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October 24, 2016

At Payless You Could Pay More Because of Dirty Tricks

Filed under: Autos,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

Consumer World reader Marcie S. is one determined consumer. She says she was ripped off by Payless Car Rental, which is a low-priced subsidiary of the Avis Budget Group. She was determined to get satisfaction not just for herself, but for the hundreds or perhaps thousands of other consumers who may have had similar problems with them.

Marcie says when she rented a car from Payless, they did something unusual:

Payless Car Rental pre-charges the customers’ credit card for a full tank of gas, stating the charge will be reversed once the car is returned with a full tank of gas. Upon return, they inspect the car and if the gas tank is full they note it on the return receipt. They do not automatically reverse the charges. Rather, you are directed to call 1-800-Payless where they open up a customer service ticket. There, the claim is classified as a fuel charge “dispute.”

They reply via ticket that they require ALL of the following to be met in order for your fuel charge “dispute” to be considered for review:

1) A physical receipt from the gas station noting the address and number of gallons purchased;
2) Gas station must be located within 5 miles of rental drop-off;
3) The receipt must have a time and date stamp. They will only accept the claim if the purchase was made within 30 minutes of drop-off time.

These requirements are non-contractual and extremely unlikely to have been met, especially with no knowledge of said requirements beforehand. They will NOT accept the rental return with the fuel reading marked “FULL” as proof. The ticket is then closed. There is no recourse and no way to escalate this situation.

Wow. Could Marcie’s experience be unique and came about as the result of a rogue agent’s actions? Apparently not. There are hundreds of complaints online about Payless, which average consumers never see until it is too late. Here are some of their alleged practices:


  • Issuing reservations at one price, but charging more at the time of rental;
  • Cramming charges, such as optional insurance, onto bills after the customer has declined the coverage;
  • Cramming charges such as for roadside assistance onto bills without oral disclosure or permission;
  • Misrepresenting insurance charges as being required when in fact they are optional;
  • Failing to refund fuel deposits after representing that they will be credited upon return of the car fully fueled;
  • Failing to fully disclose fuel refilling requirements prior to rental;
  • Representing there was no charge for an additional driver, then assess such charges;
  • Representing that certain fees are refundable upon return of the vehicle when such is not the case;
  • Provide the customer with one receipt with a certain price, and subsequently provide a receipt with a higher price;
  • and many others…

    Many customers report they were charged hundreds of dollars more than they bargained for. Some would even call Payless’ actions bordering on criminal behavior.

    Marcie got her money back from her credit card company but she wasn’t going to let Payless keep ripping off customers. She was able to collect the complaints of other consumers, complained to state AGs without much success, organized a private Facebook group with over 250 members who had complaints, and searched dozens and dozens of law firms until she found one to take the case.

    Last month, two law firms filed a class action lawsuit against Payless, alleging many of the things mentioned above.

    The New York Times asked Avis Budget (Payless’ parent) to comment on the lawsuit, but they declined. But we welcome your views below.

    And to Marcie… we need more consumers like you who don’t take no for answer.

  •   ADV

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    October 17, 2016

    When is “Sold by Amazon” Not the Same as “Bought from Amazon”?

    Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:45 am

    Mouse Print* reader Chris L. recently purchased a $1,900 piano from Amazon and was offered three months of online piano lessons for free as part of the deal.

    Amazon piano

    When he didn’t receive an email with his promotional code from Amazon for the free piano lessons, he contacted customer service via chat. An hour and 20 minutes later, nine representatives later, and a bazillion bogus excuses later, he finally extracted a promise that he would be sent the appropriate promotional code for the piano lessons. But, he never received it.

    Finally he received an email explaining the real reason he never got the free piano lessons — he got tripped up by the fine print.

    The original offer and the terms and conditions used magic words that most people wouldn’t understand had a very specific meaning.


    amazon piano

    Piano terms

    Although our consumer purchased the piano at Amazon.com, he did not buy it from Amazon.com. He bought it from a third party marketplace seller found on the Amazon website and the order was “fulfilled by Amazon” meaning that Amazon shipped it out for the seller. The promotion, however, required that the piano be “sold and shipped” by Amazon alone.

    Would anyone ever catch that nuance? And why was it promoted on a page where the offer didn’t apply?

    Fortunately for Chris, the actual company providing the free lessons, Skoove.com, provided him with three months of free lessons after he sent them proof of purchase.


    • • •

    October 10, 2016

    Thanks for Nothing #4

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:10 am

    We continue our series of offers, which upon closer scrutiny, offer less than expected.

    Example 1:

    Supermarkets have become fond of advertising 10 for $10 deals. But this deal from a New York supermarket chain falls a little short.

    10 for $10


    The bulbs are indeed 10 for $10, but you can only buy four it seems. Thanks for nothing, Shop Rite.

    Example 2:

    Speaking of buying larger quantities, we’ve always been taught that when you buy in bulk, you can often save money.



    At Amazon, you can buy a two pack of detectors for the price of three single ones. That’s right, one is $15 and two are $47. Whatta deal. Thanks for nothing, Amazon.

    Example 3:

    Speaking of deals, Best Buy is seemingly offering an LG stainless steel dishwasher for an unheard of $199 in this ad:

    Best Buy


    The dishwasher is not $199 as it first appears. That’s the price for the microwave. So, how much is the dishwasher? Who knows. Thanks for nothing, Best Buy.

    Example 4:

    A few weeks ago, we got Lowe’s to pull a TV commercial which promised 20% off major appliances, but according to the fine print, virtually every major brand was only a maximum of 10% off (except where noted). Now fast forward to this past Labor Day when Lowe’s upped the phantom discount to as high as 35% off.



    The fine print disclaimer in this commercial, just like the other ads, says:

    Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Amana, GE, LG, Samsung, Frigidaire, Electrolux, and Bosch brands limited to a maximum 10% discount unless otherwise shown.

    So again, virtually all the major brands are not 35% off. In fact, a review of their website reveals that of the 200 dishwashers offered for sale, only one was 35% or more off the regular price. Thanks for nothing, Lowe’s.

    If you find a good example of a “Thanks for Nothing”-type offer, please pass on a screenshot of the ad to edgar (at symbol) mouseprint.org .


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    October 3, 2016

    Sued Over Disabling Competing Ink Cartridges, HP Apologizes to Users

    Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

    Last week, we told you about a nasty ploy by Hewlett Packard to disable non-HP ink cartridges in certain inkjet printers. They did this by placing a time bomb of sorts in a routine firmware update last March, set to do its dirty work six months later.

    Reaction to HP’s clever scheme was quick. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sent an open letter to HP’s CEO calling on the company to:

  • Apologize to your customers, and restore the original functionality of their printers with a firmware update that rolls back the self-destruct sequence;

  • Publicly commit that you will never again use your software update process to distribute anti-features that work against your customers’ interests;

  • Publicly commit that the effects of any software updates will be fully disclosed;

  • Prominently disclose any capability or plan to remove features from devices in your sales literature, so customers know what they’re getting before they buy;

  • Promise to never invoke Section 1201 of the DMCA against security researchers or competitors who make legitimate aftermarket products.

  • A day later, an Alabama consumer with one of the affected OfficeJet printers that suddenly stopped printing filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against HP claiming this was an anti-competitive move by the printing giant.

    Then, a day after that, HP’s CEO apologized (sort of) to affected users:

    We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologize.

    You’ll note he didn’t apologize for disabling competing ink cartridges, but rather just for doing it secretly.

    In any event, HP promises a new firmware update in a couple of weeks to reverse the problem they created and allow third party cartridges to once again work in the affected printers.


    • • •

    September 26, 2016

    Non-HP Ink Cartridges Suddenly Stop Working in Some HP Printers

    Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:10 am

    Hewlett Packard inkjet printer users often buy generic printer cartridges to save money compared to the HP branded ones. Earlier this month however, those no-name cartridges mysteriously stopped working in some HP printers giving users error messages like this:

    HP error

    What’s going on? Users have said that they had made no changes to their computer or to the printer at the time the problem started.


    HP update

    According to published reports, a firmware update from March 2016 had a hidden time bomb set to disable non-HP cartridges being used starting on September 13!

    When asked by a Dutch broadcaster why HP did this, the company said in a statement:

    “This is to protect innovation and intellectual property, but also to improve the safety of products for customers.”

    The changes are made according to HP, “to protect the printers and to protect the communication between the cartridge and the printer.”

    “Affected printers will continue to work with refilled cartridges if they contain the original HP security chip. Other cartridges possibly don’t work”, HP added.

    We all know the real answer is “money.”

    The affected printers seem to be OfficeJet Pro models 8610, 8615, 8620, 8625, 8630, 8640, 8660 and others.

    If you are facing this problem, experts say you can try to rollback the firmware to an earlier version (not easy) or wait for no-name cartridges to update their chips to work again. To prevent the problem from spreading to other HP printers, experts suggest that you turn off firmware updates.

    UPDATE: A few days ago, an Alabama consumer filed a class action lawsuit against HP for planting a “ticking time bomb” and trying to monopolize the printer ink market. And a day later, HP relented. Come back on Monday for a full follow-up story of these late-breaking events.


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