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May 2, 2016

Man Beats Kmart in Court Over Fridge, But Should He Have Won?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

Kenmore refrigeratorAs reported in the Asbury Park Press, a 79-year old New Jersey man had a problem with a Kenmore refrigerator he had bought a year earlier. Around Christmas, the gentleman noticed that food in his freezer was getting mushy.

When he contacted Kmart, they told him that he was using the refrigerator improperly because he placed it in his unheated garage, contrary to the instructions in the owner’s manual.

*MOUSE PRINT:

kenmore55

Apparently, you are not supposed to put the refrigerator in a garage where the temperature can fall below 55 degrees. Kmart refused to give the man a refund because of his misuse of the product, but offered him a $75 gift card for the lost food in the freezer, and a 20% discount on a new refrigerator.

That was not satisfactory to the consumer, so he sued Kmart in small claims court for $535.59. The judge asked him a few questions like whether he was told of this limitation in the store before he bought the appliance. The consumer said no.

With that, the judge ruled in consumer’s favor. Incidentally, Kmart did not show up for the hearing. It is a general court rule that if the defendant does not appear for the trial, the plaintiff wins by default.

The question becomes, had Kmart shown up in court, would the consumer have still won?

Here’s MrConsumer’s take: If the consumer had asked for a refrigerator that could be used in a cold environment like a garage, and if Kmart directed him to this particular model, then Kmart would be responsible if in fact the refrigerator was not suited for that purpose. (This is the Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.) If however the consumer never made known his intentions to use the refrigerator in a manner that most people do not, he was negligent by not following the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings… and should not have won.

A salesperson cannot be expected to read the consumer’s mind and recite all the do’s and don’ts listed in the product manual.

What do you think? Should this consumer have won his case? Add your opinion in the comments section.




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April 25, 2016

Early Withdrawal Penalties Reach New High (or Low)

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:47 am

Dave S. recently wrote to Mouse Print* about an eye-opening notice he received from Wings Financial Credit Union when his certificate of deposit matured. It announced a change in their early withdrawal penalties.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Wings

Unbelievably, the credit union will now charge two-years-worth of interest on any CD over a year if you withdraw money early. In other words, if you opened one of their 26-month CDs with $25,000 paying 1.00% interest, and decide three months after opening the account that you need the money for another purpose, they will confiscate the interest you’ve already earned and put it toward a total charge of $500 in penalties! You will actually lose principal.

Mouse Print* contacted Wings Financial to question the severity of their new penalties. A customer service representative replied:

…we have had many members express the same frustration. We are awaiting Board approval to reduce the penalty…

This credit union is not alone in jacking up early withdrawal penalties. Gone are the days of the simple three months loss of interest for early withdrawals. Even MrConsumer’s own credit union is clamping down.

*MOUSE PRINT:

USAlliance terms

Here, the penalty is only a year of interest. How generous of them.

We’ve always thought of credit unions as being very member-driven, and offering better rates and terms than the big banks. That apparently is not always the case.




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April 18, 2016

Citi’s New Credit Card Fine Print Improves Benefits

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

Citi Double Cash CardOn April 17, Citi sent out an email to holders of certain credit cards announcing “Important information about your card’s protection benefits.” Uh oh, you know what that usually means. But for once that notice from a credit card issuer announcing a change in terms had good news for cardholders, reversing an industry trend.

Buried in the linked detailed brochure are these generous improvements in benefits:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Citi Price Rewind,” the card issuer’s name for their price guarantee (if an item is advertised for less within 60 days, you get back the difference) now will cover price differences up to $500 per item instead of just $300, and the maximum total claim you can make per year is more than doubled to $2500.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Extended warranty” which previously doubled the manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year, now gives you 24 months of extra protection even on manufacturer’s warranties as short as 90 days. This is a HUGE new benefit for shoppers.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Return protection,” which provides that the credit card issuer will buy back an item you want to return if the seller will not accept it, increases from a protection period of 60 days after purchase to 90 days after.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Trip cancellation and interruption coverage” which provides a refund of certain travel purchases if unforeseen events occur, is substantially expanded. The old policy only covered $1500 of expenses per year. The new policy covers up to $3000 per trip. The new policy also greatly expands the definition “family” to even include a family pet that may have a life-threatening illness.

There are many additional changes in contract language in the new set of benefits compared to the old.

A few words of caution: this list of benefits is not all-inclusive, and does not apply to all Citi credit cards. At a minimum, it does apply to the Citi Double Cash card. These new benefits go into effect on May 15, 2016.




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April 11, 2016

This University Educates Crooks

Filed under: Internet,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:22 am

It seemed like a fine school. The University of Northern New Jersey had both undergraduate and graduate programs. It specialized in business administration, computer science, and health sciences. It was accredited by two organizations and maintained an elaborate website for students and prospective students.

Hertz

 

The school had its own Facebook page:

Facebook unnj

 

The university was recognized by the state of New Jersey’s Department of Higher Education:

Dept. of Higher Ed

 

There was just one problem.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The university was fake. It was set up as a sting operation in 2012 by Homeland Security to catch scamsters who forged documents and paid bribes to get foreign students admitted. That would then qualify the foreign student to gain entry into the U.S. via a fraudulently obtained student visa.

Here is the story from the New York Times (click top link on redirect page).




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April 4, 2016

Starbucks Accused of Underfilling Lattes

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

Starbucks cupA few weeks ago, two consumers sued Starbucks alleging that the company routinely and deliberately underfills their cups of latte.

The lawyers contend that in 2009 the company adopted a money-saving move that would force Starbucks’ baristas to make lattes in a uniform way. They were required to use a pitcher that contained “fill to” lines like those on detergent bottle caps so they would know how much milk to add. They then had to add a certain number of one-ounce shots of espresso, a certain number of pumps of flavored syrup, and 1/4-inch of foam on top, leaving 1/4-inch of space.

Starbucks recipe

The lawyers say that based on this recipe plus the actual physical capacity of Starbucks’ cups, their lattes can’t possibly be the full size they claim.

What are Starbucks’ size claims?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Starbucks menu

Starbucks represents that their hot lattes are 12, 16, and 20 fluid ounces in tiny letters right on their menu boards. When the lawyers tested the capacity of their cups, they found that only when filling them all the way to the brim did they hold the claimed capacity. But since they interpret the official instructions as requiring that 1/4-inch of space be left at the top, right off the bat all their lattes are short-weighted, they contend. Note: a test by Mouse Print* of a 16-ounce Starbucks cup reveals that it actually holds about 17 ounces when filled to the brim.

Even if the cups are only one-ounce short when served, multiply that by millions of cups sold a week, and that means huge savings for the company and a huge loss in the aggregate for customers. But the lawyers offer more proof based on actual store inspections. They say they “purchased and measured Starbucks Lattes at different stores, in different states, in different sizes, and in different flavors. However, each Latte was underfilled by approximately 25%.”

On the face of it, that is a rather shocking allegation.

Yet, in the very next paragraph of the complaint, the lawyers present conflicting evidence when they recount what happened when they followed the company recipe using one of the Starbucks pitchers that they had obtained.

*MOUSE PRINT:

For a [16-oz] Grande beverage, the “fill to” line comprises less than 12 fluid ounces of milk. After adding 2 shots of espresso (2 fluid ounces), the resulting beverage measures less than 14 fluid ounces at most. This falls far short of Starbucks’ “16 fl. oz.” representation.

Haven’t they just contradicted their claim that drinks were all underfilled by about 25% in their tests? In this example, for a 16-oz drink to be 25% short, it would have to be 12 ounces, not the almost 14 ounces they found. And did they really follow the recipe? Where’s the four pumps of flavored syrup? Where’s the foam? If these ingredients were added, what would be the total number of ounces in the cup?

And if cups were all 25% short, wouldn’t consumers across the country have been yelling bloody murder about the practice for years? Well, maybe not, since Starbucks puts an opaque cover on hot lattes and you drink it through a hole on the cover.

Mouse Print* emailed two of the lawyers raising some of these very issues, but we have not yet received a response.

Starbucks has been relatively circumspect in their response to the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the plaintiffs’ claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. We are proud to serve our customers high-quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations.”

We have a sneaking suspicion this case may turn on two points. The first is what is the proper way to measure foam (and maybe the aerated milk) — do you just measure its height/volume and count that as part of the total fluid ounces, or do you have to wait until it settles to see how much liquid is actually contained in the foam? According to Handbook 133 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you have to dissipate the foam, and then you measure the quantity of liquid in the cup.

Secondly, there is an issue related to the syrup, which we won’t detail here. But, according to weights and measures rules, since both flavored and unflavored lattes are represented on the menu board to be a certain number of ounces, they must in fact meet that standard –and not by adding a whole bunch of extra foam to fill the cup.

Look for MrConsumer on the Today Show commenting on Starbucks’ practices:

Starbucks Today Show
Click picture to view video




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