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October 22, 2007

Ace Ticket: “Great” Prices for Red Sox Tickets?

Filed under: Business,Internet,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

Ace Ticket adWhat Boston Red Sox fan wouldn’t have wanted to see the seventh and final game of the ALCS playoffs to see if their favorite team would make it into the World Series?

Ace Ticket, a large broker of tickets advertised the day of the big game that they had tickets available at “great prices.” [Boston Globe, October 21, 2007]

For this game, Ace Ticket prices ranged from a “low” of $309 for lower bleacher seats to $2450 for field box seats:

ace prices

Those prices indeed are “great” (as in high), and it would be hard to imagine “greater” prices (although another seller had box seats behind the dugout for $5500 each). These tickets were marked up multiple times their face value. By comparison, based on prices for the regular 2007 season, bleacher seats normally sell for $23, and field box seats sell for $105. Playoff seats are priced higher: $25-$60 for bleachers, and $170 for field box seats.

[As an aside, Ace Ticket is selling bleacher seat tickets for game one of the World Series for $1095 and field box seats for $8900 each.]

Current Massachusetts law forbids the scalping of tickets by only allowing tickets to be resold by licensed brokers for no more than $2 above the face value plus certain limited business expenses.

So how does Ace Ticket get away with reselling tickets marked up so many times their face value? The state Department of Public Safety doesn’t enforce the law! Accordingly, Ace Ticket has tucked away this provision in their terms of sale:


Important: Also Note: In Massachusetts, the resale of tickets to certain events is regulated by statutes and regulations, including G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G, that authorize certain officials, including the Commissioner of Public Safety, to bring legal action against ticket resellers for claimed violations. In order to buy a ticket from Ace Ticket, you must acknowledge and agree that you cannot and will not bring any claim or cause of action in any private suit or administrative proceeding that is in any way based on Ace Ticketís alleged violation of any such statute or regulation, including, without limitation, G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G, and that your sole and exclusive remedy for the violation of any such statute or regulation will be to file a complaint or other notice with the public official responsible for enforcement of such statute or regulation. By purchasing a ticket from Ace Ticket, you expressly waive and forever release all claims that you, individually or as part of a class, might bring in a private action based on the alleged improper resale of regulated tickets in violation of any such statute or regulation, including, without limitation, G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G. I HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE READ AND AGREE TO THE ABOVE-STATED TERMS.

Translation: You agree not to sue us if we overcharge you, and all you can do is complain to the state or the city (which history shows will do nothing to address your problem).

While one Massachusetts consumer activist, Colman Herman, has tried to fight the ticket brokers on his own (and is winning), remarkably the state legislature is poised to repeal the state ticket scalping law.

The result: ticket brokers 1, consumers 0.  Go Sox!

• • •

October 15, 2007

Seattle Coffee Direct: Free Grinder & Coffee?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:19 am

Seattle Coffee Direct 1“Free” is one of the most powerful words in marketing. And who wouldn’t want to get a free Cuisinart coffee grinder and two bags of coffee?

Anyone who clicks on this offer on the homepage of Seattle Coffee Direct will surely be surprised to see that there is no free lunch.


Seattle Coffee $9

So the offer really is to BUY two 12-ounce bags of coffee for $9 and get a free coffee grinder. And it says you are going to get two bags of coffee MONTHLY. This sounds like the offers that Gevalia has made for years, but they offered a free or reduced price coffeemaker.

If you look at the sign-up page, you really would not have a great idea how this monthly plan works, but you would think that you are only going to pay $9 now. The fact is, you are going to pay nowhere near $9 for the free coffee grinder and two bags of coffee.

*MOUSE PRINT: To spill the beans, you have to read the last words in the above graphic that say “click here for details.” Amongst other “details”, you will find that they are going to tack on a “small” $25 “handling fee” to your order, and your pound and a half of monthly coffee in the future will cost a mere $25 plus a small (unspecified) shipping and handling fee:

Seattle Coffee $25 Shipping

So the offer has morphed from a free grinder and free coffee on this company’s homepage, to $34 for a free grinder and coffee, plus being subscribed to an expensive monthly coffee club.

Incidentally, to top it off, Seattle Coffee is in Evanston, Illinois.

• • •

October 8, 2007

CashCall: High Price for Fast Cash

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:59 am

Have you seen the CashCall commercials with Gary Coleman, the little guy best known as Arnold on Different Strokes?  It promotes a fast cash loan service that is just a phone call away [click on pic to view]:

cash  call commercial

What is a loan from CashCall going to cost you?


cash call fine print

Just in case you can’t read that, it says the interest rate is 99.25%. On their website, sample interest rates are 24.58%, 59.46%, up to 99.25% depending on your state of residence and other factors.

At 99.25%, a $2600 loan would require you to pay back $9,095 over three and half years. That’s three and half times what was borrowed.

Fortunately, CashCall appears not to be able to make loans for residents of Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin. What are the regulators in the other 43 states thinking?

• • •

October 1, 2007

Chase Freedom: Unspoken Limits and Exclusions

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

By now, everyone has seen the Chase Freedom credit card commercial with their catchy jingle promising “triple rewards where you spend the most”. You get three points or three percent back for the three categories you spend the most on each month. The categories where you earn triple automatically change each month based on your spending habits.

Here is a portion of their website ad for the card:

Chase Freedom

So, if you spend a lot one month on car repairs, buy a ton of stuff at warehouse and discount stores, and pay for airline tickets or a cruise on your card, at three percent cash back, you will make a lot of money that month, right?  Wrong on several counts.

*MOUSE PRINT: Three percent back only applies to certain categories of purchases, in fact, only 15 particular categories qualify, and that fact is virtually invisible in the disclaimer in their commercial. The categories are:

grocery stores (that are not affiliated with or departments of superstores, warehouse clubs or discount stores), gas & convenience stores, quick service payment/fast food restaurants, telecommunications, cable/satellite TV/Internet service providers, video rentals, department stores, dry cleaners, drugstores, movie theatres, local and suburban commuter passenger transportation (including ferries, bridges, tolls, parking garages, taxis/limos), pet supply stores and veterinary services, utilities, beauty shops (salons and spas), or gym/recreation memberships.

Car repairs, warehouse and discount stores, travel, and many other big ticket potential purchases are not included according to Chase’s terms and conditions.

Okay, so it is just their 15 categories that qualify for three percent back. Let’s say in a particular month you spent $400 at the grocery store; your gas, electric and water bills total $400; and you had to spend $1000 on prescription drugs for your ailing mother. That’s $1800, and should qualify for $54 back. Not bad. But not true.


There is no maximum amount of base rebates or base points that can be earned on net purchases. Maximum bonus rebate accumulation per billing cycle on net purchases is $12 in bonus rebates or 1,200 points monthly, which equates to $600 in net purchases.

Translation: Only the first $600 in purchases in your combined three categories earns three percent back. So on that $1800 hypothetical purchase, you will receive only $18 back on the first $600, and one percent on the rest.

Chase’s concept is a great one to automatically adjust your rewards to match your purchase habits. Too bad many of your most expensive purchases do not qualify for the three percent back at all, and other purchases only qualify for a maximum bonus of $12 a month.

• • •

September 24, 2007

TJX Settlement: You’ll Probably Get Nothing

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Late last Friday, TJX Companies, the parent of Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, announced it had reached a tentative settlement of a class action suit arising out of a massive data security breach at the company. About 45 million credit and debit cards were said to have been compromised.

To hear the story of the settlement told on TV or radio, you might have believed if you had shopped there over the past few years, you would be entitled to three years of credit monitoring service and id theft insurance free:

Associated Press – September 21, 2007 7:04 PM ET

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) – The TJX Companies has agreed to a settlement of class action lawsuits filed after a massive security breach involving customer data.

A statement on the company Web site says the proposed settlement includes three years of credit monitoring along with identity theft insurance for those affected by the breach.

It still requires court approval.

In January, Framingham-based TJX disclosed that computer hackers broke into its systems.

At least 45 million TJX cards were hacked.

That is not the case. A closer reading of the fine print of the proposed agreement severely limits which shoppers will get three years of free services.


 2.1 (a) TJX shall make available free of charge (i) to Unreceipted Return Customer Claimants (other than those set forth in subparagraph 2.1(a)(ii)), three years of Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Insurance from the date of subscription,

So, it is primarily shoppers who returned goods without a receipt during the relevant period who qualify for that part of the settlement. That amounts to some 455,000 people, a mere 1% of the total number possibly affected. These people have already received a direct notification of the breach from TJX, and will also be entitled to other compensation if they experienced actual losses.

For everybody else who made a purchase at a TJX store by check, credit or debit card between certain dates, and who suffered more than a $5 loss as a result of the breach, you will be entitled to $30 to $60 in merchandise credit depending on the level of proof you have. Despite the large number of card numbers stolen, it appears that very few people actually became victims of id theft. That may best explain why most of the 45 million cardholders will not be entitled to compensation.

Lastly, TJX stores will have a 15% off everything sale sometime in 2008 for three days, available to everyone.

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