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February 9, 2015

McDonald’s Pay with Lovin’ Promotion

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail,Sweepstakes — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:40 am

  McDonald’s unveiled a new promotion at the Super Bowl whereby random customers entering each of their restaurants will be selected to have their meal on the house if they demonstrate a bit of “lovin'” such as by hugging their kids, calling their mother to say I love you, doing a dance, etc.

McDonald's

The official rules state exactly how the promotion works. Each day at the predetermined time, the first customer to enter through a designated door, will be an unofficial winner. After they place their order, they will be approached by a manager who will tell them their order is free if they perform a particular lovin’ act.

As with any sweepstakes where money might change hands, the first rule is always “no purchase necessary.” This is because most sweepstakes are played in the context of a purchase (such getting a Monopoly game piece affixed to drink cups at McDonald’s). So game promoters are required to tell customers how to play the game free such as just by asking for a game piece, or by submitting a request for one by mail.

Paying a price for the chance of a prize is the definition of a lottery, which only the state and charitable organizations are allowed to operate. So how does McDonald’s present the “no purchase necessary” entry rules for this promotion?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The unofficial winner will be notified by the Lovin’ Lead that they are an unofficial winner after placing an order at the counter [emphasis added] or if the unofficial winner begins to leave the restaurant without placing an order at the counter. Participants do not need to make a McDonald’s purchase of any kind to be deemed an unofficial or official winner.

That is certainly a little bit awkward for the person not intending to make a purchase. So to play without paying, you have to go up to the counter, and loiter a little, or place a really big order (since it will be free if you win) but then tell the cashier you were just kidding, and begin to walk out?

From a practical standpoint what non-purchaser is going to go through this ridiculous charade for a chance at a prize? No, not even MrConsumer.

This is a fun and imaginative promotion. And it certainly is understandable why they don’t want to tell a customer when they first walk in that they have won for fear the customer will place an order for dozens of free meals. But McDonald’s really should be offering a more practical no purchase necessary method for playing the game.

Oh, incidentally, just by walking into the store, you have pre-agreed to resolve any disputes by arbitration. What, you didn’t go online before ordering your Big Mac to learn this? And some would (rightfully) say that this part of the rules is more troublesome and surprising than the no purchase necessary part.

• • •

January 30, 2015

Intuit/TurboTax Caves to Consumer Pressure

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

  After three and half weeks of stringing criticism from customers and the media, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax Deluxe, threw in the towel on January 29. The popular tax preparation software had been stripped of key functionality in a ballsy and blatant money-grab to extract an extra $30 to $40 in upgrade fees from regular users. The company is now going to offer free automatic upgrades to TurboTax Premier and Home & Business from within TurboTax Deluxe — the very thing we first called for back on January 6.

The company also vowed to restore all the missing pieces to TurboTax Deluxe next year.

Intuit president Brad Smith posted this apology on his Linked-in page:

Customers who already paid the $30 to $40 upgrade fee or who bought a higher edition of TurboTax will still be able to get a $25 rebate, but in many cases, it may not cover all their extra costs.

Intuit was taught a valuable lesson (again), but its history of practices designed to gouge its customers suggests it probably hasn’t really learned anything.

• • •

January 22, 2015

Intuit Offering Partial TurboTax Upgrade Rebates

Filed under: Electronics,Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 9:24 pm


TurboTax Deluxe(BOSTON – January 22, 2015) – Following a public outcry from regular TurboTax Deluxe users who learned that the popular tax preparation software’s maker had stripped the program of key functionality this year, Intuit today apologized and somewhat reversed course by offering a $25 rebate to purchasers to partially cover the cost of having to upgrade to a more expensive version.

Without clear advance disclosure that its flagship product had changed and could no longer help users easily report all income from investments, self-employment, and rental property (Schedules C, D, and E), the company had sought $30 to $40 in upgrade fees disclosed partway into the program in order to restore its original functionality.

“Intuit offered a full apology but only a partial refund. They should be providing free automatic upgrades this year, and not requiring users to remember to send in for a rebate possibly months from now after they file their taxes,” commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “The rebate doesn’t even cover the full cost of the upgrade in many cases.”

As of today, customers have posted over 1500 one-star reviews of TurboTax Deluxe on Amazon. And competitors like H&R Block have already offered disgruntled TurboTax customers their tax software free.

Dworsky launched a media blitz on January 6 to warn the public about the crippled TurboTax software, and to pressure the company to give all affected customers automatic free upgrades to restore the product’s full functionality. Until now, Intuit was only informally offering free or discounted upgrades to buyers who called to complain.

To save the company money, Intuit has narrowly defined who can get the $25 rebate. To qualify, customers have to had filed their 2013 income taxes using TurboTax Deluxe, and filed their 2014 return using either TurboTax Premier or Home & Business. And by using a rebate that can’t be submitted until one’s taxes are filed, the company will benefit from those who forget or can’t be bothered dealing with rebates.

UPDATE: Intuit has clarified whether you have to e-file or not to qualify for the rebate. If you e-file both the 2013 and 2014 return, their website can automatically validate your rebate request. If you paper filed, they will have to process the request manually by having you call their 800 number.

Intuit is not new to controversy or nickel-and-diming tactics. In 2008, it added a $9.95 fee to print or e-file a second return from TurboTax, but quickly rescinded the charge following a storm of criticism. And for years, it has arbitrarily “sunset” (deactivated) the online downloading and electronic bill payment functions of its popular Quicken checkbook software thus requiring consumers to buy a new version of the program every three years.

• • •

January 19, 2015

CVS Sued Over Eye Vitamin Claims

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:25 am

  In June 2014, we told you about some misleading claims (see story) made for CVS Advanced Eye Health vitamins, a product which purchasers might mistake for being just like Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision — a vitamin proven to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Last week, CVS was sued in a California court by two men with AMD alleging the very things that we did.

In short, Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision’s formula of six vitamins and minerals was tested (the AREDS2 tests) by the federal government and was shown to be effective in treating AMD which can lead to blindness. The CVS’ Eye Health product, typically located right next to PreserVision in its stores, and seemingly half the price, proclaims that it is comparable to the formula in AREDS2 studies. In fact, it only has two of the six proven ingredients. (Again, please see original story for a more detailed explanation.)

PreserVision vs. CVS

Unlike other false advertising issues, this one has serious health ramifications for anyone who didn’t compare the ingredients lists of the two products side by side. They could well be taking the CVS product thinking that it will slow their progression to blindness, when it probably has little or no effect.

At the time we reported the story originally in June 2014, CVS said they were in the process of removing the comparability claim from their packaging. But last week, they told the Consumerist that “CVS/pharmacy removed this statement from the product once the results of the AREDS2 study were released.”

Really? The results of the AREDS2 test were made public in early May 2013. So, it is inexplicable that a friend saw the CVS product with the same comparability claim still at a CVS store just last week. However, a check for the product at another nearby CVS revealed that a new version of the packaging without the AREDS2 claim was in that store:

CVS Eye Health

Interestingly, the company has reduced the dosage from four pills a day to just one, without changing the amount of ingredients per pill.

• • •

January 12, 2015

More TurboTax Pricing Games

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

  TurboTax DeluxeOur trusty mouse caused a little bit of a stir with last week’s story about Intuit yanking out key functionality from TurboTax Deluxe, and selling it back to customers via a $30 – $40 upgrade charge. There are now over 1400 one-star reviews on Amazon with consumers fuming over the changes and charges.

Game 1:

In the course of testing TurboTax Deluxe 2014, we discovered something curious with respect to the price they were charging for upgrades. If you needed to enter detailed information about investment transactions, for example, the program threw up this roadblock and advised that you would have to upgrade to “Premier” for an extra charge of $30.

$30 Upgrade to Premier

When going back to that section subsequently, on occasion the program would change the price for the required upgrade:

*MOUSE PRINT:

$25 upgrade fee

The fee dropped from $30 to $25. Going back another time, however, it was back up to $30. There was no rhyme or reason for the varying prices. Also, in the self-employment income section, the user is alternately presented with either a $30 or $40 up-charge to go from TurboTax Deluxe to “Home & Business.” Maybe Intuit is testing various price points to see what amount will be most palatable for users.



Game 2:

Another strange pricing disparity cropped up last week on the TurboTax website. When we first checked prices for downloading the desktop version from their website on December 25, this was the pricing shown:

ttpricing-12-25small

TT Deluxe was $59.99, with federal and state forms included.

Roughly two weeks later, on January 9th, it looked like things had changed.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TT prices 1-9

Now it says that for $59.99 you seemingly only get the federal return because it says “state additional.” Clicking on the state additional link does not exactly clarify matters.

state additional

Well, which is it, Intuit? Is state included or not? There is a big difference between “state additional” and “additional state.”



Game 3:

And one last example. In the pricing charts above, buying TurboTax directly from Intuit seems to give customers a $10 discount off what appears to be the regular or list price. According to both Amazon and Target, however, the “list price” for each of the four editions of TurboTax 2014 is $10 lower than Intuit represents. For example, while Intuit says that TurboTax Deluxe is regularly $69.99 but is now on sale for $59.99, Amazon and Target say that $59.99 is the list price for TurboTax Deluxe to start with. Hmmm.

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