QUIRKY WORLD: Sofa so good for furniture salesman’s oil gamble

USA: A furniture retailer in Houston has come up with a unique way of letting people bet on future oil prices in the world’s energy capital.

Jim McIngvale, who owns Gallery Furniture and is known locally as Mattress Mack, tells customers who buy $7,000 (€5,900) in furniture that he will give them their money back if oil is $85 a barrel or higher at the end of this year.

Based on current bank forecasts, McIngvale will not have to repay customers, given estimates ranging from $51 to $75 per barrel to $75 at year end.

“Everyone knows how important oil is to the Houston area economy,” reads an ad on Gallery’s website. “Everyone from construction to retail depends on how well the energy industry prospers. The better energy does, the better we all benefit.”

Oil prices have fallen more than 50% since June to around $50 per barrel, and many analysts believe global oversupply will keep prices low for months.

Customers making the bet would need prices to rise 70% from where they are now to make money in what is described on the web site as a “very limited time offer.”

The fourth-largest city in the US, Houston has a long history of booms and busts linked to oil.

Price slice ban


Switzerland’s frugal pizza lovers have had hopes dashed for a special rule that would have let them keep ordering cheaper pizza delivery from Germany.

Around a year ago, the Swiss customs administration scrapped an exception that, in some circumstances, allowed food delivery such as pizza into Switzerland without having to pass through customs.

The previous system had prompted businesses across the border to offer deals targeting Swiss customers, said a customs spokesman.

The strong Swiss franc has prompted bargain-hunters to cross the border for cheaper goods in neighbouring Germany and France.

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) for Hochrhein-Bodensee, a German region that borders Switzerland, had lobbied for an exception in the case of pizza delivery, but the Swiss customs administration has decided against such a move for the time being.

Round the bend


Officials in San Diego are trying to sort out how a 1.7m snake wound up in a toilet at an office building.

Stephanie Lacsa told San Diego County authorities she noticed the water level in the toilet was higher than usual when she went to the second-floor bathroom yesterday. When she plunged it, a snake popped up and flicked its tongue at her.

She ran out, taped the door shut, and called animal services.

An animal control officer found a giant Columbian rainbow boa on the floor.

It was taken to an animal care facility and bit a handler.

If the owner doesn’t show up by Friday, the snake will go to a rescue group.

How it got in the toilet remains a mystery.

Featherprint technology


A new method of recovering fingerprints from feathers and eggs could help catch those guilty of wildlife crime.

Researchers at Abertay University, based in Dundee, have established which fingerprint powders are most effective at developing fingermarks on the feathers and eggs of birds of prey.

The discovery means that police can establish whether a bird or egg has been handled by a human and crack down on wildlife crime, which is on the rise. The RSPB has received 2,578 reports of crime involving or targeting wild birds of prey since 2006.

Dennis Gentles, a former scenes of crime officer and forensic scientist who is now a lecturer in forensic science at Abertay University, said: “There are some surfaces where recovering fingerprints remains elusive — human and animal skin, for example. And, until now, feathers were on that list.

“We had heard anecdotally that it had been achieved and were keen to see if we could develop a method that produced consistent results and could be used by the police in an investigation.”

No time to waste


A black Labrador named Eclipse just wants to get to the dog park. So if her owner takes too long finishing his cigarette, and their bus arrives, Eclipse climbs aboard solo and rides to her stop — to the delight of fellow Seattle bus passengers.

Local radio host Miles Montgomery was amazed to see the pooch get off the bus, without an owner, at a dog park last week.

Eclipse and her owner, Jeff Young, live right near a bus stop. Young says: “She’s a bus-riding, sidewalk-walking dog.” He says his dog sometimes gets on the bus without him, and he catches up with her at the dog park three or four stops away.

Bus riders say Eclipse hops onto seats next to strangers, and looks out the window for her stop.

“All the bus drivers know her... she makes everybody happy,” says commuter Tiona Rainwater.


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