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November 20, 2017

Thanks for Nothing:
P.C. Richard’s Black Friday Price Guarantee

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

It is rare to find any retailer offering to match competitors’ prices on Black Friday, but New York area appliance discount chain P.C. Richard & Son is advertising just that.

PC richard price guarantee

Wow. Walmart did this a few years ago, but has not since. But before you get all psyched about shopping at P.C. Richard, you better follow the asterisk to their fine print disclaimer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

PC Richard price guarantee details

It basically says that while it lasts 30 days, their Black Friday price guarantee excludes Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the weekend after Black Friday, and Cyber Monday for any competitor advertising limited quantities, certain hours for sales, etc. But virtually every retailer has those restrictions on their doorbusters or other great deals that you might only see between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

We asked the company about the dubious nature of this policy and they have yet to respond.

So to P.C. Richard, for your Black Friday price guarantee we say, thanks for nothing.

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November 13, 2017

It’s Open Season on Befuddled Health Plan Shoppers

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

Once again it is open enrollment time for those choosing a new health insurance plan. In searching around for a new plan for MrConsumer’s friend in New York City, he came up with what looked like a dream plan — a new national plan that tapped into Cigna’s national network of 500,000 providers. (Most individual plans in New York have very limited networks except for Empire Blue — and even Empire is not all-inclusive.)

The plan is from MVP Health Care called “Platinum National Embedded.” It is considered a non-standard plan and therefore is “off-market” — not on the New York “Obamacare” health exchange — and is sold individually directly by the company.

A handy map shows which counties in the New York City region are covered:

MVP  map 1

A quick look makes it appear that all five boroughs of New York City are covered as well as two northern counties. When using MVP’s online plan lookup feature, entering my friend’s Manhattan zip code kept triggering an error. How could that be?

*MOUSE PRINT:

MVP plan map

A closer look at the fine print asterisked footnote reveals that MVP is not licensed to sell these plans in any of the five boroughs of New York City, despite them being listed above as “included.”

We asked the company why it used such misleading representations and whether it would fix the distortions. They have yet to respond.

Finding the right health plan is hard enough without shenanigans like this.

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November 6, 2017

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts:
Free Quicken 2018 CDs Come with Costly Catch

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:50 am

Quicken 2018 Upgrade CDOver a million Quicken software users are in for a costly surprise if they install the free upgrade CD that many received in the mail last week. Consumer World is warning them that the 2018 upgrade could triple their cost of the popular personal money management program.

Starting with the 2018 edition, the new owner of Quicken (H.I.G. Capital) is converting the software to a subscription service and charging a regular annual fee of $49.99 for Quicken Deluxe. If not renewed, the user faces the loss of online functionality to update account transactions and pay bills.

Quicken $49.99

The previous owner, Intuit, required purchasers to upgrade only every three years or lose online access. The list price for the three year program then was $74.99, but was often on sale for $50 or less, and even lower when bundled with TurboTax.

“This is a pure money grab by Quicken’s new owners,” commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “The original intentional crippling of the software after three years was bad enough, but now reducing it to just one year in essence triples the cost for many, and will drive away thousands of users.”

How did the new management disclose their major change in terms for 2018 in the fancy three-fold mailer that accompanied the upgrade CD? It was only in a hard-to-read fine print footnote.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Quicken 2018 fine print Click to enlarge

For those who cannot read that, it says that a purchase would entitle users to [only] one year of Quicken, that data downloads stop at the end of the term, and that users’ memberships would be automatically renewed each year and users charged the then current renewal rate.

When Quicken introduced annual subscriptions in Canada earlier this year, it utilized an additional ploy to encourage annual renewals. It disabled the ability to even add transactions manually if the software was not renewed after a year. Following public criticism alleging that the company was holding users’ data hostage, they relented and lifted that restriction.

Echoing the company CEO’s open letter to customers about the changes, a spokesperson for Quicken explained that the primary reason for instituting annual renewals was so that their technical team can concentrate on continually improving a single version of the software. Currently the company has to separately update the 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. He did acknowledge, however, that they are getting “negative feedback” about the pricing change.

Dworsky challenged the company’s justification suggesting that they could have just as easily introduced a single version of the software good for three years from the date of installation rather than just one year.

Quicken was spun off from a company that also engaged in tactics to “encourage” customers to upgrade. Two years ago, Intuit created a self-inflicted public relations nightmare when it changed the functionality of its most popular version of TurboTax tax preparation software to force users to upgrade to a more expensive version. After a public outcry, the company restored the software to its original form.

Consumer World recommends that current users of Quicken 2016 and 2017 continue using those versions since they are still fully functional until April 2019 and April 2020, respectively. But, they should lodge a complaint with the company now (here and here) if they are upset by the pricing changes.

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October 30, 2017

Death Wish Coffee Lives Up to its Name

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

Death Wish CoffeeSometimes companies take a little literary license when naming their product or company to the dismay of consumer protection regulators. For example, is BJ’s Wholesale Club really selling its merchandise at wholesale prices? Similarly, is Poland Spring water really from a spring? (A recent lawsuit against the company suggests otherwise.)

Now we have a company that calls itself “Death Wish Coffee,” with a skull and crossbones right on the label as part of its logo. Are they saying their coffee is poisonous and you might die if you drink it?

Ironically that could be the case because the aptly named company just issued a product recall for its Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew coffee in 11 ounce cans.

*MOUSE PRINT:

According to the recall notice posted on the FDA’s website:

Death Wish in conjunction with an outside Process Authority has determined that the current process [to make its Nitro Brew] could lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin, botulin, in low acid foods commercialized in reduced oxygen packaging.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

So, true to its name, this product could kill you. Fortunately, no one has yet died or even gotten sick, according to the company.

And no, this is not a Halloween prank.

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October 23, 2017

AA & UA Penalize Carry-on Luggage Cheats

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:23 am

A number of the full service legacy airlines have recently introduced “basic economy” fares that are stripped of some usual conveniences. One of the rules of these fares is that you can only take a small personal bag onboard that fits in the seat in front of you. You are prohibited from taking a larger piece of luggage that normally would go in the overhead bin.

How do airlines enforce this new restriction? They’ve started checking at the gate since basic economy passengers all board last. And if they catch you with a piece of forbidden luggage, you not only have to pay the normal baggage check fee but they also assess a penalty for trying to cheat!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Baggage details (American Airlines)

You can board with 1 item like a purse or small handbag that fits under the seat in front of you and is not larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). You won’t have access to overhead bins.

All other items must be checked at ticket counters and cannot be carried on. If you take them to the gate you’ll pay an extra $25 gate service fee per item plus the applicable bag fee. [Emphasis added.]

That’s the rule at American Airlines. Over at United, they have the same policy:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted

You’re not allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, the primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or a Star Alliance™ Gold member. Everyone else who brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

If you want to avoid these penalty fees and restrictions, remember that Southwest Airlines does not charge checked luggage fees for the first two bags.

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