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March 30, 2015

Hertz Hides the Lowest Priced Cars

Filed under: Autos,Internet,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

  It is not easy to find the lowest price on a rental car because companies don’t automatically incorporate discount codes into their displayed rates, so you have to keep trying different codes and different companies’ websites. And even when you think you have found the lowest price, some rental companies have some tricks up their sleeve to bamboozle you.

Case in point: A friend is coming to Boston this week to visit, and MrConsumer agreed to help him find the “best” car rental rate. After using a number of travel sites that compare the prices of various companies, it became pretty clear that Hertz was offering the lowest prices depending on which coupon code promotions you entered into their website.

Here is the top portion of the results search on Hertz’s webpage:

Hertz top 4

It seems pretty clear that the best price turned up by this search is $162 ($170.73 including taxes and fees). It even says at the top “The rates listed represent the best available rates based on the information provided.” So a booking was made for this $170 car based on MrConsumer’s recommendation.

After a little more poking around, MrConsumer learned that this $170 rate was not in fact the cheapest rate that Hertz was offering.

Here is the (almost) full list of cars and prices on Hertz’ website at the time the above four prices were extracted:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Hertz

Scroll down the list.

The nearly complete list appears just as it does above with the $162/$170 rate apparently the least expensive option. But if you scroll down to the bottom of the list, to the 10th car listed, a $153 rate appears! What, where did that come from?

It appears that Hertz deliberately creates the impression that the lowest rate appears first at the top of the list, but in fact tucks the best rate farther down the list. (Testing other rental dates and locations, the lowest price was not always on the bottom, but it was never the first, second, or third listing which appear in increasing cost order.)

Mouse Print* wrote to the PR folks at Hertz asking why they did this, whether they recognized the deceptive nature of this ploy, and if they were going to fix it.

The company did not respond.

Just imagine if Hertz can grab an extra $7 or $10 on each car rental by upselling customers one car class above the cheapest car… times how many million rentals a year…

• • •

March 23, 2015

Products Get Downsized in Canada Too

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

  MrConsumer was invited to Canada a couple of weeks ago to talk about product downsizing on CBC’s national consumer TV show called Marketplace. Surprisingly, or maybe not, many of the categories of products that have been downsized in the United States have also shrunk in Canada.

On to the products!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn

Ultra Dawn is undergoing a size reduction right now in both Canada and the U.S., from 709 ml (24 oz.) to 638 ml (21.6 oz). Curiously, the old bottle claimed to clean 50% more greasy dishes than the non-concentrated Dawn, but the new bottle claims it can clean twice the number.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn 2X

There are no claims of “new improved formula” so one has to wonder how the cleaning efficiency magically improved so much. We asked P&G what their basis was for the new claim… and surprise, they didn’t respond.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Head and Shoulders

Head and Shoulders shampoo was also in the process of being downsized, with both these products on the shelf at the same time. The old and new bottles are identical, but with 20 ml less shampoo in the new one. This change is also going on right now in the U.S.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Frosted Flakes

Just as happened in the U.S. with various cereal brands, Kellogg’s applied the shrink ray to Frosted Flakes in Canada reducing packages from 445 grams to 425 grams.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ivory

The Ivory body wash used the old “new and improved” trick to draw your attention away from the net weight statement, showing a drop from 24 ounces to 21 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Huggies

And Huggies Pull-ups are now short two poops.

• • •

March 16, 2015

FTC Sues DirecTV Over Misleading Ads

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:44 am

 Last week, the FTC sued DirecTV for deceptive advertising practices for their digital satellite television services.

In particular, the FTC said that their advertising didn’t make clear a number of key facts:

1. That the low advertised rate, such as $19.99, only applied to the first year of service, and that rates in the second year were typically $25 to $45 higher per month.;

2. That the consumer had to agree to a two year contract, and if they cancelled, they would be charged a $20 cancellation fee for each month remaining on the contract;

3. That the consumer’s silence after three free months of premium TV channels such as HBO or Showtime would be construed as their acceptance of continuing to receive those channels at an average of $48 extra per month — in essence, a negative option plan.

Here is a sample ad from their website as of the day after the lawsuit was filed:

DirecTV adClick ad to see actual size

Even at full size, you might not be able to read the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Near the $19.99 price: with 24-mo agreement Select package plus add’l fees.

Under “view all packages”: All DirecTV offers require 24-month agreement. Requires enrollment in auto bill pay. Select package or above. Additional equipment required & advanced receiver fees apply. Minimum 2-room set up required for free Genie upgrade offer. Select through ultimate packages.

The offer details link discloses that up to a $480 early termination fee applies.

As we have explained many times, it is not enough for advertisers to disclose key facts somehow, somewhere. It has to be “clear and conspicuous” disclosure. In the words of the FTC complaint, the agency contends that “disclosures are inadequate in terms of their content, presentation, proximity, prominence or placement such that consumers are unlikely to see or understand such disclosures.”

The FTC’s lawsuit did not emphasize a key point that consumers complain about online — the total cost of the service. Even in the first year of the contract, it is nowhere near $19.99 a month because of a multitude of added required fees and charges not clearly specified in their ads.

• • •

March 9, 2015

McAfee’s Rebate with Built-in Costly Time Bomb

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:30 am

  Tiger Direct recently advertised an amazing giveaway: a PNY 128 gig USB 3.0 thumb drive and McAfee Multi Access free after rebate. A supposed $149 value for free!?

McAfee

How can they do this? The secret is in the rebate offer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

McAfee-2

You actually have to install the software and sign up with your credit card initially to automatically renew the service after the first year. You are not allowed to cancel the renewal until 10 months of service have elapsed.

Who is going to remember ten months from now to cancel this service?

Incidentally, the annual service sells for between $69.99 to $99.99.

• • •

March 2, 2015

Nissan Cars Can’t Snowboard…Duh

Filed under: Autos,Humor — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

  Car manufacturers love to put important details about their vehicles and offers in minuscule fine print in their television commercials. And Nissan is no exception.

Just in case you couldn’t read the tiny disclaimer in two recent Nissan commercials, we’ve captured it for you.


Commercial #1: Nissan Sentra

This ad shows Nissan cars gliding effortlessly over banks of snow the way a snowboarder would.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nissan snowboarding

And just in case you can’t read that, and to prevent a misimpression, Nissan has an important warning for viewers. You should not try snowboarding in your car because “cars can’t snowboard.”


Commercial #2: Nissan Leaf

This ad shows Nissan cars rolling backwards out of a trailer truck while going full speed on a highway.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nissan Leaf

So, just in case you thought you could buy a Nissan Leaf, put it on a truck, and roll backwards out of it at 60 miles an hour, the company advises viewers not to try it because you are watching a “fantasy.”


Commercial #3: Mazda

Not to be outdone, in the opening scene of a Mazda commercial about safety, they show a man who has been set on fire and provide the standard fine print warning: do not attempt.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Mazda do not attempt

• • •
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