing your family pet has gone missing is probably one of any dog or cat owner’s greatest fears.

After frantically searching every nook and cranny of your home and checking all your pet’s favorite hiding spots, your next move is probably to take to social media.

You post a picture of your pet’s smiling face. along with your phone number, your pet’s name and a description of any special markings that set your pet apart. Then you mark the post public. You want everyone to be able to see and share it in hopes of reuniting your family.

According to Consumer Affairs, that might be a costly mistake, and it may not get you any closer to finding your pet.

Scammers Could Take Advantage of You and Your Lost Pet

Most people who see your post about your lost pet will feel sympathetic. Those who live in your town might even share your post in hopes of getting your pet back home to you.

While most people mean well, there are people who will use this moment of despair against you.

Scammers who see your post with all your personal information know you’re probably frantic and a little desperate, and they take advantage.

Owners of lost pets have reported getting text messages from people they later realized were scammers. In the text, the scammer claims they found the lost pet, the Better Business Bureau told Consumer Affairs. Then, when the owner asks for the pet’s description or a photo, the excuses start. The scammers claim they don’t have a working smartphone or are out of town and not with the pet, so they can’t take the picture.

“The scammer will then pressure the owner for money to return their lost pet, despite the fact that they did not actually find the pet,” Consumer Affairs reported.

Vulnerable pet owners might just fork over the cash in hopes of getting their furry family member back.

How to Find Your Lost Pet and Protect Yourself

The BBB says it may be better to skip technology and go old-school to find your pet.

Check out veterinarians and animal shelters within a 50-mile radius and leave flyers with photos of your pet at each one. Anyone who finds your pet will likely take it there first.

You can still post online, but don’t mention any special markings your pet has. If someone tracks you down and says they have your furry friend, you’ll know it’s legit if they can tell you about any special markings not visible in the photos.

If you get a call or text from someone claiming they have your pet, ask them to send you a photo. If they won’t, be suspicious.

You can also ask if it’s OK to call them back on the phone number they called you from. Consumer Affairs says scammers often use software to mask their phone numbers. If you can’t reach them on at the number they called you from, that’s a red flag.

Finally, Consumer Affairs says you should never send money to anyone you don’t know. Even if your mention a reward on your flyer, don’t wire any money to a stranger until your pet is back home safe and sound.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Let’s say you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store picking up a few items for the week. Your total comes to $25, but you only have $10 in your checking account.

It might feel a little embarrassing to put some items back or insert your card and have the store decline it. That’s the moment when overdraft protection can lend a helping hand.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, while that protection could save you a little embarrassment, it costs you big bucks. On average, people who overdraft their accounts often -- more than 10 times each year -- waste an extra $450 every year in bank fees when they sign up for overdraft protection in comparison to overdrafters who don’t.

And those people likely can’t afford it.

A recent CFPB study found that “most of these frequent overdrafters are financially vulnerable, with lower daily balances and credit scores than people who do not overdraft as often.”

Now the CFPB wants banks to make it clearer just how much in fees you could owe if you use overdraft protection.

CFPB Wants You to Know Before You Owe

The CFPB created four prototype forms banks could use to replace their current fee disclosure forms. The new CFPB forms highlight the fees, and make it clearer to consumers when they will incur fees and how much those fees will cost.

The CFPB’s forms include the calculation from the grocery store example above.

In the example, the CFPB lays out two options. If you opt out of overdraft protection, the store will decline your card, and you won’t incur any fees. Your pride might be slightly bruised, but you will still have the $10 you started with.

For those who choose overdraft protection, the form lays out what will happen next. The $25 charge will be approved at the register. This will drain the $10 you had in the bank and put you in the hole to cover the $15 balance of your purchase, plus a $34 overdraft fee.

That means you get to take your groceries home now, but you will owe $49 to your bank.

And if you don’t realize you’re overdrawn right away, your card could get approved up to six times in a day before it is declined. That would mean $204 in fees plus the cost of the items you bought.

Finally, the example also makes it clear that if you can’t pay the balance in full within five days, the bank will charge you $5 every five business days until you pay it off.

"Our study shows that financially vulnerable consumers who opt in to overdraft risk incurring a rash of fees when using their debit card or an ATM," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. "Our new Know Before You Owe overdraft disclosure prototypes are designed to help consumers better understand the consequences of the opt-in decision."

While the CFPB isn’t overtly telling people to opt out of this protection, it does want you to know what you’re getting into if you use it.

Protect Yourself From Overdraft Protection

Currently, 18% of the banking population pays 91% of the overdraft fees to banks every year, helping them rake in an extra $11 billion in fees. But you don’t have to be one of those people.

We’ve got some ways you can protect yourself and keep your budget intact.

First, opt out of overdraft protection, and turn off your automatic bill pay feature. It might be a bit embarrassing to get your card declined unexpectedly, but it’s better than the financial pain of paying outrageous fees that can add up quickly.

Paying your bills manually also gives you control over when they come out of your bank account.

From there, start an emergency fund. Putting away just $10 each week will give you $520 over the course of a year. You can dip into this fund when unexpected expenses come up.

Finally, use online banking apps and text notifications so you always know your balance.

Signing up to get a daily text alert from your bank will ensure you always know exactly how much money you have. You can also set limits and receive notifications when your bank balance drops below a certain threshold or check your balance throughout the day using your bank’s app.

This will ensure a low balance never surprises you and a store never declines your card for insufficient funds if you opt out of overdraft protection.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Depending on where you are in the U.S. on Aug. 21, you will be able to see a total or partial solar eclipse from your backyard. But since staring at the sun could permanently damage your vision, you’ll need the right eyewear to view it.

Getting your hands on a pair of solar eclipse glasses might be easier and cheaper than you think.

Although the window to get your solar eclipse glasses is nearly closed, libraries, eyewear retailers and some museums continue to give out free pairs so you don’t miss the spectacular show.

Where to Get Free Solar Eclipse Glasses

If you’re just now beginning your search for your glasses, you’re already behind the curve. So we’ve eased the search by compiling a list of places to find them.

Your Local Library

The easiest place to find glasses that make it safe to look at the sun during the solar eclipse is your local library.

National Center for Interactive Learning, which provides interactive science, technology, engineering and math programs for public libraries nationwide, gave more than 2 million pairs of glasses and 4,000 educational kits to 7,000 libraries across the country. That’s about half the libraries in America, but supplies are thinning out.

You can check the NCIL map to see if your local library received the glasses, but make sure to call and verify they are still available.

According to NCIL, while many libraries have already given away most of their advance pairs, some libraries held on to a few to give out Aug. 21.

Warby Parker

Glasses retailer Warby Parker has free solar eclipse glasses, too. You can’t order them online like normal eyeglasses, though. You’ll have to go to one of the 59 Warby Parker stores spread across 24 states and Washington, D.C.

Just stop by the store nearest you and ask for your pair. It’s not clear how many glasses each Warby Parker has in stock, so head over today.

Other Places That Might Have Solar Eclipse Glasses

According to NBC News, you may also find free solar eclipse glasses at your local public health department, astronomical societies and planetariums. Glasses may not be as widely available at these locations, so you’ll want to call before stopping by.

Buying Solar Eclipse Glasses

If you’re among the unlucky ones whose neighbors were a bit faster at snagging the free solar eclipse glasses, leaving you out of the loop, you may still be able to buy your own pair.

Be cautious, though, because the glasses you purchase could be fake and unsafe if you don’t get them from a reputable retailer.

If you already bought your glasses or are considering buying a pair, check out the American Astronomical Society’s list of trustworthy manufacturers and dealers that sell authentic glasses to protect your eyes.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Soon it’ll be easier to tell if the pricy food you’re paying top dollar for is really any better for you than the cheap stuff.

According to The Wall Street Journal, new Food and Drug Administration rules will require brands to change their nutrition labels to include the calorie count and and serving size in larger, bolder font, and inform consumers how much added sugar is in the product.

The FDA initially expected most large brands -- those with at least $10 million in annual food sales -- to complete the changes by July 26, 2018, but at the insistence of food makers, it backed off the compliance date. The FDA has not set a new deadline, but the Grocery Manufacturing Association would like it delayed until May 2021.

Some brands, like Campbell's Soup, have criticized the push for a delay and say they are happy to comply with the original deadline. In fact, Campbell’s Soup has already started placing the new labels on its products.

“This was a philosophical decision,” Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison told The Wall Street Journal. “Transparency is the single most important ingredient.”

Coca-Cola will make the switch to the new labels for some products this summer.

Other brands, however, don’t seem too eager to make the switch.

Kellogg, for example, supports a delay. The cereal maker said it needed more information about the requirements before it could comply with the changes, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Other FDA Nutrition Label Changes Could Be Coming

Sugar and calories aren’t the only things the FDA has on its agenda. The FDA also wants to require brands that use genetically modified organisms to say so on their products’ labels.

It lost the battle to make GMO labels a requirement last year when brands fought back, although some brands, including Campbell’s, began voluntarily to disclosing GMO use.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Months after announcing plans to reduce the number of companies that service student loan repayment to reduce costs, Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is shifting gears.

DeVos is dropping her widely criticized plan to reduce the number of companies with government contracts to service student loans from nine on one.

According to a POLITICO report, when hiring A. Wayne Johnson as the chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid, the department renewed its commitment to customer service. In the past, improved customer service meant centralized servicing. Moving forward, the plan is to focus on technology to improve borrower experience.

Specific details about how the technology will work have not been released because the new system is not yet complete. But so far, the plan is to store all student loan data in one portal so every borrower and servicer can access the information the same way no matter who is responsible for servicing the loan. The new system is expected to open in 2019.

The overall goal is create a more consistent experience for borrowers.

“To improve customer service, we will take the best ideas and capabilities available and put them to work for Americans with student loans,” Johnson said in statement released Tuesday. “When FSA customers transition to the new processing and servicing environment in 2019, they will find a customer support system that is as capable as any in the private sector. The result will be a significantly better experience for students — our customers — and meaningful benefits for the American taxpayer.”

The new system, which is called the FSA Next Generation Processing and Servicing Environment, will house all student loan information in one place and still allow multiple servicers.

“FSA expects these contemplated changes to the servicing and processing environment to provide the opportunity for additional companies to submit proposals for contracting with FSA,” the announcement said.

DeVos Is Right — Student Loan Servicing Does Need Fixing

When DeVos started the conversation about changing the way the federal government manages the more than 42 million borrowers responsible for repaying $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, she was right about one thing: The system was broken.

It was clear when you looked at the mountain of complaints borrowers made to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about missing out on the benefits of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program due to servicer mistakes and misinformation.

It was clear when borrowers filed a lawsuit against student loan servicer Navient for pushing them toward forbearance instead of income-based repayment plans.

Although there was a general agreement that student loan servicing needed improvement, DeVos’ initial plan to consolidate servicing struggled to gain support.

Elected officials and members of the loan-servicing industry fought back almost immediately.

They argued that reducing the number of companies who service loans would actually result in terrible service for borrowers, less oversight, limited consequences for poor management of student loans and a too-big-to-fail government contract for a single company, according to POLITICO.

While Democrats are still skeptical of how DeVos’ new plan will work, the departure from the single-servicer plan has bipartisan support -- for now.

As the Department of Education builds the new portal, it will seek the advice of “various stakeholders and industry technology leaders,” POLITICO reported.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Is it one of those nights when you just can’t bother cooking, but you don’t want to break your budget? We’ve got a dinner deal for you.

Through the end of August, you can use this printable coupon to get a free entree at Smashburger when you buy one.

To claim your free sandwich, just find your local Smashburger restaurant and present the coupon. The cheaper of the two sandwiches you order will be free.

Here’s the Fine Print on the Smashburger Coupon

You can order nearly any sandwich from the menu and get this deal, but it’s not valid on the $4 promotional Triple Double.

You also want to remember that you can only use one coupon per person per visit. That means you might have to split your orders up if you want to treat the whole family to this BOGO deal.

Desiree Stennett is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.