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January 8, 2018

Did Toys”R”Us Really Make a Mistake in its Posted Return Policy?

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:29 am

Every December, Consumer World releases its annual survey of retailers’ return policies and this time around it found that three stores had tightened their policies since the year before. One of them was Toys”R”Us.

In 2016, the toy chain had a two-tier return policy: 90 days for most items, but only 30 days for various electronic goods like cameras, video game hard, computer hardware, etc.

*MOUSE PRINT:

2016 TRU 30 day items

In November 2017 when Consumer World visited websites to find the current return policies, the Toys”R”Us policy had changed. “Computer hardware” which had been in the 30-day category the year before now was in a new separate section of its own indicating only a 15-day return period.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Toys R Us exceptions 2017

So Consumer World reported that Toys”R”Us had shortened the return period from 30 days to 15 days for computer hardware in its December 18, 2017 report. (Keep this date in mind.) On that same day or the day after, in planning for a TV segment on return policies to air just after Christmas, staff from the Today Show contacted retailers to confirm the changes that Consumer World found. Toys”R”Us reportedly told Today that it had not in fact changed its policy to 15 days for computer hardware, and that it was still 30 days.

Taken aback by the possible error, MrConsumer doubled-checked his verbatim copy of the Toys”R”Us policy captured in late November and sure enough it said “15 days” for computer hardware. Surprisingly, however, a visit to the ToysRUs.com website on December 19 — a day after the report was issued and just after the Today Show contacted Toys”R”Us — revealed that the policy now said “30 days” for computer hardware.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TRU policy dec 19thDecember 19, 2017

What MrConsumer said upon seeing that Toys”R”Us apparently had changed its website after hearing from the Today Show can’t be printed on a family website. He did some sleuthing however, and discovered through the miracle of Google cache, what the website said the very day before the company heard from the Today Show, December 18.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TRU Dec. 18December 18, 2017

Consumer World asked the company why the policy had been changed back to 30 days and whether it was the result of the Today Show contacting them. MrConsumer was told in a phone call that the 15-day policy was listed in error and that the company changed it as soon as it learned of the mistake.

A review of archived copies of their returns page reveals that that whole separate section singling out computer hardware for a special shorter return period was added and has existed online at least since August 2017. The return policy signs in a T-R-U store checked by Consumer World on December 20, however, said “30 days” for computer hardware.

So what do you think? Did Toys”R”Us make an innocent mistake in their posted return policy online or did they backtrack when they found out that the change was going to be part of a news story on national TV?




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January 1, 2018

Amazon’s Free $10 Offer Switcheroo

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

MrConsumer recently received an offer from Amazon via email inviting him to get the Amazon app and if he did so, he would get $10 just for signing into the app.

Amazon $10 off

Clicking through to their website reveals that Amazon left out a key detail of their free $10 offer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Amazon $10 offer detail

Rather than giving $10 to the recipient of the email offer if one takes their wording literally, Amazon is requiring a minimum $20 purchase be made in a very narrow window of time and not from any marketplace seller.

While most people might make at least a $20 purchase anyway, the point is that the offer should have been made clear in the email. It is not merely “get $10” when signing into the app for the first time, it is “get $10 off a $20 purchase.”

Amazon offer redone




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December 25, 2017

A Sweet Ending to a Nutty Story

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:18 am

Two weeks ago we told you about a misbranded trail mix product that was labeled as containing primarily almonds, but in fact was mostly peanuts. The manufacturer had quietly substituted the cheaper peanuts when almond prices skyrocketed.

1 cup of trail mix

The retailer that sold the product in MrConsumer’s area, Ocean State Job Lot, was unaware of the ingredients switcheroo by the manufacturer until we pointed it out to them. They took the product off the shelves of their 129 stores in the New England/New York area immediately.

And now they are donating all 3,200+ bags of the mislabeled trail mix to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

That’s a sweet ending to this nutty story.

Not so sweet, however, is the retailer’s reluctance to invite their customers to return the product for a refund or replacement. And we’ll update you if and when the FDA takes any enforcement against the manufacturer.




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December 18, 2017

Some Diners Don’t Appreciate “Kitchen Appreciation”

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

Friends of MrConsumer have been trained to check the fine print of their transactions. A bit of scrutiny of a recent restaurant bill revealed a surprising add-on to the check:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Kitchen appreication

An extra charge of $1.29 called “kitchen appreciation” was added to the tab. When my friend asked the server what that was, he got kind of a muddled explanation, and was told to check the menu.

On the Sweet Cheeks menu (which is owned by first season Top Chef finalist Tiffany Faison) there is a disclosure that reads in part:

WE ARE IMPLEMENTING A 3% KITCHEN APPRECIATION FEE TO THE GUEST CHECK THAT WILL DIRECTLY BENEFIT OUR BACK OF THE HOUSE (BOH) TEAM.

WE STRUGGLE WITH THE DISPARITIES BETWEEN FRONT OF THE HOUSE (FOH) AND BOH WAGES.

THE WAGE GAP BETWEEN THE FOH AND BOH HAS BECOME STAGGERING. FOH EMPLOYEES EARN NEARLY THREE TIMES MORE THAN THEIR BOH COUNTERPARTS.

THE KITCHEN APPRECIATION FEE ALLOWS ALL BOH EMPLOYEES TO DIRECTLY BENEFIT FROM THE TOP LINE SUCCESS OF THE RESTAURANT.

Put simply, the customer is being told that they must subsidize the comparatively low wages of the kitchen staff by being surcharged 3-percent on the total bill. (MrConsumer might point out that the restaurant then appears to charge meals tax on top of this kitchen tip which is probably not authorized under state law.)

Sweet Cheeks didn’t come up with this idea on their own. Famous New York restaurateur Danny Meyer two years ago started the ball rolling by no longer allowing tipping so he could instead charge more for meals and then more equitably distribute the extra income between servers and kitchen staff. Other restaurants began adding hospitality fees as a way to better pay and retain kitchen staff.

So, what do you think about adding a 3-percent “kitchen appreciation” fee automatically to restaurant bills? Add your comments below.




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December 11, 2017

The Case of the Missing Almonds

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

MrConsumer recently bought a bag of Nutty Naturals trail mix. According to the label, it was a mix with almonds as the primary ingredient followed by cranberries, sunflower seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips. What could be bad?

Trail mix front
almonds first

After munching for a while, it dawned on MrConsumer that there were not many almonds in the bag yet they were supposed to be the primary ingredient. So it was time to figure out exactly what and how much was in the mix. Even MrConsumer did not have the patience to separate and weigh everything in a nearly pound and half package, so one cups-worth was analyzed instead (after shaking the bag to better mix the contents if they had settled).

1 cup of trail mix

Separating the five ingredients into different piles made it abundantly clear visually what the actual proportions were. Putting each pile on a digital scale revealed the actual weight of each component.

*MOUSE PRINT:

6 piles weighed

As it turns out, for a product that is supposed to be flush with almonds, you could count them on one hand in this test.

In order of predominance then, the actual number one ingredient was peanuts, followed by cranberries, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, and almonds last (and least). This is distinctly different from the representation on the front of the package suggesting that almonds predominated and also is contrary to the ingredients label on the back which is required under federal law to list the ingredients from most to least by weight.

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients

MrConsumer contacted the two owners of Ocean State Job Lot where he purchased the trail mix to tell them about the problem. The very next day he heard back that they were pulling the product off their shelves in all 129 stores. The co-owner in charge of buying groceries even went so far as to dump test packages of the trail mix on his desk to see if what MrConsumer had discovered was true. How’s that for speedy, responsible action by an ethical retail chain!

Later that day, MrConsumer received a call from the president of the firm that manufactured the trail mix. He admitted that he reduced the amount of almonds in the product and substituted peanuts when the price of almonds skyrocketed. He said he is going to restore the original recipe of almonds being predominant at least in the short-run.

The Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over labeling issues like this, said through a spokesperson that, “We cannot comment on this particular case but we expect food labels to be truthful and not misleading.” The agency has already contacted the manufacturer and we’ll report back if they take any enforcement action.

Let’s hope that being vigilant and speaking up as a customer, taking quick action to remedy consumer issues if you are a retailer, and not messing around with a product without changing the fine print if you are a manufacturer, are important lessons heeded by everyone in the future. (Well, we can hope.)




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