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September 28, 2020

That Computer Tablet From China May Not Be Up to Spec

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:18 am

This is the story of a guy who bought a couple of computer tablets on eBay from China and got less than he bargained for.

Phil S. wasn’t a stranger to buying on eBay, and had purchased many computer items from sellers in the USA, China, and other countries around the globe. Phil was also a “power user” and adept at resolving just about any problem that he came across since he used to run a computer store.

Last month, he saw a tablet being offered by a highly-rated seller with excellent specifications like Android 9, a ten-core very fast processor, and tons of ram and storage. So, he bought two of them.

Phil ad pic

The tablets arrived from China a few weeks after ordering them. A quick double-check of the specs according to the “about” section of settings revealed he got exactly what he paid for, an even got an Android upgrade to version 10.

Phil tablet fake specs

However, when he started using the tablet, he noticed problems immediately. There was something off. The specs claimed that the unit was running Android 10, but the screen had the exact appearance of Android 4.4. The units seemed slow. After running a few tests, he found that they were old units hacked to appear like new, high capacity fast tablets. In other words, the seller or his henchmen went into the “about” page on the tablet (shown above in the black picture) and actually changed the wording that it displayed.

Using some sophisticated sniffing tools, Phil found some of the real specs of his tablets.

*Mouse Print:

phil actual specs

The fraud pervaded every specification that the seller had listed, speed, resolution, capacity, processor, and software version. For example, the resolution was not the 2560 x 1600 promised, but only 1280 x 720; and the processor only had four cores and not 10.

When Phil complained to eBay, they refunded his money. But he wanted to warn others about this scam. If you see ads online for no name computers with great specs but at ridiculously low prices (Phil’s tablets were only $69), you might want to think twice before hitting the buy button.

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September 21, 2020

Black Forest Products: Real Juicy?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

MrConsumer saw this commercial for a new product under the brand name Black Forest last week:

It certainly conveys a warm, woodsy, natural feeling to viewers. And the products seem like they are healthy because the announcer says they are “made from real fruit juice and colors from natural sources… Black Forest — real juicy, real good.”

What caught MrConsumer’s eye, however, was the faint footnote:

*MOUSE PRINT:

footnote

Say what? Only 7.9 percent juice? What’s the rest of it? You guessed it — primarily sugar.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nutrition facts

While apple juice concentrate is the third ingredient, the other fruits pictured on the “Juicy Burst” box are the last three ingredients. In fact, there is more wax in the product than those juices. And a number of other fruits and vegetables are only used as coloring. The nutritional value of this juicy fruit snack is pretty much limited to the vitamin C that the company adds.

So while this product is portrayed as a seemingly healthy snack, we’d call it candy. And no wonder, the Black Forest brand is owned by the Ferrara Candy Company which makes Brach’s, Nerds, SweeTarts, Chuckles, RedHots, and classic candy corn.

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• • •

September 14, 2020

Need a New Refrigerator Fast? Don’t Count On It!

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:45 am

MrConsumer had a refrigerator emergency about a week ago. His five-year-old Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator was climbing in temperature from a perfect 37 degrees to an out-of-spec 42 degrees. Both the freezer and refrigerator sections were filled to the brim, and I didn’t want to suffer hundreds of dollars of food losses.

But how do you get a repair person on the weekend and then probably have to wait days or weeks for a part to arrive? Well, maybe the faster method was to buy a new refrigerator. So MrConsumer checked Sears.com and found the current version of his exact model which is one of the very few of this capacity that just fits through his back door and between his cabinets.

The initial search indicated it could be delivered in “3+ days” which might just make it in time. But clicking on the detail revealed the inconvenient truth (and also that Sears had stopped free delivery).

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sears Kenmore fridge

What? Three days became over a month for delivery. So now it was time to check Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Best Buy for the Whirlpool or Maytag version of this model. (My Kenmore was made by Whirlpool.)

The news at those stores wasn’t much better. Either those models were not available at all in my area, or the wait was anywhere from over three weeks to three months.

Best Buy Maytag


Best Buy Whirlpool Home Depot - Whirlpool


Lowe's Maytag Lowe's Whirlpool

With fast delivery of a replacement not a possibility, I started freaking out and tinkering with the temperature controls which have always been finicky. Lo and behold, the refrigerator came back to life, and my crisis was seemingly over. Whewww.

Nonetheless, not being able to get a replacement major appliance quickly was news to me and has not been widely reported. We asked three retailers why this was happening, but they were not talking. Informal chats with salespeople at Lowe’s and Home Depot, however, reveal that COVID-19 is the culprit. They said there have been huge increases in home appliance sales, not just refrigerators, and that manufacturers simply cannot keep up with demand.

Indeed, Lowe’s is now displaying this warning on its website:

Lowe's warning

So if you need a major appliance in a hurry, you might not get your first choice for a while.

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• • •

September 7, 2020

Airlines Drop $200 Change Fees, But…

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:33 am

Last week, United Airlines made a bold move: it dropped its $200 domestic change and cancellation fee. In short order, American, Delta and Alaska all chimed in making similar announcements. So even on a nonrefundable ticket, if you want to change your flight or postpone it, you can do so without that financial penalty.

Change fees

The fine print of the new rules is not quite as rosy as the headlines, however, particularly for bargain hunters.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Basic economy” fares — the least expensive seats you can buy on the major airlines — are NOT included in the new plan. So you’ll still have to fork over $200 for changes. In a moment of unexpected generosity, American, United, and Delta all said that basic economy tickets purchased by December 31, 2020 will also be granted free changes.

There are some slight nuances in how the various airlines are implementing the new rules. On United, for example, if you exchange a $300 ticket for a $200 ticket, they will not give you back the difference even as a credit toward future travel. American, however, will. And Delta will only commit to providing a voucher for the difference for flights booked this year.

A bit of additional good news was contained in the airlines’ announcements. You can now standby for an earlier flight the same day without having to pay a change fee. It is unclear whether this also applies to basic economy fare passengers starting in 2021, however.

For complete rules, check with your airline since the rules keep changing. Here is a good summary of the American and Delta changes, and the ones for United.

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• • •

August 31, 2020

Chrysler’s Lifetime Warranty Leaves Many With High Repair Bills

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

As Consumer World celebrates is 25th anniversary this week, we look back to 2007 when Mouse Print* published a story about a just-announced “lifetime powertrain warranty” that Chrysler was offering on its vehicles. The gist of the story was that while this warranty sounded great in their advertising, neither the local dealers checked, nor Chrysler’s website, nor their customer service department could provide us with any details about what exactly was covered. We wanted to check the fine print but could not until finally their PR department was able to provide a copy of the warranty. We then reported on a provision that could easily trip-up buyers.

Chrysler see dealer

As it turns out, over the years, scores of purchasers who brought their cars back for free repairs under the lifetime warranty were denied coverage because of that very clause we warned people about.

*MOUSE PRINT:

They failed to follow a tiny provision that was tucked into their warranty and required owners to have their car’s power train inspected by Chrysler within 60 days of each five-year anniversary of their car.

G. Inspections
In order to maintain the Lifetime Powertrain Limited Warranty, the person or entity covered by this Powertrain Limited Warranty must have a powertrain inspection performed by an authorized Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep dealer once every 5 years. This inspection will be performed at no charge. The inspection must be made within sixty (60) days of each 5 year anniversary of the in-service date of the vehicle. You must have the inspection performed to continue this coverage.

In May 2020, more than two dozen Chrysler owners around the country filed suit against the company after being told that their warranty was void because they didn’t comply with the inspection requirement. Thus, they had to pay out of pocket for all needed repairs. Their lawyers argued that most of these car buyers had no idea that this was even a requirement, saying they never got the full language of the warranty, just as we had trouble obtaining it.

Chrysler petitioned the court to dismiss the case arguing that purchasers did not follow the requirements of the warranty to have their cars inspected every five years in order to keep the lifetime warranty in effect and therefore were not entitled to free repairs. The company also claimed that details of the warranty including the inspection requirement were contained in a press release and various news stories published at the time. (Note to Chrysler: consumers are not required to read press releases and news stories.) They also claimed that purchasers, depending on when and what model year car they purchased, received warranty information in various written documents at various times.

It may take years before there is a final decision in this case. In the meantime, if you bought a 2006-2009 Chrysler vehicle when the lifetime warranty offer was in effect but were subsequently told your warranty was void and you would therefore have to pay for repairs to the power train, save your receipts. The consumer lawyers in this case are trying to have those lifetime warranties reinstated and to collect damages for those who were improperly charged.

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