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December 5, 2016

Citi’s Credit Card Agreement Contains Another Nasty Ploy

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

In October, we told you about an unexpected move by Citi to let credit card customers opt-out of the mandatory arbitration clause in their credit card agreements. The catch: they required you to write an old-fashioned letter to them to do so. (See story.)

We heard from a reader, Daniel D., who says that is not the only dirty trick that Citi employs with respect to its arbitration clause. He said his bank account contract had a very similarly worded provision to this one in the new Citi credit card agreements:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Citi arbitration clause

What does this sound like to you? It sounds pretty positive as an additional way to avoid arbitration. It certainly gives the impression that the customer was free to go to small claims court system instead of being forced into arbitration.

And that is exactly what our reader did. He had a dispute with Citi over some late fees imposed despite his having overdraft protection. There was about $350 in dispute.

To his amazement, once he filed in small claims court, Citi requested the case be moved to a higher court. That action caused the case to no longer “stay in small claims court” and thus Citi could force him into arbitration.

What?

Anyone reading the small claims court provision would come away with the understanding that it was the plaintiff’s decision to keep a case in small claims court and definitely not Citi’s. Implied in every contract is a covenant of good faith, and it certainly seems to be a breach of that good faith for Citi to force this consumer into arbitration by a bit of legal trickery.

Daniel’s problem with Citi began in 2010 and appeared to end when he won the arbitration this past August. There were just two problems: (1) Daniel was not awarded anywhere near the $100,000 he said this whole fiasco cost him, and (2) Citi is appealing.

For more details of Daniel’s misadventures in Citiland, see this CBS MoneyWatch story, and his own account.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts below.




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November 28, 2016

Chipotle Sued Over Misleading Calorie Count

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

The embattled Mexican grill chain, Chipotle, is in trouble again.

In the course of promoting its new chorizo burrito which is made from chicken and pork sausage, the company touted on menu boards that it only had 300 calories.

Chipotle chorizo

Three diet-conscious California consumers took the bait and ordered this low-cal treat, but felt surprisingly full after eating one. They soon discovered they had been hoodwinked because this Mexican dish was nowhere near only 300 calories.

Mouse Print* reviewed the nutrition tables on Chipotle’s website and calculated the actual calorie count of a chorizo burrito.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Chipotle calories

As you can see, the chorizo burrito as described on the menu board has 1055 calories — more than three times the claimed amount. Just the tortilla wrapper alone is 300 calories, as is the chorizo alone.

This is likely to be an expensive mistake for Chipotle as the company is now being sued in a class action in California.

Informally, the company replied to some complaining customers on Twitter saying that the “300 calories is for the chorizo.”

Company spokesperson Chris Arnold, however, provided Fortune with this statement:

“As a matter of policy, we don’t discuss details surrounding pending legal action. I will note, however, that a lawsuit is nothing more than allegations and is proof of nothing. Generally speaking, we always work hard to maintain transparency around what is in our food, including the nutritional content, which is provided on an ingredient-by-ingredient basis.”




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November 21, 2016

Thanks for Nothing: United Airlines Intros “Last Class” Service

Filed under: Thanks for Nothing,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

United AirlinesWe all know what first class air travel means — priority boarding, bigger seats, fancy food, quick exiting, etc. Now United Airlines is introducing what we have nicknamed “last class” service. As our moniker implies, this is at the opposite end of the spectrum of fares.

According to United’s website, “basic economy” as they call it will be their least expensive fare (with unspecified extra savings, if any), but will come with some new and severe limitations:

*MOUSE PRINT:

  • You will not be able to reserve a particular seat.
  • Seats will be assigned automatically at check-in, and presumably you will have no choices offered.

  • If you buy multiple seats for your family, sitting together is not guaranteed.

  • You can make no voluntary changes to your ticket.

  • You will earn miles, but not earn “segments.”

  • You will not be allowed to upgrade.

  • You will be automatically placed in the last group to board the plane.

    And the biggest (and nastiest) new restriction:

  • You cannot carry on any luggage except a small personal item like a laptop that fits under the seat in front of you.

  • So… during this Thanksgiving week, we say to United Airlines, thanks for nothing.




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    November 14, 2016

    Is It a Story or Is It an Ad in the LA Times?

    Filed under: Business — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

    Every week, MrConsumer searches through thousands of consumer stories trying to find the most interesting and useful ones to present to Consumer World readers.

    In a Google news search last week, this story about store brands came up and I thought it might be a candidate as a “Consumer Quickie.”

    Google story

    Clicking through, here is the story that came up.

    LA Times "story"

    Use scrollbar above on right to view.

    The L.A. Times story was actually kind of boring and was not put in Consumer World. But, upon closer inspection, another reason for rejecting it became apparent (yellow highlighting below added).

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    LA Times disclosures

    This is not a real story but rather an advertisement made to look like a news story. It is called “native advertising.” Under the recently adopted Native Advertising Guidelines of the FTC, this content had to be clearly labeled as a “paid advertisement” or “sponsor paid content” or similar wording. Indeed, it is so marked but is it really conspicuous enough? The “story” is so designed to look exactly like an LA Times story that one has to wonder whether two small disclosures can overcome the overall impression created by the webpage.

    And why is Google indexing advertising and listing it as a news story?

    We raised this exact issue two years ago with the LA Times (see original story), which at the time said:

    “…the advertisement in question is clearly labeled as such and the only path for readers to find that content was intended to be via an latimes.com panel that is also clearly labeled as advertising. However, your inquiry brought our attention to the fact that although this ad and others of the same ilk is not included in our News SiteMap and the page has “noindex nofollow” directives, there appears to be a technical glitch with Google News. We are working with Google to find out why the content is indexed incorrectly and have the issue fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have removed the advertisement from our site to eradicate potential for further confusion.” — V.P. Communications, Los Angeles Times

    We did not recontact the LA Times, but clearly, two years later the problem still exists.




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    November 7, 2016

    With 100s of Exclusions, Kohl’s Coupons Questioned

    Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

    For years, Macy’s coupons were the laughing stock of the retail industry because so many brands were excluded from the discounts offered. Well, it is time for Macy’s to step aside because they are being displaced by a new coupon exclusion leader, Kohl’s.

    It certainly looks like a good deal to get $10 off a $30 purchase at Kohl’s with this grand opening coupon:

    $10 off

    But then you read the fine print, and learn there are exclusions:

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    coupon exclusions

    In fact, there are so many exclusions that Kohl’s had to create a web page to list them all!

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Kohl's exclusions

    Use scrollbar above on right to view.

    Good going, Kohl’s, you’ve seemingly excluded hundreds of brands. That even challenges the six foot long disclaimer by Sears last year excluding things from its big “Friends & Family” sale.




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