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January 27, 2014

Office Depot Offers $800 of “Free” (?) Software

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:58 am

  Every year, the office supply superstores offer either cash rebates or free software as an inducement to buy tax preparation software (like TurboTax and H&R Block) from their store.

This year, as in previous years, Office Depot is making a generous offer of $800 of free software.

Office Depot

But, according to Mouse Print* reader WAE, the promised rebates did not cover the full purchase price of some of the software titles.

Checking the Office Depot website for the purchase price and the promised rebate revealed he was right!

*MOUSE PRINT:


Office Depot
[Click reconstructed image above to enlarge, then click again]

Mouse Print* wrote to Office Depot’s media relations department asking them why they were charging money for supposedly free software and how they were going to correct the problem for customers they overcharged.

Office Depot did not respond.

• • •

December 16, 2013

When Shipping Costs More than the Product

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:31 am

MrConsumer is always on the lookout for a deal on iPhone accessories for an Apple-loving friend.

This crazy low-priced email deal for a dock good for either the Apple 4S or 5S looked like a steal:

$5 dock

Clicking through, yep, it’s really $5. But, only if you scroll down toward the bottom of the page once you are on the seller’s website, do you see the catch:

*MOUSE PRINT:

$5 dock

If you happened not to scroll down to see that shipping was $7 extra per dock, and just clicked “buy this deal,” you would not have known the real total cost of your purchase until you went to redeem the voucher this company sends out.

*MOUSE PRINT:

$5 dock order form

Nowhere on the order form does it inform the customer of the $7 shipping charge. Is it any wonder that the shipping cost is not well-disclosed? After all, a $7 shipping fee for a $5 item kills the deal.

• • •

December 2, 2013

Sprint Student Free (?) for All

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Best Buy recently sent out an email making an astonishing offer on cell service for students:

Sprint student offer

They are providing a year of free service. That means free unlimited calls, texts, and 1 gig of data ($10 extra for unlimited data). What a deal!

It says however, “with purchase of phone at Student Activated price.” What’s that?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sprint student prices

The prices being charged by Best Buy for the phones appear to be full price, the same as what Sprint itself would charge. In some cases, the price appears to be $50 higher than buying from Sprint directly. The benefit for the student, however, is a free year of service, without having to sign a two-year contract.

So is this a good deal? The less expensive of the two Sprint plans that the student is required to sign up for is $70 a month (plus fees and taxes) if he/she had to pay for it. So that is $840 saved for the year, but the student is paying full price or slightly more for the phone. On the other hand, if the student were to get a fancy phone free from Sprint during a promotion, he or she would have to pay that $840 for service. So it appears that the student could save a little by taking advantage of the student offer, but not hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Presumably in year two, the phone might be able to be added onto a family plan at discounted monthly rates, and then the savings would increase (or maybe just get onto a family plan to start with to save).

• • •

October 21, 2013

Target Finds Sneaky Way to Make Robocalls

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

Target’s red debit card provides a host of benefits that few department stores offer: free shipping with no minimum from their .com store, an additional 5% discount off most purchases, and a 30-day extension to their regular return policy.

When MrConsumer recently applied for a Target debit card, he was taken aback by the company’s tricky maneuver to allow it to make robocalls to its cardholders’ cellphones.

When one applies for the card in-store, you fill out the simplified application that appears on the little signature screen of the credit card terminal at the customer service desk. In addition to entering your social security number on one screen, and your date of birth on another, two screens also come up requesting your home phone and cellphone numbers.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Target

On the left of the two phone number screens is a disclosure granting Target permission to make robocalls to your cellphone. MrConsumer only provided a home phone (a landline) and left the cellphone screen blank. The application did go through.

Why did Target tuck that disclosure into the on-screen process, while leaving all other disclosures to a fine print booklet? The reason is that the FCC requires companies to get the consumer’s explicit written permission before any robocalls or texts can be made to a wireless telephone.

Most consumers probably won’t catch the disclosure, and won’t they be surprised when Target targets texts to them.

• • •

September 16, 2013

Walmart Touts Free Layaways But Quietly Adds Cancellation Fee

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

Retailers are making a big push to promote early holiday shopping. Kmart began TV advertising last week, and Toys-R-US just announced modified store policies. And Walmart started promoting its holiday layaway plan:

Walmart layaways

“This time it’s free,” the ad boasts. This refers to the fact that last year Walmart charged a $5 fee to initiate a layaway, but they reimbursed that fee to shoppers at the end by giving them a $5 gift card.

What Walmart doesn’t tout is another inconspicuous change.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Walmart cancellation fee

Yep. They have introduced a $10 cancellation fee which is imposed if the consumer cancels the purchase. It is also triggered if all the payments are not made or if the item is not picked up by December 13.

No one is disputing Walmart’s right to add a cancellation fee, particularly if they have taken the shopper’s goods off the selling floor for three months. What is interesting, however, is that their marketing folks have taken a net negative change to the layaway plan (the $10 cancellation fee) and essentially no change to their start fee (since it was rebated), and turned it into a positive advertising campaign.

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