Ho, Ho, Ho, DC-Style

NOTE: The next new Mouse Print* will be on January 2.

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, MrConsumer was drawn to the fine print on the back of a one-way street sign.

On the reverse side of the sign was a tiny disclaimer that one would normally see in a product warranty:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from Mouse Print*.

More Products Downsized

A new wave of downsizing has been hitting supermarket shelves over the past several months with everything from cookies to detergent packages shrinking in size. Here are the latest examples:

*MOUSE PRINT:

This reduction of close to an ounce and half means you get two fewer cookies in each package. When MrConsumer saw a Nabisco representative in a supermarket and pointed out the downsizing, she cleverly responded, “Look at it this way, you are saving calories!”

*MOUSE PRINT:

You now get over 10% less in each bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid.

*MOUSE PRINT:

There are now ten fewer tissues in each Kleenex box. This is on top of their 2009 downsizing when each tissue shrank by a fraction of an inch.

*MOUSE PRINT:

In this case, almost two ounces has been lopped off the Vienna Fingers package. And they did something fairly common when a product gets downsized, they printed a banner in the upper right hand corner of the package proclaiming “New Look”, which certainly can distract shoppers from checking the net weight statement.

As always, these examples of downsizing point out the clever ways that manufacturers can pass on a sneaky price increase with many shoppers not even noticing.

Sears Engaged in Option Packing Until Caught

Sears recently reported the 19th straight quarter of declining sales. Maybe these declines explain why the company had taken to engaging in a practice more common at new car dealers: option packing.

As reported in Consumer World this week, Sears.com was found adding expensive five-year service contracts automatically to customers’ shopping carts as soon as the customer added a major appliance to it.

Here is a little closer look at what MrConsumer discovered. [See MrConsumer on KOMO News.]

As an example of what was going on at Sears.com, here is a relatively inexpensive conventional refrigerator:

When you click the “Add to Cart” button, it shows the refrigerator has been added to your cart (click picture to enlarge):

But, until last Friday, you would also see this:

You seem to be given an option to add a service plan to your purchase, but it has been pre-checked with the most expensive one — one for over $200. And, a quick look to the right, shows that Sears has, on its own, already added that five-year service plan and a water hose to your order automatically, raising the total price you pay by nearly 50%.

*MOUSE PRINT:

On a $400 refrigerator purchase it is easy to notice the big bump up in total price and easy to remove the protection plan. But on a more expensive appliance, or on an order with multiple items, customers may easily have overlooked the fact that Sears added on expensive service contracts on its own to your bill.

To their credit, Sears.com abandoned this nasty practice one day after we made a stink about it:

“Since this complaint was brought to our attention, we have had a chance to review our complaint records. In the time period it’s been in effect, we received very little negative customer feedback. Nonetheless, now that it’s been pointed out as an item of concern, we’ve made a decision to provide customers with the default choice of declining the protection agreement. This change will take effect tomorrow.” — Sears PR Director for Hardlines

What do you think? Should a company be allowed to just add extras to one’s shopping cart without being requested to do so even when they are easy to remove? Would you have caught the addition of a service contract to your order? Do you want to be forced to scrutinize every online order you make to ensure the retailer hasn’t pulled a fast one on you? Enter your thoughts in the comments.