Retail Ads: What Were They Thinking? (Part 1)

We begin 2008 taking a lighter look at some advertising that just makes you shake your head and go “huh?”.

1. Walgreen’s “Web Exclusive”:


*MOUSE PRINT: How can it be a web exclusive if the smaller print indicates you can order it in the store, online, or by telephone?

2. Building #19 — Why price goods the conventional way?

bldg19shirt.jpg bldg19jeans.jpg

Building #19, a surplus and salvage chain in New England and a favorite of MrConsumer, is known for their quirky ads. This one really makes you do a double-take (and some arithmetic). Jeans priced by the number of belt loops it has? Shirts by the number of buttons? Huh? Why not, if it is a bargain.

Part 2, in two weeks.

Retailers’ Return Policies: The 2007 Fine Print

Over the last few years, retailers have been busy tightening their return policies to reduce the incidence of both fraudulent returns and those made by consumers taking advantage of the store. Here are the links to major retailers’ policies, and all their fine print.


Holiday Return Deadlines and Restocking Fees Jan. 31 (most items shipped 11/01 through 12/31). 15% restocking fee on open computers. Additional rules may apply.
Best Buy January 31 for purchases November 1 or later; 15% restocking fees on certain opened items.
Circuit City January 25 most items; Jan. 8 for 14 day items including computers; some 15% restocking fees.
Costco No deadline (but 90 days for TVs, computers, cameras, port. music players, cell, projectors)
Kohl’s No deadline (with receipt) 180 days from purchase; 25% restocking fee on furniture.
Marshalls January 5 (for purchases Oct. 28 – Dec. 5).
Office Depot By January 25 for furniture and technology purchased November 15 or later. By January 10 for items purchased November 1 or later. Fees apply if opened or used.
Sears 90 days; 30 days home electronics, mattresses; 15% restocking fee in many categories.
Staples No deadline for office supplies. (January 6 for electronics & furniture bought since Nov. 23)
TJ Maxx January 5 (for purchases Oct. 28 – Dec. 5).
Target 90 days from purchase (15% restocking fee on portable electronics, digital cameras, camcorders; specially marked clearance items only qualify for current sale price).
Toys R Us 90 days (45 days for unopened electronics, video products, collectibles, more). For online orders, postmark by January 4th.
Wal-Mart 90 days (15 days [PCs, portable players], 30 days [cameras], or 45 days [PC accessories.])

Many happy returns.

ID Vault: Million Dollar Protection Policy?

With so many phishing attacks and incidents of ID theft occurring, many consumers are leery of entering into any financial transactions online.

Where there is fear, however, there is also a business opportunity to allay those concerns. Enter ID Vault. It looks like a thumbdrive that you plug into an available USB port on your computer. It stores your usernames and encyrpted passwords, and automatically transmits them securely when you log into a financial or retail website. It can also determine if you are visiting a real site, or a scammer’s copy. Bottomline: it protects you.

They are so sure of their technology that they offer a “$1,000,000 Guarantee” that promises to cover your losses if your login credentials are stolen and used fraudulently. Quoting from their press release:

Consumers can now bank, shop and invest online with total confidence, knowing that even if their personal information were stolen while using ID Vault, GuardID will reimburse them for any losses up to $1 million.

“We are so confident that ID Vault 2008 will protect consumers from online identity theft and fraud, that we put our money where our mouth is, and will refund any losses consumers incur, up to one million dollars, when using ID Vault,” said Jerry Thompson, CEO of Guard ID Systems.

And on their website, here is the big print of their $1,000,000 Guarantee:

ID Vault guarantee

Of course the devil is in the details.

*MOUSE PRINT:  The company may have led you to believe you will have more coverage than they actually will provide (depending on the circumstances). They will only cover you up to $100,000 per account, not $1,000,000 as you might have expected.

“Should we determine that the account was exclusively accessed online using ID Vault prior to the theft of your account credentials, we will reimburse any direct loss, up to $100,000 per individual account and up to a maximum of $1,000,000 over the lifetime of your ID Vault subscription and subsequent renewals.”

In a sense, that is like buying a million dollar fire insurance policy, but only being able to collect $100,000 per fire. Granted, if you are lucky enough to have a millon dollars, and spread it out over 10 different accounts, then you would indeed be qualified to be reimbursed for $1,000,000.

The restrictions in the policy also require you to be 100% faithful to ID Vault as the means of logging into your accounts. You cannot access them on your work computer, or anywhere else, unless there is an ID Vault attached. (And they will compare your financial institution’s records of your accesses with the list of accesses tucked inside your ID Vault. If they don’t match exactly, you lose the coverage.) 

So, what may seem like a simple $1,000,000 guarantee promoted in advertising, is in fact full of strings and loopholes, as any other insurance policy would be.