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November 30, 2015

Thanks for Nothing #1

Filed under: Electronics,Humor,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:32 am

We are starting a new recurring feature today called “Thanks for Nothing.” It is designed to highlight offers that seem great on their face, but when you get down to the details, you’ll probably say forget it.

Example 1:

For Black Friday, Lowe’s advertised 60-watt LED bulbs for an amazing 99 cents each — the lowest price ever.

99 cent LEDs


2000 hours

These bulbs only have an expected life of 2000 hours. That is about one-tenth the time the average LED bulb is expected to last. (See our prior story about LED bulb longevity.)

Thanks for nothing, Lowe’s.

Example 2:

Also during Black Friday weekend, online stores had some amazing deals. One that crossed our screen was this leather chukka boot for only $30 — quite a bargain at that price:

Vegan Leather


Upon closer examination, it says “vegan leather.” Huh? Is that like gluten-free leather? Who knows… so we asked the company whether this was man-made, and if so why they didn’t say so. They responded:

“It is man-made however, that is vegan friendly which is why they put vegan leather/suede.” — Street Moda, customer service

So if your dog is on a vegan diet and decides to chew on your chukka boots, he won’t be going off his diet, I guess.

And to the extent that this company is trying to mislead consumers into thinking that this is a form of real leather, thanks for nothing, Street Moda.

Example 3:

Also just ahead of Black Friday, Big Lots sent out an email with a seemingly very valuable coupon — “$10 off everything” it proclaimed in the subject. Since both Kohl’s and J.C. Penney offered similar $10 off coupons on anything, this seemed very plausible.

10 off everything


$10 off $50 purchase

Oh, did you forget to list the minimum purchase requirement in the subject, Big Lots?

Thanks for (almost) nothing.

We welcome your submissions of other great “thanks for nothing” examples. Just email them to edgar(at symbol) .


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November 23, 2015

Chase Ups Credit Card Costs But Does So Transparently

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:31 am

How many times have you gotten a notice from your credit card issuer announcing “changes” to your credit card agreement but you can’t quite figure out exactly what they’ve done?

Most times, they simply announce that your new APR is so and so, or the fee for a late payment is $X. Without going back to your original agreement which you don’t have, you have no idea how much more you are being gouged. (We all know that rates and fees rarely go down.)

In a refreshing change, some Chase Freedom cardholders last week received a huge 10.5″ by 17.5″ notice about “important changes to your acccount terms.” Here is what made it even more remarkable.

Very large *MOUSE PRINT:

Chase terms
Click to enlarge

They actually show you, side-by-side, what the old terms were and what the new terms will be. It certainly doesn’t convey good news, with finance charges jumping over five percent, and late fees going up as well. But, at least the cardholder wasn’t left in the dark about what exactly they were doing. A big hat-tip to Chase.

On the other hand, why Chase was raising rates wasn’t quite as clear:

The changes to the Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) described below are to standardize these terms for cardmembers who have the same type of account.



• • •

November 16, 2015

Jos. A. Bank Drops “Buy 1 Suit, Get 4 Free” Promos

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:18 am

For years, Jos. A. Bank has advertised suits “Buy 1, Get 2 Free” all the way up to “Buy 1, Get 4 Free”, but that practice has come to an end. It is not being discontinued because some sharp Attorney General went after them for using inflated regular prices as a means to be able to offer all the free items, but rather because sales were dropping.

Shoppers may have come to view their suits as poor quality, because after all, how could anyone give away three suits for nothing if they were really $700 suits? No store could. The company’s frequent BOGO ads even became fodder for this great Saturday Night Live skit:

Click || to stop

The Washington Post reports that just last month, the company ran its last BOGO sale, and explains why the new owners made the change.

So what’s their new way of advertising? Here is how they promoted their Veteran’s Day sale on television and online.

Jos. A. Bank

They are reverting to the tried and true “percent off” and 2-fer type sales.

Alan A. wrote to us to share what he observed in a Jos. A. Bank store in Illinois. He was interested in buying “Travelers shirts” which were on sale for 50% off. He found identical shirts some marked with the regular price of $60 and others marked $79. Being of sound mind, he selected the cheaper one, but it rang up at $79 before the discount. After a bit of a tussle, he was able to get half off the $60 marked price.


JAB shirt 1

JAB shirt 2

Sure enough, the regular price used to be $60, and now it is $79.50. Had the regular price remained at $60, a two for $99 sale would not have looked as attractive.

During our consumer’s visit, he encountered a similar problem with a pair of khaki pants. They were marked $75, but rang up at $99 (before the sale discount of 40% was deducted).

What’s the explanation other than the manipulation of regular prices in order to seemingly offer big discounts? No, that really appears to be the explanation. The checkout clerk said the store hadn’t yet finished repricing the goods (presumably only in one direction — up).

Now, a month after Jos. A. Bank discontinued their “Buy 1, Get 3 Free” promotions, sales plummeted even further. This is yet another example demonstrating that shoppers like to be fooled into believing they are saving a bundle when they really are not. (Witness J.C. Penney bringing back deep discounts off inflated regular prices after the use of honest regular prices caused sales to drop.)


• • •

November 9, 2015

This is How Sears Treats “Family and Friends” ?

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

One of the best sales (historically) at Sears is their “Family & Friends” promotion, which began yesterday and runs until Tuesday night online.

Sears Family and Friends

Seems pretty simple. You get an extra 5-20% off even sale prices, plus an extra 10% back in points. But note that there is a little “see details” link at the bottom. Clicking it displays the following disclaimer:


Family and Friends details

For anyone counting, that disclaimer is over 1500 words and almost six feet long! No shopper has the patience to read that, and as a result may well wind up without all the savings or bonuses expected depending on what they buy and how they pay.

To make matters worse, the extra 10% back in points offer is potentially misleading. The big print is perfectly clear that Shop Your Way members get a bonus of an extra 10% back in points. On a large purchase, like a $1500 television, that is $150 in points, good for $150 in other merchandise. Nothing to sneeze at. And most of the small print reiterates the unqualified bonus points back offer. But, near the end, there is a mention that 10% back in points requires the use of a Sears credit card and is limited to only the first $500 of purchases.

A Shop Your Way representative said that the 10% back offer is for credit cardholders only. But, a representative said that the 10% back in points promotion is a separate offer from the 10% back credit card offer, but warned that those bonus points do NOT show up when you checkout. Well, which is it? We wrote to a Sears PR person about this whole situation, and he responded just before midnight on Sunday:

“It appears there was an inadvertent error with a Sears friends and family online ad. The ad has been updated. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

And lo and behold, apparently sometime before midnight after the first day of the sale was over, Sears changed its website. All references to an extra 10% back in points in that ad were removed.

revised F&F ad

And they shortened their disclaimer to just under three feet!

A hat-tip to Sears for making the correction. But now the bigger question… for everyone who made purchases relying on that advertisement, will Sears make good and give them an extra 10% back in points as promised?

Stay tuned.


• • •

November 2, 2015

Lime-A-Way: Money Back (Not) Guaranteed

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

Lime-A-WayRecently, MrConsumer needed to clean some pavers that had a cloudy white stain on them. At the supermarket, he was attracted to Lime-A-Way bottles because of a sticker promising a full price rebate just to try the product. He could not read the terms of the rebate because the sticker was really a plastic envelope and one would have to tear along the perforation lines to remove the sticker and reveal the details that were inside.

After coming home, MrConsumer broke the seal to discover the rebate had actually expired about two months earlier. Drats.


Lime-A-Way Try Me

MrConsumer then checked the Lime-A-Way website, and right there on the homepage was a money back guarantee if you were not satisfied with the product’s performance.

Since in fact it did nothing to remove the cloudy white stain from the pavers, MrConsumer enclosed the receipt and the guarantee form from their website and sent it off to the company. A few weeks later, a surprise came in the mail:

lime-a-way envelope

It said “Return to Sender. Offer Expired. Box Closed.”

In fact, according to the form that was mailed in, the money back guarantee didn’t expire until December 31, 2015.


Lime-A-Way deadline

Two refund attempts… two failures. So we wrote to the PR folks at Reckitt Benckiser to ask why they didn’t put the expiration date of the “try me” rebate on the outside of the package so shoppers could see it in the store, and how is it that their P.O. box to accept refund requests through the end of the year was closed. Their UK headquarters forwarded our request to their US office, and no further response was received from the company. However, curiously, the Lime-A-Way website has been changed, and no longer has a money back guarantee.


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