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February 29, 2016

What a 14-Day Return Policy Means on eBay Sometimes

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

Many people are reluctant to shop at eBay because unlike buying from a retail store, many items are sold by individuals and don’t come with any return privileges. When you are purchasing antiques, for example, it is often hard to tell just from the pictures what the actual condition of the item is, what the flaws are, and even what the true colors are.

So, it certainly can relieve some of that anxiety when you see that an individual seller has a decent return policy. Take for example this one, that offers a 14-day money back guarantee.

eBay returns

When clicking that “details” link, the truth is revealed.


14 day return policy

I accept returns only on items in which I have made a mistake in the listing. It is the buyer’s responsibility to ask any and all pertinant questions about an item prior to bidding. I require immediate notification, (within 24 hours of receipt of the item), of intent to return by the buyer. I do not accept returns for buyer’s remorse or for items that the buyer assumed could be purchased on approval. If you want your friend’s “expert” opinion on a piece, you need to have them view the listing and read the item description prior to bidding. You do not get to do this after receiving the item because this constitutes “buying on approval”. The returned item must be received by me in the same condition it was in when inititally shipped to the buyer.

Basically, what this seller is really saying is that you have no regular return rights, including 14 days to try out the item. You only have a right of return for a misrepresentation and YOU have to pay the return shipping!

That certainly is far different from what the average consumer would understand “14 days money back” to mean. So as with everything we write about in Mouse Print*, you have to read the fine print or you could get snookered.


• • •

February 22, 2016

Sometimes There’s Good News in the Fine Print

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:05 am

With minus nine degree weather in Boston last week, MrConsumer’s 1996 Honda Accord wasn’t so eager to start easily. I wondered if my battery was going bad, then again, it hadn’t been that long ago since it was replaced. Checking the receipt revealed that the battery was purchased at Autozone in mid-March 2013.

A further check of the receipt revealed the warranty terms.


Autozone receipt

The battery, which cost about $119, had a five year warranty but provided for free replacement within the first three years if it was defective. Since we were now at the two years and 11 months mark, MrConsumer hightailed it over to Autozone to have it tested. After a few tense moments when they had difficulty connecting the tester, the readout said “bad battery.” Yeah!

We went back in to process the warranty claim. Half expecting some type of snafu or some hidden charge to surface, I was treated to one pleasant surprise after another. They handed me back $4.10 in cash, explaining that the battery was cheaper today than what I paid three years ago. They pointed to a second receipt that popped out of the register good for a rebate of $20 (via gift card). And the worker said that he was giving me a free five year warranty on the replacement battery (rather than the more common practice of only getting the remaining time from the original battery).

Wow. What great customer service! Hats off to Autozone in Medford, Massachusetts.


• • •

February 8, 2016

Thanks for Nothing #2:
Dollar General Found Selling Obsolete Motor Oil

Filed under: Autos,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

Many of us shop at dollar stores because of bargains you can often find there. Sometimes, however, the bargain is no deal.

For example, Dollar General sells quarts of its own brand of motor oil, DG, for $2.50 to $2.75. That is cheaper than the big name brands.

Dollar General oil

What could be bad?


Dollar General Oil back of label

The back of the label provides an unexpected shock. This oil is not for use in cars built after 1988?! Who would ever expect a common oil like 10W-30 sold by a major general merchandise chain to be inappropriate for the expected use for most customers?

While the label says it meets a particular automotive specification, that spec is outdated, and has been updated six times since then according to the Petroleum Quality Institute of America.

Another product the company sells, an oil called SAE 30, has an even more astonishing disclaimer on the back of the bottle:

SAE 30

This one is not for cars built after 1930! So for everyone with a Model T, go grab some.

But for everyone else, thanks for nothing, Dollar General.

Now, consumers in 14 states have filed lawsuits against Dollar General for selling obsolete motor oil: CA (see lawsuit), CO, FL, MD (see lawsuit), KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, NJ, NY (see lawsuit), VT, OK, and TX.

And our friends at ABC’s Good Morning America, with a little help from Mouse Print*, just completed an undercover investigation of these motor oils:

Good Morning America story
Click to view

We asked the company to explain why they even sell these products that are inappropriate for most of their customers, whether they would put up more prominent warnings for shoppers, and what their reaction was to the lawsuit. They responded as follows in relevant part:

We are confident that our DG-branded motor oil products meet not only our standards for quality and value, but also all applicable federal and state labeling requirements where they are sold. In addition, the labeling on these products contains obvious and unambiguous language regarding the products’ intended and appropriate use.

Dollar General intends to vigorously defend against the claims raised in the recently-filed lawsuits regarding these products, including the filing of motions seeking their dismissal. — Dollar General Corporate Communications

Few shoppers know that there is more to buying motor oil than looking for the proper viscosity, such as 10W-30 or 10W-40. You need to make sure that you are choosing the one specified in your owner’s manual, including the appropriate service category. This is an industry specification, noted on the label, relating to the additives put in the oil to help prevent corrosion, sludge build up, and engine damage.

The most current service category is API “SN”. The oils shown above have obsolete service category designations such as “SA” or “SF,” meaning they are missing more modern additives.

Here is a chart from the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (an organization that tests motor oils for compliance with the labeled standard) showing which car model years are covered by each service category designation. Each category is backwards compatible.

oil chart


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


• • •

January 25, 2016

Spiriva – Half the Medicine Provided is Wasted

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:35 am

This is a strange one.

Thomas A. wrote to Mouse Print* about Spiriva — an inhalation therapy drug for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The medicine comes in a metal canister that slips into an inhaler.


What caught Thomas’ attention was the net contents statement on two different inhaler boxes — the small size (for two weeks of use) and the large size (for four weeks of use).



Both contain exactly the same amount of medicine — four grams — but one canister provides 28 doses and the other 60. How could this be?

We called the company and spoke to a nurse there to try to understand how this was possible. She directed us to the patient information sheet packed in each box.


The SPIRIVA RESPIMAT cartridge for each strength has a net fill weight of 4 grams and when used with the SPIRIVA RESPIMAT inhaler, is designed to deliver the labeled number of metered actuations (60 or 28) …

It seems the company manufactures only one size of canister but sells two different inhaler mechanisms. One delivers two-weeks-worth of medicine (28 puffs) and the other four-weeks-worth (60 puffs). So basically, the two week version is overfilled, and half the medicine goes to waste.

Now, couldn’t a smart consumer who has to use this stuff on an ongoing basis just buy the two week version and use it for a month? Or if the inhalers really are different, first get a prescription for the four week size, and then subsequently refill it with a two-week canister and get four weeks of medicine out of it for half the price?

Nope. The company is not stupid.


When the labeled number of actuations (60 or 28) has been dispensed from the inhaler, the RESPIMAT locking mechanism will be engaged and no more actuations can be dispensed.

The cash price for a month’s supply of Spiriva is enough to take your breath away — about $400. The two week version is generally only available in hospitals or as a doctor’s sample.

If the company can afford to overfill the two week cartridges, that suggests the actual cost of the medicine must be minimal.


• • •

January 18, 2016

Diamonds in Mattresses! Cool?

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Every company looks for something unique about their product to tout in advertising. And that even applies to beds. Take the case of some Simmons Beautyrest mattresses.

They claim that they have infused diamond dust into a layer of their high-end memory foam mattresses in order to draw heat away from the bed, as explained in this video:

And a famed local furniture seller in the Boston area is even doing a commercial touting the amazing benefits of this mattress:

In a Q&A meant for dealers, the company says that diamond-dust-infused memory foam does not breath better than their regular memory foam:

Does Micro Diamond™ Infused AirCool Memory Foam breathe better or help regulate temperature better than regular AirCool Memory Foam?

While it does not “breathe” better, it performs better in the overall regulation of temperature. It conducts heat away from the body providing for a more comfortable sleep environment. The thermal conductivity of diamonds tops that of even the best conductors, like copper. In fact, a diamond’s ability as a thermal conductor is four times better than copper. Therefore, more and more diamonds are being used in applications to extract heat. One great example is with electronic devices, which allows them to be even smaller and more powerful.

The company says they put up to 500 carats of diamond dust in certain mattresses. That is the equivalent of just 3.5 ounces. To put that small amount of powder into perspective, a Beautyrest queen mattress is about 143 pounds according to Sears.

But where exactly do they put this diamond dust? It is in one of the memory foam layers, but the company refused to tell us where that layer was located within the mattress. Most mattresses today are made up of many layers of different materials, such as this generic Beautyrest Black cutaway illustration:


MrConsumer is no scientist, but if the diamond-dust-infused layer is not on top, it seems that it would be incapable of sucking heat out of your body and then moving it away from the surface on which you are lying. And since you are not lying on a sheet of solid diamonds, it is inexplicable how flecks of diamonds, not even touching one another, can conduct heat away from anything.

We asked the company to provide us with a copy of any research tests they conducted that would substantiate their claims, what the temperature difference is with and without diamond dust in the mattress, and as mentioned above, where exactly is the diamond-dust-infused layer located.


A PR person for the company called to say that she could not provide test results for competitive reasons, saying that the information was proprietary.

Without this information, it is impossible to judge whether the company’s claims are true… but MrConsumer has his doubts.


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