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February 24, 2014

At Sears, Hoops, Fine Print, Stamina, and Nagging Needed to Save the Most

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

Sears frig  Saving money on major appliance purchases is no longer easy. You cannot simply look at a sale circular and be assured you are getting the lowest price. You now have to combine savings offers and strategies, and then fight to get what you were promised.

MrConsumer finally broke down and decided to order a new refrigerator he had been eyeing at Sears. The one he selected was the only non-water/non-ice model available and the only side-by-side that could fit through his back door. (Most online specs ignore protrusions on the back of refrigerators like water pipes and metal jutting out that can add up to an extra inch to the stated width.)

The model was regularly $1299.99 (an inflated price because the list price for the Whirlpool version is only $1199.99), advertised on sale for $899.99 in Sears’ weekly flyer. This was the lowest price it had been advertised for in the recent past. There was, however, a small print footnote.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Advertised savings are valid in-store only.”

Good thing, as it turns out, because the online Sears.com price was $809.99! The website was offering an extra 10% off appliances $499.99 and up.

MrConsumer remembered that there had a been a high-value dollars-off coupon floating around the Internet, and sure enough he found it: $35 off a $300 or more purchase. When that was factored in, the price dropped to $774.99.

Sears had just begun offering free delivery for online customers, so that saved another $69.99.

Since Sears has been heavily promoting its “Shop Your Way” rewards program, MrConsumer checked the list of available coupons, and lo and behold found this way to get $50 back:

$50 back

And as Ron Popeil always says, “but wait, there’s more.” When it comes time to pay for the item, the question is whether to use a 2% cash back reward credit card, or use the Sears MasterCard. After assuring that the Sears card doubled the manufacturer’s warranty, thus adding an extra year of coverage for free, the choice was simple because:

sears

*MOUSE PRINT:

The footnote did not say “in-store only” so the offer should be good for an online purchase to save an extra 5%.

Lastly, knowing that websites like ebates.com and FatWallet.com offer cash back rebates when you shop using their links to merchants, MrConsumer checked how much they were giving back. Both were offering a generous six-percent rebate. Ca-ching.

All these savings are great in theory if you really get them. And that’s the problem. Other than getting the refrigerator for the $774.99 price after deducting the $35 coupon, no other savings were realized automatically as promised.

The extra 5% off for using the Sears card never materialized. Only after two calls to customer service, and then requesting a supervisor, did Sears provide a credit of $41.67. The 6% back from FatWallet didn’t get credited in full because Sears appears to have manipulated the sale price to be close to $200 below the actual sale price. That will be another fight. And the $50 back in points that were promised took two phone calls to get. It was, however, mouseprint that prevented this rebate from properly being added to MrConsumer’s order.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Shop Your Way

So despite electronically clipping the $50 in points coupon and adding it to one’s Shop Your Way account, Sears provides an additional fine print link that also has to be clicked to “apply” the coupon to your order. Who knew? And would most people catch that inconspicuous link?

Adding insult to injury, of course, two days after the sale was consummated, Sears offered a $50 off a $300 appliance purchase coupon. Under the Sears price adjustment policy, MrConsumer should get the extra $15 off (the difference between his $35 off coupon and this one). That only took two additional phone calls to square away.

So, to recount all the promised savings:

Discount off regular price:     $400.00
Online only discount:           $90.00
Online only free delivery:      $69.99
$50 off a $300 purchase coupon: $50.00
5% discount using Sears card:   $41.67
50,000 ($50) points credit:     $50.00
1% in regular points:           $7.75
6% FatWallet rebate:            $45.60
=======================================
Total savings:                  $755.01 

Is all this worth it, you ask? For veteran bargain hunters, it is all part of the game. For regular folks, few would have the patience to deal with all this detail, the problems, and the follow-up.

Finally, from the “too-good-to-be-true” department, only after MrConsumer made the purchase of the refrigerator, did he decide to check Consumer Reports’ ratings. Of the 74 side-by-side models tested, the sister model to his came in 73rd place. Grrrr.

• • •

February 17, 2014

Can You Believe Sears’ Presidents Day Sale Prices?

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:50 am

 For Presidents Day, Sears advertised a big appliance sale, and really was one of their best sales of the year. They were promoting 35% off Kenmore appliances, which is their most generous across-the-board discount on this brand.

Sears 35% off

Poking around the Sears website, MrConsumer was curious to see if Sears was really giving this generous of a discount on all Kenmore major appliances. Checking some refrigerators, some times they were $20 or $25 or so less than a full 35%, and sometimes they over-discounted by that much.

Moving onto slide-in gas stoves, similar to what MrConsumer owns, he found this.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sears 35% off Kenmore

The actual discounts for these ranges were not even close to the claimed 35% off. Thinking that possibly the extra discount would be added when the item was placed in one’s cart, MrConsumer added that $1259.99 range on the left.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sears $100 higher

Shockingly, the price became $100 higher –$1359.99 — making its discount the same as the other three shown — only 15% off.

Nothing in the original advertisement indicated the discount on Kenmore appliances was “up to” 35% off as they disclosed for other brands. And there was no asterisk indicating that some Kenmore appliances were excluded from the sale. Given the nature of this advertisement, it is perfectly reasonable for a consumer to believe that any and all Kenmore major appliances were being offered at 35% off.

After running the “35% off Kenmore” appliances claim for several days, Sears finally heard the whispers of Honest Abe Lincoln and George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington, and changed their advertising to “up to 35% off”:

up to 35% off

And they even fixed the price on that slide-in range back to the promised $1259.99.

UPDATE: On Presidents Day itself, one day after correcting their advertisement, Sears sent an email to customers once again promising a full 35% off Kenmore appliances:

Sears 35 repeated

So much for Honest Abe.

The bottom line is, unfortunately, that you have to double check every price and every savings claim to ensure that you are really getting what was advertised.

• • •

February 3, 2014

Full Refunds Not Always Guaranteed at JetBlue if Canceling a Flight Within 24 Hours

Filed under: Internet,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:50 am

  The airlines don’t like to publicize it, but starting in 2012 the Department of Transportation required US airlines to make refunds to passengers who cancelled their non-refundable tickets/reservations within 24 hours of making them.

That is a great consumer right.

One New Yorker, however, needed to take an emergency flight in the next day or two, so he bought a ticket on JetBlue. His plans shortly changed, and within 24 hours he contacted JetBlue to cancel the reservation. They said he did not qualify for a full refund. What?

JetBlue’s contract of carriage states this:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Following receipt of payment from a Passenger, JetBlue will allow a reservation to be held at the quoted fare for 24 hours, if the reservation is made at least one week prior to the flight’s departure. [Emphasis added.] If such reservation is canceled within 24 hours of booking, Passenger will receive a full refund without assessment of a cancellation fee.”

Sure enough, the fine print of the DOT’s regulation provides:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Allows “passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.”

Who knew?

A check of some other airlines’ policies and a call to U.S. Airways suggest that their cancellation policies don’t impose that seven-day in advance purchase requirement to get a full refund.

As always, don’t assume. Ask your airline if you indeed have the unrestricted right to cancel your ticket within 24 hours of purchase.

• • •

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.

• • •

January 6, 2014

On Time Delivery Guaranty Gotchas

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

  UPS, and to a lesser extent Federal Express, got black eyes this past holiday season when thousands of packages were left undelivered in time for Christmas.

Some retailers like Amazon, Kohl’s, and Walmart promised to make peace with their customers by variously offering shipping refunds, gift cards, or complete refunds. But what about UPS and FEDEX themselves?

Both companies have on-time guarantees.

For UPS, air shipments are guaranteed throughout the holiday season. But, if you used UPS Ground service, they have conveniently excluded the two weeks before Christmas:

*MOUSE PRINT:

UPS guarantee

Federal Express on the other hand, appears to have left their full money back guarantee intact.

FEDEX guarantee

For overnight deliveries, their policy is generous:

“FedEx offers a money-back guarantee for every U.S. shipment. You may request a refund or credit of your shipping charges if we miss our published (or quoted, as in the case of FedEx SameDay®) delivery time by even 60 seconds.”

Wow, even if they are only a minute late you get back your money. Wow, again.

In small type, however, the customer is referred to Fedex’s “terms and conditions” and ground tariff. For both overnight express and ground services, their money back policy begins this way:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“We offer a money-back guarantee for our services. This guarantee can be suspended, modified or revoked at our sole discretion without prior notice to you.” [emphasis added]

So they have this great policy, but tuck into the fine print that they can suspend it at will. Nice, huh?

Sure enough, FEDEX created a special holiday money back guarantee . For FEDEX Ground shipments, they invoked that weasel clause just when it might be needed most.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“The money-back guarantee for FedEx Ground® and FedEx Home Delivery® services will be suspended temporarily for packages tendered during the 14 calendar days before Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013 (Wednesday, Dec. 11, through Tuesday, Dec. 24).”

And for FEDEX express services, they give themselves an extra 90 minutes to make on-time deliveries, just like UPS.

The company issued a statement after the big media uproar about packages being delivered late (primarily by UPS), saying:

“Every single package is important to us, and we will continue to work directly with customers to address any isolated incidents.”

The bottom line is that these companies have tried to absolve themselves of on-time delivery responsibilities, and have been relatively silent about how they would make good for disappointed shoppers.

• • •
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