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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.

• • •

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 20, 2014

Tropicana Farmstand Fruit/Veggie Juice Surprises

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

  Tropicana has a new juice on the market called Farmstand. It is a “100% fruit and vegetable juice” which the company says provides one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables in every eight-ounce glass.

It comes in such luscious-sounding flavors as Peach Mango, Strawberry Banana, and Pomegranate Blueberry.

Tropicana Farmstand

When looking at the ingredients statement, it may come as a surprise that there is not a lot of strawberry or banana in the product above.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana Farmstand

Besides water, the primary ingredient is sweet potato juice. Sweet potato juice? Yep. And it has more grape, apple and carrot juice than either strawberry or banana.

Tropicana’s other two Farmstand varieties also are composed primarily of water and sweet potato juice, with the product’s named fruits way down the list of ingredients.

For all MrConsumer knows, these juices are wonderfully tasty compared to the V8s of the world. But funny how the primary ingredient — sweet potato — is almost hidden and not clearly identifiable on both the product label and in their display advertising.

• • •

January 13, 2014

Burger King’s Satisfries’ Fat and Calorie Reduction Claims Unsatisfrying

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

  With great fanfare, Burger King recently introduced “Satisfries” — a new crinkle-cut french fry that it claims is much lower in fat and calories:


Satisfries

And they are also running commercials making the same claims:



If you look a little closer, you will see there is one tiny asterisk after the 40% less fat claim, and two asterisks after the 30% less [sic] calories claim. The fine print in the commercial is virtually unreadable.

*MOUSE PRINT:

BK disclaimer

They are not actually comparing the new Satisfries to their own regular fries as most people would believe, but rather to McDonald’s regular fries.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Burger King
BK fries nutrition

McDonald’s
Mcd's Fries

While Burger King’s claims are roughly mathematically correct when you compare equal size portions of their Satisfries to McDonald’s regular fries, BK’s claims exaggerate the calorie and fat reductions when you compare the actual sizes of products you can buy in each restaurant.

Comparing the actual smallest portion you can buy of BK’s Satisfries, which weighs 87 grams, with McDonald’s small size fries which weighs only 71 grams, the BK Satisfries has 27% less fat (not 40% less) and 17% fewer calories (not 30%).

But how do Satisfries compare to BK’s own regular fries, since most people hearing the claim will believe that is the comparison being made?

When you compare the smallest size of BK’s Satisfries (87 grams) with their own virtually equal-sized regular fries (89 grams), Satisfies are only 20% less fatty (not the 40% seemingly claimed), and have 21% fewer calories, not 30%.

• • •
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