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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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• • •

December 16, 2019

Advertising Masquerades as Program Content on TV Talk Shows – Part 4

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

While flipping the channels recently, MrConsumer came upon a Dr. Phil episode where they were talking about Medicare advantage plans. For the uninitiated, these are health insurance plans that substitute for original Medicare and pick up the balance of the costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover. Most plans throw in some extra benefits free like eye exams.

Please watch the four-minute segment below.



What most viewers may not have recognized is that this entire segment was really a commercial masquerading as a conventional Dr. Phil interview on his program. He introduces the guest as a licensed insurance agent and spokesperson for MedicareAdvantage.com . (Note that “Medicare advantage” is the generic term for a particular type of insurance policy.) Does that introduction put you on notice that you are in essence watching an infomercial or that the program was paid to have her as a guest?

Some additional disclosures pop up during the segment, but they relate to the average savings and limitations of these plans. In the final 15 seconds of the segment a hard-to-read fine print disclosure comes up on the screen.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dr. Phil disclaimer

It says “MedicareAdvantage.com is owned by sponsorship partner TZ Insurance Solutions, Inc. … Paid endorsement…. Dr. Phil does not recommend or endorse any particular plan…”

Again, has any of this put average viewers on notice while they were watching the interview that this really was a commercial? We think not, and a two-second “sponsored in part by MedicareAdvantage.com” slide in the closing credits comes too late in our view.

We asked both the Dr. Phil show and CBS’s Senior Vice President of Program Practices whether they believed the minimal disclosures the program made at the beginning of the segment were enough, and what was CBS going to do now to improve notice to viewers given that this is the second time we pointed out the issue. (See our original story calling out The Talk for airing a commercial segment masquerading as traditional program content.) The CBS executive did not respond, but a spokesperson for Dr. Phil said:

“The integration partner and spokesperson were appropriately identified both at the time the segment ran and in the end credits.”

We disagree. As a viewer, you are entitled to know upfront if you watching a commercial or a bona fide interview segment where the participants did not pay to appear on the program. We hope both the FCC and the FTC start clamping down on television programs that pass off advertising segments as regular interview segments.

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