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December 28, 2009

2009 Dumb Disclaimer of the Year

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

Every so often one comes upon an offer that has such a ridiculous disclaimer that it might make you laugh out loud. So we end the year, hopefully with a chuckle.

The top-of-the-line credit card from Visa is the Visa Signature card. Among its benefits are discounts for various purchases, including a generous buy one, get one free movie ticket offer from . All you do is enter the first six digits of your Visa card on their website to see if you are eligible for the free ticket. (Bargain hint: some non-Signature Visas work too.)

Of course, one has to be a good consumer and understand the terms and conditions of the offer before plunging ahead with such a major purchase.


Duh? So the chauffeured limo I just rented to get to the theater won’t be free? What about the clothing I wear to the movies? Or the dinner we have afterwards?

Darn. I surely would have thought all that stuff was free too.

Happy 2010.

• • •

December 21, 2009

Beware Costly Restocking Fees

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:24 am

About half of stores that sell electronics and furniture have restocking fees on some items. That’s a deduction made from the refund you would otherwise be entitled to when returning an item to a store. Restocking fees can range from 10% to 100%. These fees are usually triggered by returning an electronics item that has been opened, used, damaged, or doesn’t have all the original packaging.

While many retailers and etailers are good about returns and about disclosing their policies by means of store signs and in the customer service section of their websites, some other sellers are vague about how much breaking the rules will cost you., for instance says:

If you return an item that has been opened or shows signs of wear, we will issue a partial refund minus both original shipping charge and return shipping fees. Products decrease in value over time. Therefore, we reduce refunds for returns you initiate more than 30 days after delivery or received at our returns processing facility within 45 days.

Well, how much is the partial refund? For most items, the company does not say. But if you dig deeply enough into their website, Overstock has very specific, hard-as-nails rules for figuring out how much they will deduct from your refund for returned jewelry and watches:


Jewelry and Watch Returns Condition Policy:

A Master Certified Watchmaker or Graduate Gemologist rigorously inspects jewelry and watch returns, which are subject to the following guidelines:

1. Excellent: 100% Refund (minus $10 inspection fee and shipping)

  • Falls within’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Pristine showcase condition. Looks new, unworn and needs no refurbishing.
  • Arrives in new, undamaged original box or case.
  • Complete with all original parts, links and accessories.
  • Complete with all original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • No evidence of sizing, service, alteration, wear or blemish of any kind.
  • Items with Mylar tags must have the tag attached and unbroken.

2. Good: 40% to 80% Refund

  • Falls within’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Can be restored to “like-new” condition.
  • Arrives in new, undamaged original box or case.
  • Complete with all original parts, links and accessories.
  • Complete with all original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • Sizing, service, alteration, wear or blemish of any kind that we cannot refurbish.
  • Items with Mylar tags must have the tag attached and unbroken.

3. Fair: 0% to 40% Refund

  • Falls within or outside’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Cosmetic defects that cannot be refurbished (e.g. gold plating or special finishes that are scratched or rubbed off and scratched/ripped bands of leather or rubber).
  • Missing or damaged original box.
  • Missing any parts, links or accessories (subject to evaluation for each).
  • Missing original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • Significant wear or damaged but repairable watch movement.

4. Poor: NO Refund

  • Falls outside’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Items that do not match the serial number or SKU number of the item originally ordered.
  • Mechanical damage that is unrepairable or significant cosmetic damage.
  • Wear, blemish or cosmetic damage or damaged watch movement due to inappropriate wear or use.
  • Missing original box or case.
  • Missing parts, links or accessories.
  • Missing original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.

One can only assume that similar criteria might apply when they judge how much to give you back on an opened electronic item.

Other stores, including Brookstone and BJ’s, have some restocking fees, but do not state how much they are. And Sears equivocates on whether a 15% restocking fee will be applied to open box electronics.

The best advice: if you think you might return a particular gift, DON’T OPEN THE BOX.

• • •

December 14, 2009

Downsized Products 2009 — Part 2

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

The parade of downsized items continues with the category that reputedly created the concept of shrinking products — candy bars. An alert Mouse Print* reader  noticed that his favorite “king size” Snickers bar was now nearly half an ounce lighter. Scouring the shelves of candy sellers, we were able to find both the old and the new products.



Unless you read the net weight statement, you would never know the product had shrunk, because it is the same length.

Here are some other examples of products that were discovered to have been downsized in 2009:






Thanks to the eagle-eyed Mouse Print* readers who spotted some of these net weight changes.

• • •

December 7, 2009

AMEX Gift Cards: No Monthly Fees… but

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:09 am


American Express had good news for shoppers a few months ago when it announced that it was no longer going to charge monthly maintenance fees or dormancy fees on gift cards that previously were imposed after one year.  That truly was a bold and welcome move, considering other gift card issuers continue to charge as much as $2.95 a month after a year, thus depleting the card’s value.

What American Express didn’t say so loudly, is that it will continue to charge other rather high fees associated with buying the card.



There is a purchase fee of $3.95, and a shipping fee of $5.95. Considering the card could have been sent for a mere 44 cents first class, the nearly six dollar shipping fee is exorbitant. On their least expensive $25 gift card, it costs you nearly $10 in fees to buy it, thus in essence reducing the value of the card by 40%.

In the holiday spirit, however, AMEX is making a special offer via email:

Our NEW American Express Gift Cards for the holidays make great gifts this season. As a special offer to you, they are FEE-FREE through 1/31/10. Don’t delay! Order online by December 22 11am EST to ensure your Gift Cards are delivered before December 25.

American Express Gift Cards are 100% Gift, 0% fees:
• No fees after purchase
• No customer service fees
• No lost value

While you will save the $3.95 purchase fee when entering the coupon code EMDECCM, it appears the $5.95 shipping fee still applies.

Ho, ho, ho.

• • •

November 30, 2009

Black Friday’s (not so fine) Fine Print

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:54 am

Some people ran out of the house at 3am last Friday for the big Black Friday sales without checking the mouse print in some of the sale advertising. Here, then, are some of the dirty little secrets they may have missed.

*MOUSE PRINT: Quantities were very limited.


Only four washer/dryers for the entire community served by each Sears store?!

Sears was not alone in this. Staples had just a minimum of five of their $299 laptops. Kmart had but a minimum of two Nintendo DS bundles per store. And Best Buy had just a minimum of three 40″ Sony Bravias for $662.99.

*MOUSE PRINT: Want a raincheck? Forget it!


And it wasn’t only Wal-mart that was not giving rainchecks, it was true for most items in Best Buy’s circular, and for most doorbusters at Sears, Target, Toys R Us, Kmart, and other stores.

*MOUSE PRINT: We won’t honor our price guarantee.



So if you thought you could buy a Black Friday item in advance to avoid the crowds and then get back the difference, forget it. Informally, other stores simply refused to honor their price guarantees too. Wal-mart was a notable exception.

*MOUSE PRINT: Some of our doorbusters will be available online too.


Best Buy does that, as does Wal-mart, Staples, Sears, Kohl’s, and many other sellers. The trouble is, they generally don’t tell you which ones will be available online, and which ones won’t. If you knew that that 40″ Sony Bravia for $598 would be available online at (and it was), you might not have ventured out in the middle of the night and waited for it with all the other “crazies.” Why don’t retailers tell you about specific online availability so you can stay home and order those items while still in your pajamas?

• • •
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