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July 18, 2016

Red Robin’s Birthday Burger Blunder

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:40 am

Red RobinJohn G. is member of Red Robin’s loyalty program. He went to their Evans, Georgia restaurant earlier this month to collect on his free birthday burger that the plan promises.

When the bill came, he and his wife were surprised that only $4 had been deducted for his burger, rather than the full price. Of course, he questioned the discrepancy. The manager explained that the restaurant’s computer system applies only one promotion banked in his account to each meal purchased, and the promotion that gets applied is the one that will expire the soonest.

In other words, in John’s case, his account had a free birthday burger coupon that expires the end of July, but it also had a $4 off coupon that expires in early July, so it would get applied first. John was also told that as a program member he could have gone into his account to rank/prioritize the coupons in a different order, so the free burger coupon would have been the first one used.

John says, “unless one knows what ‘reward ranking’ is, the average customer doesn’t understand that he has to keep track of offers presented to him.”

We checked the fine print on the company’s website for the loyalty program, and it is completely contrary to what he was told in the restaurant as to the order the discounts are applied to a member’s bill.


How does Red Robin prioritize their rewards?

We do rank them in the order of highest value, but now you have the ability to choose which one you crave!

And in their terms and conditions, it says this:

If you have earned more than one Reward, just present your Program Card or your telephone number associated with your Account to your server with your form of payment, and our Program system will apply the highest ranked Reward that you have earned to your bill.

Reward Redemption Order (Rank)
•5 Visits in 5 Weeks, $20 Reward on 6th visit
•Birthday Burger — The Birthday Burger Reward includes any of our more than 24 fire-grilled gourmet burgers but does not include extra patties, extra cheese, styles or Red Robin’s Finest Burgers.
•Every 10th Item Free

In both places it clearly says that the coupon with the highest value gets applied first, which makes total sense. Yet that is not what happened to John in practice. So we wrote to the PR folks at Red Robin to get a straight answer of which policy is the real policy, and what happened.

“There are a number of factors that go into Red Robin Royalty’s reward rankings and we are unable to comment on this specific situation without a deeper investigation and additional information. While rewards are almost always ranked based on value, there are certain caveats; for example, a free birthday burger reward excludes Red Robin’s Finest burgers and non-burger items. If a guest orders an item that does not qualify for the birthday burger reward, despite it being ranked higher on their account, the system would look to redeem the next eligible reward.” —Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews spokesperson

John says he didn’t order a “forbidden on your birthday burger” so we are no more clear on what actually happened in this case than John is. The manager, incidentally, did finally figure out how to give John his free burger, but the whole incident left a bad taste in his mouth.

We agree with John that consumers should not be placed in a position to remember every offer that is sent them and be required to juggle them in one’s account before trying to use a particular offer. Restaurant diners should be allowed to merely say “please use my birthday burger coupon” or be able to print it and that should be the end of it.


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July 11, 2016

Amazon Finally Drops Deceptive List Price Comparisons

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

For two decades, has compared its current selling price to an often illusory “list price” — a price often set by the manufacturer that few if any retailers actually charge. This comparison made consumers believe they were getting a great deal and saving a bundle. We have shown you in the past how often grossly exaggerated list prices at Amazon made a bad problem worse.

More recently, on April 1 this year, Amazon advertised a memory module claiming a whopping 65% savings.

Amazon comparison


According to CamelCamelCamel which tracks Amazon’s prices, Amazon never charged that list price of the memory module. And it has been two years since prices for that item even approached the list price.

price history

The New York Times now reports that Amazon has finally had a change of heart, and is dropping list price comparison for as much as 70% of their inventory. Here for example is that same memory module as of last week, with no savings claims made.

Amazon's price today

Why is Amazon dropping list price comparisons? Many retailers have been the subject of recent class action lawsuits alleging that customers were deceived by these false price comparisons, and they have been awarded millions of dollars. The question is will Amazon’s sales be affected because there are no savings claims? Remember what happened to J.C. Penney when their new president decided to play it straight and drop phony sales? Their revenue plummeted.


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July 4, 2016

The Windows 10 Upgrade You Can’t “X-out” of

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:15 am

Since last July, Microsoft has encouraged users of earlier versions of Windows to upgrade for free to Windows 10. The company used various techniques to keep reminding users to pull the trigger and authorize the upgrade.

With many millions of users still sticking with their old Windows’ versions, in May, as reported by various tech media, the company changed tactics.

Windows 10 Upgrade
ComputerWorld graphic


While it is bad enough that you are seemingly only given two choices – to upgrade immediately or accept the proposed upgrade date (and in fine print, cancel it) – something more sinister was actually happening. Microsoft changed the longstanding windows convention allowing users to cancel a proposed action merely by clicking the red X in the corner of the popup window. Unbeknownst to users, for this particular screen, clicking that red X not only closed the window but also accepted the proposed update date. And there was no fine print to explain that.

These are tactics more usually seen by purveyors of malware, or by new applications that tuck within their installation screens authorization of adware or other junkware you don’t want or expect.

Finally responding to widespread criticism, Microsoft last week introduced a much clearer option screen so users could opt-out of the Windows 10 upgrade:

Windows 10 Upgrade fix

Remember, July 29th is the last day you can upgrade a previous version of Windows (7 and 8) to Windows 10 for free, which most experts recommend doing. After that, it will cost $119.


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June 27, 2016

Ticketmaster Settlement Fine Print Trips Up Many

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

TicketmasterLast week, Ticketmaster began issuing $386 million in vouchers to some 50 million previous ticket buyers as part of a class action settlement. The company had allegedly failed to disclose all the details of the order processing and UPS fees they charged at between 1999 and 2013.

Everyone who bought tickets during this period is being given a $2.25 credit per ticket (for up to 17 tickets) that can be used toward a future show. They are also being given a $5 UPS voucher for each time they used UPS for ticket delivery. The big thing that caught everyone’s attention, however, was receiving a voucher good for two free general admission tickets (up to 17 such vouchers) for certain Live Nation concert events “subject to availability.”

Beneficiaries of the settlement soon began complaining loudly that all the concerts that were being offered where they could redeem their vouchers for free tickets were sold out quickly. And the concerts being offered free were often second-rate, and with none available in 24 states.

How could this happen? Ticketmaster initially only made available $5 million worth of tickets available. Assuming each one had a normal selling price of a mere $25 (a very conservative price), that means only 200,000 tickets were available. And since each person could get a minimum of two free tickets, only 100,000 of the 50 million class members could be satisfied. Ticketmaster quickly added another $5 million worth of tickets to the pool (200,000 free tickets in our example), but those have been all but snapped already too. Now they are promising a new infusion of free tickets.


In fact, according to the actual settlement agreement, after the initial $5 million in free tickets, Ticketmaster only has to provide comparatively few tickets and only for the events of its own choosing.

Live Nation will arrange for at least 100 tickets at each event to be made available to the Class Members free of charge for at least 60% of the events that take place at Live Nation owned or operated amphitheaters.

There is overall only a $42 million minimum expenditure that Ticketmaster has to make during the years of the settlement, and if not enough vouchers are redeemed in any year, they have to pony up more free tickets to make up the difference.

From a practical standpoint, class members should not expect to receive any free tickets to shows, and no more than a couple of bucks off any ticket they actually purchase.


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June 20, 2016

Lord & Taylor’s Missing Fine Print

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:14 am

Very often the worst type of fine print disclosure is the one that is missing, despite being required to be there. That is what retailer Lord & Taylor did (or failed to do) according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In early 2015, Lord & Taylor was coming out with a new line of clothing aimed at younger women. To help get their attention, the retail chain wisely enlisted the help of 50 “fashion influencers” — hip bloggers and fashion writers with a big following. They were given the same free dress, and paid between $1,000 and $4,000 to post a picture of themselves along with certain hashtags on Instagram.

Instagram dress


Under the FTC’s Testimonial and Endorsement Guidelines, these women failed to disclose the material connection they had to Lord & Taylor, that they received the product for free, and that they were paid to promote the dress and clothing line.

Lord & Taylor didn’t stop there. They paid an online fashion magazine, Nylon, to write an article about the new clothing line, and got to review and approve it before publication.

Nylon magazine


Besides violating the testimonial guidelines by not disclosing that the magazine was paid to write this story, the presentation of the story on Nylon’s website made the story appear just like any other article they publish. This is called “native advertising” when what really is an ad is deliberately made to look like independent editorial content of the publisher. Under the brand new Native Advertising Guidelines of the FTC, this content had to be clearly labeled as a “paid advertisement” or “sponsor paid content” or similar.

Why is the FTC making a big stink about this? First, consumers have a right to know whether what they are reading is an objective, real opinion of an authority on the subject, or just the opinion of the advertiser, to which they might assign less weight or credence. Secondly, disguised advertising works. In the Lord & Taylor case, the fashion influencers’ posts reached 11.4 million individual Instagram users over just two days, and the dress quickly sold out.

In its proposed consent order, the FTC says that going forward Lord & Taylor can’t falsely claim, expressly or by implication that an endorser is an independent user or ordinary consumer. If there is a material connection between the company and an endorser, Lord & Taylor must clearly disclose it in close proximity to the claim. And Lord & Taylor can’t suggest or imply that a paid ad is a statement or opinion from an independent or objective publisher or source.

No fine is being imposed.


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