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April 26, 2015

Despite Crushing Publicity, TurboTax Sales Surge

Filed under: Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 8:56 am

  In January, we were the first to call national attention to TurboTax’s nasty and inconspicuous ploy of stripping its flagship desktop income tax preparation software of key tax forms, thus forcing long-time users to upgrade to significantly more expensive versions. (See series of Mouse Print* stories.) Customers were livid and nearly 3000 of them posted one-star reviews on Amazon.

Major media picked up on the story, and after three weeks of a public pummeling, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, finally relented (after some half-hearted attempts to satisfy customers) and offered free upgrades to everyone.

Then came the revelation that crooks were claiming income tax refunds via TurboTax’s online software before their rightful owners could. Some states temporarily stopped accepting TurboTax returns. The FBI, Congress, and the FTC all launched investigations. And Intuit finally strengthened verification of identities on its website. This dual onslaught of negative press spanned most of January and February.

TurboTax headlines

One would think with the crushing and sustained negative publicity the company received over this period in the height of tax season that their sales would surely plummet. After all, consumers were mad as hell about the costly upgrades being forced on them, and worried as hell that TurboTax online was facilitating theft of their tax refunds.

According to Streetinsider.com, however, TurboTax desktop sales dropped only 6% or about 300,000 units, but online sales surged by two and a half million additional tax returns.

MOUSE PRINT*:

Unit Sales of 2015 TurboTax
TurboTax Sales

It is unfathomable to MrConsumer that millions felt more comfortable with TurboTax online this year than last, and that only relatively few abandoned the company’s desktop product. Wasn’t anyone paying attention except the two people who sued Intuit last week? Are all the alternatives just not up to the task? Or were those extra 2.5 million returns all filed by crooks?

• • •

April 20, 2015

Sears Gives Payment Choice for Refrigerator: $1299 or $2099

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:16 am

  MrConsumer was helping a friend buy a particular refrigerator recently at Sears:

Sears

One weekend last year, Sears was selling it for $1299, marked down from (a supposed) $2099. Scrolling down the page, there was this “payment options” section:

sears

Huh? Which would I prefer to pay — the sale price of $1299 or the regular price of $2099?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Clicking the “see details” link didn’t really add any details beyond those stated.

The offer apparently, in a roundabout way, is trying to sell you a gift card along with the refrigerator, with the value of the gift card being the difference between the regular price and the sale price the refrigerator (in this case $800) plus a 10% bonus. In other words, for $2099, you will get an $880 Sears gift card plus a $1299 refrigerator.

For a lousy $80 extra, why would anyone buy an $800 gift card, unless they had an immediate use for it? We welcome your thoughts about this promotion in the comments section below.

• • •

April 13, 2015

Cape Cod Potato Chips: 40% Reduced Fat?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:55 am

  When you are choosing which potato chips to eat, do you have an angel on one shoulder nagging you to take the low fat bag, and a devil on the other urging you to grab the regular chips?

MrConsumer experienced such a tug, and decided to be virtuous and try the ones with 40% less fat.

cape cod chips

They were not quite as greasy as the regular Cape Cod chips, which, of course, is why the regular ones taste so heavenly.

Upon reading and comparing the nutrition label of the 40% reduced fat chips versus the regular Cape Cod chips, MrConsumer got a shock.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cape Cod nutrition

He sacrificed that once-in-a-blue-moon treat of full-fat Cape Cod chips for a lousy 20 calories less? Yes, the 40% reduced fat chips were 200 calories and the regular ones were 220 — only 10% more calories. How could that be? Where’s the 40% savings?

First, a closer look at the fat reduction banner reveals that the comparison is not between regular Cape Cod and fat-reduced Cape Cod… but against the “leading brand” — presumably Lay’s. The actual fat difference between the two Cape Cod products is only a 25% reduction.

And then there is the incorrect assumption that a 40% reduction in fat translates into a 40% reduction in calories. It doesn’t. The potato itself counts for half the calories in the regular chips.

Next time MrConsumer has a chip choice, for the 20 extra calories, he may just splurge.

P.S. The Cape Cod reduced fat chips do indeed contain 40% less fat on a per ounce basis compared to Lay’s regular chips.

• • •

April 6, 2015

Where’s the Big Savings?

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

  We are all conditioned to look for sale signs and marketers know that. That’s why everything always seems to be on sale.

But sometimes, the savings offered are a joke. Here is our slightly-belated April Fools list of real sales with bogus savings.

*MOUSE PRINT:

home for sale
Wow… what a price reduction!


Sears big deal
Big sale at Sears… don’t miss it!


penny saved
Save a whole penny on clearance! [Thanks, K.T.]


4 for $10
Buy more, save zero! [Thanks, B.D.]

• • •

March 23, 2015

Products Get Downsized in Canada Too

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

  MrConsumer was invited to Canada a couple of weeks ago to talk about product downsizing on CBC’s national consumer TV show called Marketplace. Surprisingly, or maybe not, many of the categories of products that have been downsized in the United States have also shrunk in Canada.



On to the products!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn

Ultra Dawn is undergoing a size reduction right now in both Canada and the U.S., from 709 ml (24 oz.) to 638 ml (21.6 oz). Curiously, the old bottle claimed to clean 50% more greasy dishes than the non-concentrated Dawn, but the new bottle claims it can clean twice the number.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn 2X

There are no claims of “new improved formula” so one has to wonder how the cleaning efficiency magically improved so much. We asked P&G what their basis was for the new claim… and surprise, they didn’t respond.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Head and Shoulders

Head and Shoulders shampoo was also in the process of being downsized, with both these products on the shelf at the same time. The old and new bottles are identical, but with 20 ml less shampoo in the new one. This change is also going on right now in the U.S.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Frosted Flakes

Just as happened in the U.S. with various cereal brands, Kellogg’s applied the shrink ray to Frosted Flakes in Canada reducing packages from 445 grams to 425 grams.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ivory

The Ivory body wash used the old “new and improved” trick to draw your attention away from the net weight statement, showing a drop from 24 ounces to 21 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Huggies

And Huggies Pull-ups are now short two poops.

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