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December 29, 2008

Retail Return Policies 2008: The Fine Print

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:08 am

Return policies in some cases are more lenient this year, but in others, they are more strict than ever. An example of the latter is the policy, that used to be called “easy returns”.  This year they could just have well have renamed it “hard as nails” returns.  Note the almost nastiness of the wording at the beginning:


Returns Must Meet ALL Applicable Criteria
If your returned product does not match all applicable criteria listed below, it will be rejected by our Returns Warehouse and returned back to you at your cost. Consequently, your RMA will be nullified, any credit request will be denied, replacement orders will not be made, and you will be charged for all shipping to and from our Returns Warehouse that may be incurred by By requesting an RMA and/or shipping a return in violation of this policy you hereby agree to accept our shipment of the return back to you and to the payment of all shipping costs to and from our Returns Warehouse. Our arrangements with our suppliers and manufacturers allow us no room to make exceptions.

Before you make a return, therefore, you better understand the particular store’s rules (including restocking fees), so you will know what you are  or are not entitled to.

Here is a list of leading retailers with generous regular return policies and those with extended holiday return periods (so you may be able to grab the after Christmas bargains rather than wait in long return lines just after the holiday).


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 24 for most purchases Nov. 1 or later; Jan. 8 for cameras, gps, monitors, etc.; Only 14 days from purchase for computers. 15% restocking fees on certain opened items.
Circuit City Jan. 31 all items bought since Nov. 2; 15% restocking fee on open computers, cameras, etc.
Costco No deadline (but 90 days for TVs, computers, cameras, port. music players, cell, projectors)
Kohl’s No deadline (with receipt)
Macy’s 180 days from purchase; 10% restocking fee on furniture.
Marshalls January 5 (for purchases Oct. 26 – Dec. 5). January 31 for most items purchased Nov. 1 or later. Fees apply if opened, used, or late.
Sears 120 days if purchased 11/16-12/23; 30 days for electronics, software, beds; 15% restocking fee on electronics if missing items, built-in appliances, and certain special order goods.
Staples No deadline for office supplies. (January 10 for electronics & furniture bought since Nov. 28)
TJ Maxx January 5 (for purchases Oct. 26 – 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 most items (45 days for unopened electronics, video products, collectibles, more; if opened, identical exchange only).
Wal-Mart 90 days (15 days [PCs, portable players, gps], 30 days [cameras], or 45 days [PC accessories.])

Many happy returns.

• • •

December 22, 2008

That Unreadable Jibberish in TV Show Credits

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:36 am

For this holiday week, a change of pace to a lighter subject. Most people don’t read the credits at the end of television programs. Even fewer folks have probably noticed what appears to be a screen full of boilerplate language at the end of the CBS programs “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”  The microtype fills the screen and only appears for two seconds.  No one can read it, even if they wanted to, unless you can freeze frame that moment on the screen.

While the casual observer may have assumed this was some type of elaborate copyright notice, in fact, the screens of tiny white letters on a black background are called “vanity cards” authored by the show’s executive producer, Chuck Lorre.  And they change every week.

Here is the very first one he wrote in 1997 when he produced the show Dharma and Greg:


Chuck Lorre

Mr. Lorre has now authored over 200 of these vanity cards, that range from Seinfeldian rants about nothing, to chiding the brass at CBS for some slight, and everything in between.

Even the Wall Street Journal noticed his two-second treatises and wrote a story about them.  For a slide show of a few vanity cards, click here. His entire collection of vanity cards is immortalized on Chuck Lorre’s own website.  Enjoy.

• • •

December 15, 2008

Macy*s: When the Price is Wrong

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:39 am

Here is part of an ad for a recent Macy’s “one day sale” (yes, I know, they are never really only for one day):

Macy's items

(Note: the ad above is from the main section of the newspaper, and not the Macy’s color circular itself. But, it contains the same items for the same sale.)

While shoppers may have hoped to scoop up these items at the advertised bargain price, that was not to be the case. Why? Because most shoppers probably didn’t pay attention to the little “we’re sorry” box that appeared in the first few pages of the newspaper. It corrected the errors in Macy’s then current print advertisement (Dec. 6, 2008).


Macy's Correction

It is interesting to note that the five items mentioned with pricing errors were all advertised at a price lower than the correct price, so consumers will be asked to pay more than they expected at the store.

Cuisinart Food Processor $99.99 $149.99
Presto 20″ Griddle $19.99 $29.99
Stainless Accessories $8.99 $9.99
Tools Soup Pot $8.99 $9.99
Pyrex Baking Dish $8.99 $9.99

While it may appear that Macy’s is trying to bait customers with low advertised prices that they will not honor, it is hard to find a pattern in their corrections to substantiate this.  Many times, the actual price is lower than they advertise, and they correct that too.

The ultimate questions are, why are so many errors being made, and where are the corrections for all the other retailers?  Surely their prices are not perfect, and sometimes they run out of goods too.

• • •

December 8, 2008

Toilet Paper Downsizes in a New Way

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:10 am

We all know that toilet paper has been downsized for decades.  Charmin has gone from 600 or 650 sheets on the roll all the way down to 200 or so over the years. Other brands followed suit.  Even Scott’s 1000 sheet roll was downsized in a sneaky way in 2006 by making each sheet shorter.

The case of Cottonelle’s downsizing is a bit unusual, however.  Look at these two packages of their toilet paper purchased at the same time last month:


*MOUSE PRINT:  Both packages give the exact same dimensions for the contents — they say there are 304 sheets on each roll, and that sheets are 4.2 inches by 4.0 inches.  Clearly the package on the left is taller by about 3/4 of an inch (with rolls stacked on top of one another core to core).

What is going on here? The company said:

Because of all the precautions taken in our manufacturing plants, it is difficult to explain how the product you received escaped our detection.  Please accept our apology and our assurance that we will do our best to prevent a recurrence.  The proper roll height is 4.2 inches.  During 2007, we reduced the size of our COTTONELLE® bathroom tissue slightly to align our roll height [number of sheets per roll] with other premium tissue products on the market.  At that time, the sheet width was reduced from 4.5″ down to 4.2″.  The length of each sheet (4.0″ between the perforations) did not change.

So it looks like some of the older 4.5″ width rolls were put into a newer wrapper that had the new lowered sheet count and narrower width on the label.  One can only wonder if this was truly a “mistake” or rather an interim step in the downsizing process to hide the change for anyone comparing the older label to the newer one.

This then appears to be the industry’s latest ploy — downsizing toilet paper by making each sheeter narrower. Toilet paper has historically been 4.5 inches wide as demonstrated by Quilted Northern:


If you peruse the supermarket aisle you will notice that very few brands are 4.5 inches wide anymore. (Scott 1000 sheet role still is, for the moment.) Others are 4.3 inches, 4.27 inches, 4.2 inches, or even 4.0 inches.

Angel Soft Charmin Northern

If this trend continues, soon they will be marketing products to us that look more like dental floss than toilet paper.

• • •

December 1, 2008

Newpro Windows’ “Save 40% on Heating Costs” Guarantee

Filed under: Business,Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:06 am

NewproNewpro is a brand of replacement windows that relies on salespeople coming to the house and demonstrating the product.  There are many stories online about aggressive sales pitches and outrageous initial price quotes.  One person was quoted $17,000 for 12 windows, another was told the price was $29,000 for 17 windows.  Borrowing from the timeshare salesperson’s book of tricks, the window pitchman typically checks with his boss, and gets permission to lower the price several thousand dollars.  The price still remains quite high, according to reports.

But that is not what this week’s Mouse Print* is about.  It is about the 40% fuel savings guarantee that Newpro advertises on TV and on the Internet.

On their website, Newpro elaborates on their promise that you will “Save 40% on your Home Heating Costs — Guaranteed!*”


So far, so good, (except for having to replace all the windows in your house) until you follow the asterisk to the footnote:


**Restrictions apply. Fuel Savings Guarantee applies to homes where all windows are replaced with Newpro 2000 Windows. $500 limit applies. See Newpro Associate for details.

A $500 maximum?  If the windows did not reduce your fuel costs at all, in order to earn the maximum refund, your heating costs could be no higher than $1250 a year. ($1250 x 40% = $500).  For most homes, you probably pay much more than that annually for heat. Another example:  if your fuel costs were $3000 last winter, and you only experienced a 20% reduction this coming season, you would only qualify for $500 of the $600 you were owed.

While the 40% fuel savings claim is a great marketing tool, by limiting the refund to $500 and only making it apply for the first year, your new Newpro windows may not ultimately save you as much money over their life as you might expect. 

The even deeper details  say they do not calculate your refund based on the costs of heating from last year to this, but rather on your consumption (with oil falling in price, this is a good thing). Additionally, only their high-end windows qualify. And, if it is a really cold winter this year (“abnormal weather conditions”), the claim will be reduced.

So if you plan to make a $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 purchase of new windows, keep in mind that a possible refund of $500 is miniscule in comparison, for what many say are grossly overpriced windows.

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