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January 27, 2020

Caution: You Could Get Overcharged on Some Advertised Sale Items at Staples .com

Filed under: Business,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:09 am

If you’re not careful, you may wind up paying the regular price for an item rather than the sale price when shopping on the Staples.com website.

Here is a chair that was advertised last week in both their physical circular as well as the online version.

Staples chair

When clicking this item in the online circular, a box comes up with the $149 price showing, and a button to add it to one’s cart.

Chair - add to cart

If you click that button, the item is confirmed to be added to the cart at the sale price. But then something unsettling happens on the next screen.

*MOUSE PRINT:

In the cart, the chair jumps back up to the full regular price — $100 higher than advertised. If you were only buying a single item, the overcharge would be easy to spot. But if you were buying many things and had no idea what the order should total, you could easily overpay.

We asked the PR folks at Staples what’s going on here — why aren’t customers always being given the advertised sale price when shopping on the Staples.com website particularly if using their clickable online circular? Despite multiple requests, the company did not respond, but lo and behold soon after receiving our initial email, that chair magically became an “in-store only” item at the advertised price.

If the company is relying on the blurry, microscopic online general disclaimer below [that we highlighted] saying that prices can vary on the phone and online, they better check state rules that require exceptions to prices and availability to be disclosed specifically as well as clearly and conspicuously, among other requirements.

*MOUSE PRINT:

disclaimer

Unfortunately for customers, the chair example above is not an isolated case. In all, while the price of most test items we tried did not change, we found half a dozen sale items from last week’s online circular with substantial discounts (shown under the green “ad price” below) that all jumped up to regular price when added to our cart. And none of these was specifically listed as in-store only prices or items.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cart with five items

We don’t know why this is happening. While we don’t think Staples has a grand plot to misrepresent sale prices, this does not appear to be just a one-time problem. This week (the week of January 26) it took no more than two minutes to find an advertised sale item in Staples’ print and online circular that jumped up in price when added to the cart for in-store pickup. This time, however, the price in the cart was even higher than their regular price, triggering what appeared to be a $13 overcharge.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Thumb Dirve at Staples

We are turning over our findings to the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office with the hope that they will open an investigation into these advertising practices. We have no illusions, however, that the AG will do anything about it despite the fact that Staples is headquartered in Massachusetts and many people could experience overcharges. Nine months ago, we alerted them to widespread misleading savings claims being made by Wayfair.com, another Massachusetts-based company, but they seemingly have done nothing. These everyday pocketbook issues are important, affect thousands of consumers, and represent alleged violations of the AG’s own regulations.

In the meantime, shoppers have to protect themselves. Be sure to double-check the price you are actually going to be charged when you add any sale items to your cart at Staples.com.

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• • •

January 20, 2020

Thanks for Nothing: CVS, Aldi, and Kmart

Filed under: Humor,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

We once again look at various advertised offers that seemingly promise a good deal… at least until you do a little more investigation.

Example 1:

Last month on December 8, CVS advertised “lowest prices of the season” on 500 count bottles of CVS ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and apirin — bottles were only $9.79.

CVS lowest prices of the season

There’s just one problem. Two weeks earlier, Consumer World’s “bargain of the week” featured a sale on some of the same CVS pills when they were only $5.

*MOUSE PRINT:

$5 CVS Ibu

Thanks for nothing, CVS.


Example 2:

Plant-based burgers are all the rage now with the two leading brands, Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, finding their way into chain restaurants and the meat counter at your favorite store. When MrConsumer saw that super discounter Aldi was now carrying Beyond Burger he got excited expecting to finally find them on sale at an affordable price.

Beyond Burger at Aldi

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here they claim that their price for Beyond Burger is “budget-approved.” But a closer inspection of the ad reveals that for $4.49 you only get two burgers with the package weighing a total of only eight ounces. Even organic beef is cheaper — $4.49 for a full pound (in this large package).

Thanks for nothing, Aldi.


Example 3:

At one of the Kmart stores that was not going out of business at the time, they were having a clearance sale on some items.

Kmart clearance

Wow, what a deal. Thanks for nothing, Kmart.

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• • •

January 13, 2020

Male Students Worry About Being Drafted Because of Loan Fine Print

Filed under: Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:34 am

With the escalating tensions in the Middle East, male students are getting worried they might be drafted because of the fine print buried in federal student loan applications.

Because of misinformation spread by social media, they erroneously believe that by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (“FAFSA”) that they will be automatically registered with Selective Service for the draft.

In fact, it is a voluntary check-off to register with the Selective Service System when requesting federal student aid.

*MOUSE PRINT:

FAFSA question

What isn’t voluntary, however, is for people born male to register with Selective Service starting when they turn 18.

The fine print in the FAFSA application that young men probably should be concerned about is buried in the instructions.

*MOUSE PRINT:

registration required

FAFSA disclose

Male students can be denied federal student aid if they fail to register with Selective Service. And the federal student loan agency is able to tell Selective Service about the applicant and cross reference his registration status with that agency without the student’s permission.

The good news for students is that the draft was discontinued in 1973.

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• • •

January 6, 2020

So You Think You Can Return Any Amazon Purchase to Kohl’s…

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

Amazon Returns at Kohl's

Kohl’s made a brilliant move last year by making a deal with Amazon to accept their returns at all Kohl’s stores.

According to the Kohl’s press release, the customer can simply visit a Kohl’s store and bring in an item without a box or label, and the department store will box it up and ship it back to Amazon for free.

MrConsumer decided to return a recently purchased and unopened box with a Quicken disc inside. The Amazon website indicated it qualified for “free returns” because it was “sold and shipped by Amazon.”

Quicken from Amazon

So, the day after Christmas, MrConsumer went to his nearby Kohl’s and got in the returns line. Once at the counter, he was told he had to go to the special Amazon returns desk at the back of the store. So he went back there and got in line again. I showed the clerk the Quicken package and my original sales receipt. He explained that I needed to show him a QR code — one of those new-fangled barcodes — and the only way to get that was for me to use my cellphone to process the return on the Amazon website, and choose Kohl’s as the dropoff location.

The Kohl’s website explains the process for making an Amazon return, which MrConsumer admittedly had not checked beforehand.

*MOUSE PRINT:

HOW TO MAKE AMAZON RETURNS AT KOHL’S STORES

1. Begin your return with Amazon’s Online Return Center
2. Select the Kohl’s Dropoff option
3. Amazon will email you a QR code
4. Bring the item(s) you’re returning to a participating Kohl’s store and show the QR code on your smartphone to a Kohl’s associate in-store
5. Kohl’s will pack, label and ship your return for free

Amazon Returns are now accepted at all Kohl’s stores (excluding Anchorage, Alaska). Return eligible Amazon.com items to Kohl’s stores and save yourself time and money. What could be more convenient?

So, I found a quiet spot and began to process the return at Amazon.com, but when I got to picking the dropoff location, there was no “Kohl’s dropoff” option. And most of the other alternatives required me to pay $7.21 to ship the item back.

Amazon return options

I then went back to the Amazon return line, waited again, and finally got up to the counter. I showed the clerk my cellphone indicating there was no Kohl’s option for dropoff. He couldn’t quite explain the problem other than to say if the item came from a third-party seller, it did not qualify for return at Kohl’s. (It didn’t, it came from them directly — “sold and shipped by Amazon.”) He handed me a slip with a UPS location where I could pay to return the item to Amazon.

The product listing for Quicken explicitly said for this item there were no shipping charges to return it and I could pick the shipping method.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Amazon free returns

Grrr. I went home and got online to try to do the return on my desktop computer. There was indeed a free return option, but it was not at Kohl’s, not at a nearby Whole Foods, and not at the UPS desk at Staples right across the street. It was at an “Amazon Hub Locker Plus” — inconveniently located one or two towns away that I would have to drive to.

We asked both Kohl’s and Amazon why this item could not be returned to Kohl’s and why despite promising a free return shipping option there was none. Kohl’s didn’t respond to multiple requests. However, an Amazon spokesperson explained that most Amazon customers will have at least one free return option, but she would not otherwise respond directly to our questions on the record.

So Amazon returns to Kohl’s are not quite as simple and all-inclusive as the advertising suggests. MrConsumer wrongly assumed one could just walk in with the item and the original sales receipt — just like returning a Kohl’s item to Kohl’s.

We hope both companies will endeavor to be more clear and upfront about the limitations of free return options.

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• • •

December 23, 2019

Consumer Humor: TV Station Tricks Interviewees with Unexpected Fine Print

Filed under: Humor — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

Note: The next new Mouse Print* story will be published on January 6th.

To teach people why they really need to read the fine print of contracts before signing, the local NBC station station in Green Bay, Wisconsin decided to pull a prank on shoppers at a local food court. Before interviewing each passerby, the reporter handed the person what was purported to be a standard release form to sign. This release, however, was peppered with absurd requirements.

Did anyone read it before signing? You can guess the answer.

So, as you are deciding on your new year’s resolutions, consider making reading the fine print in contracts and advertising one of things you vow to do in 2020.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas from Mouse Print*.

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