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Consumer Confidential: Pump prices rise, bookstores may merge, chicken salad recalled

December 6, 2010 | 10:33 am

Here's your Malibu-Barbie Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

Gaspic -- Ho ho ho: Here's an early lump of coal for the holidays. Gas prices have soared to the highest average level in two years and are on track to hit an average $3 a gallon by January. Supplies remain plentiful and demand has eased since September. Even so, retail gas prices are rising because oil prices are at the highest levels since October 2008, fueled by traders' hopes for economic recovery. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded hit $2.95 on Monday, according to AAA. That's nearly 10 cents higher than a week ago and 32 cents more than a year ago. Ugh.

-- Some serious consolidation may be afoot among bookstores. Borders Group and the investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management say they may collaborate on a bid to take over Barnes & Noble. The offer would value Barnes & Noble at about $960 million, which is impressive considering that bookstores don't exactly have a winning business model (see: newspapers). If a merger succeeds, Borders and Barnes would combine into a single chain. That may buy them some time, but it's hard to see how Borders/Barnes would compete with the likes of Amazon.

-- Heads up: About 72,000 pounds of canned chicken salad have been recalled after complaints about plastic in the product. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a supplier to Bumble Bee Foods, the Suter Co., is "recalling approximately 72,000 pounds of canned chicken salad products that may contain foreign materials." The problem was discovered "after consumer complaints about finding hard plastic in the product," the agency says. The recall includes 8.2-ounce packages of Bumble Bee Lunch on the Run Chicken Salad Complete Lunch Kit and 3.5-ounce packages of Bumble Bee Chicken Salad with Crackers.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Prepare yourself to pay more when you fill your tank. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times