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December 2, 2013

Sprint Student Free (?) for All

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Best Buy recently sent out an email making an astonishing offer on cell service for students:

Sprint student offer

They are providing a year of free service. That means free unlimited calls, texts, and 1 gig of data ($10 extra for unlimited data). What a deal!

It says however, “with purchase of phone at Student Activated price.” What’s that?


Sprint student prices

The prices being charged by Best Buy for the phones appear to be full price, the same as what Sprint itself would charge. In some cases, the price appears to be $50 higher than buying from Sprint directly. The benefit for the student, however, is a free year of service, without having to sign a two-year contract.

So is this a good deal? The less expensive of the two Sprint plans that the student is required to sign up for is $70 a month (plus fees and taxes) if he/she had to pay for it. So that is $840 saved for the year, but the student is paying full price or slightly more for the phone. On the other hand, if the student were to get a fancy phone free from Sprint during a promotion, he or she would have to pay that $840 for service. So it appears that the student could save a little by taking advantage of the student offer, but not hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Presumably in year two, the phone might be able to be added onto a family plan at discounted monthly rates, and then the savings would increase (or maybe just get onto a family plan to start with to save).

• • •

October 21, 2013

Target Finds Sneaky Way to Make Robocalls

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

Target’s red debit card provides a host of benefits that few department stores offer: free shipping with no minimum from their .com store, an additional 5% discount off most purchases, and a 30-day extension to their regular return policy.

When MrConsumer recently applied for a Target debit card, he was taken aback by the company’s tricky maneuver to allow it to make robocalls to its cardholders’ cellphones.

When one applies for the card in-store, you fill out the simplified application that appears on the little signature screen of the credit card terminal at the customer service desk. In addition to entering your social security number on one screen, and your date of birth on another, two screens also come up requesting your home phone and cellphone numbers.



On the left of the two phone number screens is a disclosure granting Target permission to make robocalls to your cellphone. MrConsumer only provided a home phone (a landline) and left the cellphone screen blank. The application did go through.

Why did Target tuck that disclosure into the on-screen process, while leaving all other disclosures to a fine print booklet? The reason is that the FCC requires companies to get the consumer’s explicit written permission before any robocalls or texts can be made to a wireless telephone.

Most consumers probably won’t catch the disclosure, and won’t they be surprised when Target targets texts to them.

• • •

July 22, 2013

Readers Spot the “Gotchas” in the Fine Print (Part 1)

Filed under: Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:16 am

Mouse Print* readers have been busy scouring the fine print of ads and product labels, and have come up with some doozies. (Here’s how to submit your finds.)

Example 1


Cathy S. found these sheets at a flea market and also noted that some people online were complaining about them. Why?


These sheets that appear to be “1600 thread-count Egyptian cotton” aren’t 1600 thread-count and aren’t even cotton! The fine print above that claim says “experience the same comfort, luxury, and softness as” 1600 thread count Egyptian cotton. How deceptive can you get? Incidentally, the label above is enlarged from the original, so the qualifying language is even harder to read.


Example 2

T-Mobile just introduced a new plan whereby customers can upgrade their phones whenever they want.

Becky sent along this commercial and urged us to focus on the fine print rather than the spoken words.

While the words say “upgrade when you want,” the hard-to-read fine print says something else.



“Upgrade up to twice a year after 6 months” is not exactly “when you want” says Becky. We agree.



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• • •

May 5, 2013

If You Don’t Read the Fine Print of Cable Ads…

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

If you don’t read the fine print, particularly in ads from cable companies, you could get snookered.

Example 1:

Cox advertised high speed Internet for only $19.99 per month for two years.



When you clickthrough, you realize that you have to buy cable TV service for an unstated price, but if you only want Internet service, it is $10 higher — $29.99 but only for three months.


Why couldn’t Cox simply advertise in the first place: “Buy cable TV service, get high speed Internet for only $19.99/mo for two years” ?

Example 2:

The promotion of triple plays (TV, Internet, and telephone) is common among cable companies so one always seems to try to outdo the other. Here’s a deal from Charter: HDTV, Internet and Phone for only $29.99 a month. Wow, sign me up.



If you look carefully, in tiny print, you can see the word “each.” So the real price is $89.97 a month. Word has it that Comcast in the recent past had a similar ad that conveyed the impression to some people that you got all three services for only $29.99 a month.

Example 3:

It is common to see triple plays advertised for $99, but during special promotions you can sometimes find even lower prices. Just last week, Verizon FiOS advertised a really low price — $69.95 for all three services.

Verizon FiOS

When MrConsumer clicked through, he discovered there was no such price.


Verizon FiOS

The lowest price shown was $79.99, and the $69.99 was nowhere to be found. Now it is possible that the $69 price was only for certain parts of the country, but there was no fine print in the original ad suggesting that.

The bottom line is that these companies should play it straight. Tell the consumer what the real offer is upfront, without having to resort to fine print or trickery.

Disclosure: MrConsumer is a member of Verizon’s Consumer Advisory Board.

• • •

April 22, 2013

Is Getting a $7 Discount Worth Giving Up Your Privacy?

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

Sears and Kmart run a rewards program called Shop Your Way Rewards, giving you points for purchases. They are now expanding it to other retailers. In a joint marketing promotion with Visa, they are promising to give you $7 in rewards credit, if you register your Visa card. MrConsumer was tempted by the free $7.

Shop Your Way

On the registration page, they ask for your cellphone number. That should always be a warning flag that you may be getting calls or texts on your mobile phone. The little question mark near the mobile phone field, however, doesn’t say that.


Shop Your Way

Whewwww. That’s a relief.

Well, not so fast. Toward the bottom of the enrollment form, there is a bunch of fine print.


I agree that the SYW Link Program may send me SMS messages to my registered mobile phone number confirming each time the program identifies a potentially qualifying SYW Link purchase, as well as additional SMS messages (approximately 8 per month, which may vary) with SYW offers or updates. Msg&Data Rates May Apply.

Your Visa card’s historic (up to past 13 months) and future transaction history (including air travel itinerary information and location of the merchant where you used your card) may be used to deliver you with offers and messages from the SYW Link Program based on your purchase behavior. [color emphasis added]

In plain English, you are authorizing Sears and Visa to send you eight text message ads a month, in addition to texts each time you make a qualifying purchase. Further, you are allowing the companies to review over a year’s worth of your purchases so they can better profile you.

MrConsumer decided that a lousy $7 payment was not a fair trade for getting a bunch of unwanted text message ads about who knows what, and allowing them to see his purchasing habits. While one can later opt-out of the text messages, the invasion of privacy was too high a price to pay.

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