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December 20, 2010

90% Off Groceries at Amazon? Ho, Ho, No!

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

[Note: the next Mouse Print* posting will be January 3.]

MrConsumer recently came across a website that helps people find deeply discounted items on Amazon. What a great idea.

When checking what items in Amazon’s grocery department were supposedly 90% off, Mouse Print* found some startling savings claims.

They claim savings of 93%, yet they are still charging over $1.50 for each regular size pack of gum. How is that possible?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Amazon claims the list price for those 12 packs of gum is a whopping $284.52 — that’s $23.71 for a single package! Was this gum previously chewed by Elvis, thus accounting for its premium price? The full price for one pack of Trident Layers is $1.49 (at Kmart), so 12 packs should be about $17.88 full price, not almost $285. Clearly something is not right here. Is this an isolated incident? Unfortunately no. Item after item listed in the 90% off section had grossly exaggerated list prices that bear no relation to real world regular prices.

Twelve packages of gummy bears marked right on the package “2 for $1″ list for $6, not $95 as Amazon claims. A two pound can of Folgers coffee is not $146 anywhere, just over a pound of Pringles doesn’t list for the $159 the site claimed, and less than six pounds of Twizzlers doesn’t have a value of over $271.

How could Amazon put such exaggerated list prices on its site in order to claim savings of over 90%? We asked Amazon’s PR department to comment, but no response was received. Miraculously, however, two weeks after contacting them, the exaggerated regular prices of most of these and other groceries disappeared.

Of course, this doesn’t explain why Amazon’s 90% off page for groceries still shows more than 300 items most of which are not actually 90% off.

============

If you find examples of hard goods, such as electronics, cameras, or appliances with a stated list price on Amazon that is higher than the actual suggested list price, please send those examples to Mouse Print* ( edgar [at symbol] mouseprint.org ). Thanks.

• • •

December 13, 2010

Fry’s (Not So) Free Shipping

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

One of the biggest attractions online sellers can offer is free shipping. And that’s what Fry’s does for some items.

MrConsumer recently purchased Norton Internet Security (plus Norton Utilities and Norton Ghost) for about $75 from Frys.com because a full price rebate was offered, as well as free shipping (instead of the usual $6.98). In the same order, he added on another software program that was also $75, but it was not labeled as coming with free shipping.

Sure enough, their computerized ordering system charged $6.98 for shipping the order, despite the fact that Norton was supposed to be shipped free. How can the company get away with this?

*MOUSE PRINT: If one clicks the “free shipping” logo, there is this disclaimer:

1. If your order contains “eligible” and “non-eligible” items, shipping will be charged for “non-eligible” item(s).

The policy is understandable if the non-free shipping item is sent separately or adds weight to the box that contains the free shipping item causing the company to pay more for postage. But that was not the case here. As you can see from the picture above, Norton is a rather large product and it came shipped in a carton roughly 12″ by 12″ by 12″. In the same carton, was the other software — a box that weighed a mere three ounces.

The carton with just Norton weighed 21 ounces and with the added software box, it weighed 24 ounces. That additional three ounces did not push the shipping cost into a higher bracket, according to FEDEX’s shipping chart. So, Fry’s charged $6.98 for shipping a carton that otherwise would have shipped free, and which cost them no more to send because of the added three ounce software box.

Customer service was unsympathetic, and only after speaking to a supervisor did the company agree to refund half the shipping cost.

• • •

December 6, 2010

More Products Downsized

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:31 am

Earlier this year, Tropicana downsized it half gallons of orange juice. They went from 64 ounces to 59 ounces, but the container appeared to remain the same size.

Just last month, Tropicana’s big competitor, Florida’s Natural followed suit:

*MOUSE PRINT:

The package is a barely noticeable 1/4″ shorter, but contains five ounces less than previously.

When asked by Mouse Print* why their product was downsized, the company responded:

“As I hope you are aware, our major competitors had all previously made the switch. Although we had tried to maintain the 64 ounce size, we were at a big cost disadvantage. Consumers still bought the lower ounce cartons of our competitors, so to remain viable in the juice business, we had to follow suit.

As a company owned by farmers, we understand offering value to our customers. We have no control over the retail price supermarkets charge for our product. With that in mind, we will offer our 59 ounce features at a lower promotional cost, compared to the features usually run on the 64 ounce product.”


Another item that was downsized and discovered earlier in the year was Ivory Dishwashing Liquid.

*MOUSE PRINT:

When asked why the change, P&G responded:

” I’m sorry to hear that you have noticed the downsize in our bottles of Ivory Dish Soap. In the Fall of 2009, Ivory downsized our bottles because our raw materials went up and instead of charging more to the stores to handle our products we changed the size of the bottles. “

Thanks to Paul P. for the photo. Incidentally, he says the price stayed the same at about $2.42.



Cheryl from Massachusetts submitted this picture of Pastene Wine Vinegar which was downsized from a full quart to just 25.4 ounces, but the new bottle was taller than the old one. She poured the new contents into the old bottle to demonstrate just how much vinegar was actually removed.

*MOUSE PRINT:


Lastly, Jerri Q. was dismayed to find her Hill Bros. coffee had been substantially downsized, while the price stayed the same.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Thanks to all the contributors who found these examples of downsized products.  As we always say, downsizing is a sneaky way to pass on a price increase.

• • •

November 29, 2010

3% Interest on Checking? Don’t Bank On It!

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:41 am

With so many bank accounts paying “bupkis” (almost nothing) according to comedian Jerry Stiller in Capital One commercials, this bank’s ad looked really promising.  They pay an enticing  3.01% interest on checking, and charge no fees at any ATM in the country.

What’s the catch?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ah, if there were only one catch… but there are many buried in that ureadable footnote that appears to be printed in four point type.

– There is a limit of $25,000, higher amounts earn only 0.25%
– If you don’t follow all the rules/requirements, your rate drops to 0.25%
– You must make at 12 debit card transactions per month, not including ATM
– You must have direct deposit or have a recurring ACH transaction
– You must get your statement electronically
– You must access online banking at least once per month
– If you don’t follow the rules, you will not be reimbursed for ATM fees

All these requirements are likely to trip up all but the most diligent consumer, and will result in an account that really pays “bupkis”.

Accounts like this are called rewards checking, and can be found at various banks around the country. Because the nature of these accounts is so different from the traditional checking accounts we are all used to, banks need to more clearly disclose the unique requirements in order to actually receive the high rate of interest advertised.

• • •

November 22, 2010

Turkeys Offering Free Turkeys

Filed under: Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

Wendy A. wrote to Mouse Print* saying she had just gotten an email from MyPoints promoting a free turkey at Office Depot. Not only did it seem odd to her that an office supply store was giving out turkeys, but she was even more taken aback when reading the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Besides requiring a $125 minimum purchase, it instantly became clear that one could not purchase a whole turkey for the measily $10 coupon that the company was actually offering. She says, “Why not just say “Get $10 off a Thanksgiving turkey?” We agree.

Free and discounted turkey promotions are more popular at supermarkets certainly, and Shaw’s in the northeast jumped on the free turkey bandwagon too. They just sent out emails with the subject line: “Enjoy a free turkey for Thanksgiving”.

It almost sounds like the supermarket is being benevolent and giving away free turkeys. But, there is that dreaded “see terms and conditions”.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Once you’ve spent $500 on eligible items, a coupon with a maximum value of $20 will automatically be printed on the bottom of your receipt.

A $500 purchase requirement [not necessarily all at one time] for a free turkey? That makes Office Depot seem generous, only requiring $125. At least at Shaw’s they realize that a turkey normally costs more than $10, so they are promising $20 worth of turkey AND fixings.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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