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July 27, 2015

T.J. Maxx Sued for Phony “Compare at” Prices

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

  Two California consumers are suing T.J. Maxx for using deceptive price comparisons on their price tags. [See lawsuit.]

T.J. Maxx price tags looks like this:

TJ Maxx pricetag

It shows a higher “compare at” price and the lower T.J. Maxx selling price. Average consumers, like the plaintiffs, might believe they were saving that amount of money on the items they were buying because the same item or a similar item was selling elsewhere for the stated higher price.

As it turns out, T.J. Maxx defines “compare at” on their website (and they say on signs in their stores) in a bit of an unexpected way:

*MOUSE PRINT:

What do we mean by “compare at”?

The “compare at” price is our buying staff’s estimate of the regular, retail price at which a comparable item in finer catalogs, specialty or department stores may have been sold. We buy products from thousands of vendors worldwide, so the item may not be offered by other retailers at the “compare at” price at any particular time or location. We encourage you to do your own comparison shopping as another way to see what great value we offer.

T.J. Maxx seems to be saying that its “compare at” prices are merely estimates and not actual prices that it has found for comparable merchandise in the marketplace.

This does not square with state or federal guidelines that seem to require substantiation that a reasonable number of sellers are actually offering a comparable in quality item at the stated “compare at” price.

In T.J. Maxx’s defense, the actual selling price for their merchandise tends to be as low or lower than some of the best prices being offered elsewhere for the same item. And, in many of the cases that we checked, the compare at price that T.J. Maxx uses is conservative and sometimes less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

For example:

Nautica luggage

In this case, Nautica claims the list price of the 20-inch (not 21-inch as T.J. Maxx asserts) suitcase is $320. T.J. Maxx says the “compare to” price is $140, and they are is selling it for $69.99. Who knows what other brand is comparable to this particular item, but this very item sells for no more $99.99 at other stores.

So real life savings are $30 rather than $70 (at least for an identical item).

None of this excuses the company, however, for using estimates instead of basing its “compare to” prices on actual products and their real prices in the marketplace.

• • •

July 20, 2015

Disney’s Frozen Had a Hidden Disclaimer

Filed under: Humor — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

  This week, a little cool summer humor…

The Disney movie, Frozen, has been a runaway success. And despite many parents watching it multiple times with their kids, they probably missed the unusual fine print buried in the credits.

During the movie, Kristoff, the male lead, declares that “all men eat their own boogers.”

Disney, for whatever reason, posted a disclaimer about this at the end of the movie.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Disney disclaimer

Now it’s your turn to add a chuckle: add your own clever explanation in the comments of why Disney included this disclaimer, other than the obvious one — that it was a joke.

• • •

July 13, 2015

With New LED Light Bulbs, Be Careful Watt You Buy

Filed under: Electronics,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:13 am

  Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are poised to become the bulb of choice for many shoppers. With a recent price drop announced by GE, it is predicted that LED light bulbs might in coming years make compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) obsolete.

But not all LED bulbs are created equal.

Here is a conventional incandescent 60-watt bulb and its CFL equivalent:

60-watt incandescent     cfl

The conventional 60-watt bulb has a life of about 1000 hours, and is rated at 870 lumens (the brightness or amount of light it gives off). But the CFL uses only one-quarter of the electricity (15 watts), lasts eight times longer, and produces slightly more light — 900 lumens — at least initially. That CFL cost a dollar or less.

The new GE bulb, called the GE LED Bright Stik, comes in packs of three at Home Depot for $9.97.

GE Bright Stik

*MOUSE PRINT:

While it uses one-sixth of the electricity of an incandescent, and a third less than the CFL, it only provides 760 lumens of light versus 870-900 lumens for the other two. It also provides a paltry 15,000 hours of life — short for an LED.

It appears that GE has sacrificed longevity and light output for a lower price. Compare the specs of some of its competitors:

*MOUSE PRINT:


60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulb Comparison
chart
“Conventional” refers to bulb shape

As you can see, prices and specs vary widely. The point of this comparison is to show that you shouldn’t assume that all LED bulbs of a certain wattage equivalent provide the same amount of brightness or have the longest possible life.

• • •

July 6, 2015

Sprint’s New Pitch: (Not Quite) All-In Pricing Plan

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

  Could it be that some of the top executives at the cell and cable companies have been reading our latest rants in Mouse Print* about deceptive low-ball pricing and unexpected additional charges and terms. Probably not. But, as if to say “we can hear you now,” Sprint started a big promotional campaign last week touting its new “all-in” pricing plan.

Sprint’s CEO put it this way:

“If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99-cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled. Yet, that’s what the industry has been doing with its wireless plans. Why can’t everyone just advertise the full price of both the plan and the smartphone – an All-In plan? That was the idea behind what we’ve created.”

As part of the campaign, Sprint produced this extended commercial that pokes fun at its competitors who double-talk customers about all the extra charges they impose.



Wow. One monthly price for service and the phone.

Not so fast.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sprint $80 a month

The $80 price you see is not the price you pay. Taxes, surcharges [including USF charges of up to 17.40%(varies quarterly), up to $2.50 Admin. & 40¢ Reg. /line/mo. & fees by area (approx. 5-20%)], roaming fees are still extra, and there is a $36 activation fee. Although this screen doesn’t say it (a prior one does in small print), this is for the lease of a phone. So you don’t own the phone, and will have to pay $200 at the end of two years if you want to keep it.

And here’s a new one: apparently Sprint is capping/throttling the speed of streaming videos to just 600Kbps — more like the 3G speeds that it uses on its prepaid service for videos.

So much for advertising a price that is “all-in.” Thanks, Sprint.

UPDATE: This video streaming restriction caused outrage among Sprint users and watchers, and within 24 hours Sprint backtracked removing that throttling of video speeds.

• • •

June 29, 2015

You May Not Own Your New Cellphone

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

  If you are about to get a new cellphone from Sprint or T-Mobile, you better read the fine print, because you may not actually be buying that phone. You may only be leasing it.

MOUSE PRINT*:

Sprint ad

That’s right. Sprint is turning back the clock to the 1950s when you paid a monthly rental fee to Bell for your black landline Western Electric telephone. The difference: you are responsible for repairs if you don’t have a costly protection plan or warranty, and that old phone really sounded good.

For the iPhone 6, $20 of your monthly payment for 24 months is a lease payment, because under this plan, Sprint owns the phone. What happens after the lease ends?

  • You can turn in the telephone, get a new one if you want, and pay its monthly lease payments.

  • You can continue leasing it at an undisclosed monthly cost.

  • You can buy it outright for an undisclosed “purchase option price.”

  • The first option assumes your phone is in “good working condition.” If it isn’t, or if you lose the phone during the lease term, you owe the balance of any yet-to-be-paid monthly installments plus the “purchase option price.”

    If you opt to buy your Sprint iPhone 6 at the end of the lease, they will charge you $200 according to a local Sprint representative. That makes the phone slightly more expensive than buying it outright to start.

    Not to be outdone, effective this week, T-Mobile joins the leasing world also, by offering Jump on Demand. It is an 18-month lease program that allows you to upgrade your phone up to three times a year. T-Mobile, however, adds all kinds of penalties if the phone you turn in is not in working order.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    You could be charged up to $750 in fines for the following:

    Cracked Screen Damage fee – $250
    Liquid Damage fee – $250
    Device does not power on fee – $250

    There are a whole bunch of other terms and conditions in both the Sprint and T-Mobile lease programs. It is getting to the point that you need a Ph.D. in cellphonery to understand all the choices, options, and terminology.

    • • •
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