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June 1, 2020

Holy Sheet: Is This How They Sell Magazines Now?

Filed under: Business,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

John G. wrote to Mouse Print* last week after buying a queen set of Better Homes and Gardens sheets at Walmart, which came with an unexpected surprise.

BHG Sheets

 

The package says that by buying this set of sheets you also get a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. That’s a nice bonus. And this was inside the package:

Better Homes and Gardens offer card

The card explained that a one-year magazine subscription was included as a “thank you” for the purchase. So far, so good. But our consumer became disenchanted when he read the details shown in tiny print above:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“If you do not wish to receive a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens (valued at $6) as part of your qualifying purchase, fill out the card, write “refund” and mail to BHG Refund…”

So while it first appeared to him that he was getting the magazine as a free bonus in this specially marked package, he says “reading the fine print on the enclosed postcard makes it clear that I’ve ALREADY PAID for the subscription!”

And that is our opinion too. By definition, you are only offered a refund for something you have already paid for. So, it seems the cost of the magazine was embedded in the purchase price of the sheets.

We contacted the magazine’s publisher, Meredith Corp., and their vice president of corporate and brand communications provided the company’s position:

The subscription is a gift included with purchase with a stated value of $6.00. The cost of the sheets is independent of the fact that there is a gift subscription that comes with the purchase. The consumer does not pay $6.00 for the subscription (BH&G licensed products at Walmart are not marked-up to cover the subscription value of $6.00).

The company spokesperson went on to say that this promotion has been in use for over 10 years, it was approved by the entity best known for certifying that a publication’s circulation claims are accurate, and no consumer has ever complained.

Whether the cost of the magazine was rolled into the purchase price or not, we can only guess that very few sheet buyers even know they are entitled to $6 back because of the inconspicuous way the refund option is disclosed. When we gave the company spokesperson two opportunities to reply that they would consider making the refund offer more conspicuous in the future, she did not say that they would.

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• • •

May 25, 2020

Get an Extra Year Warranty on Refurbished Items Free

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:33 am

One of the great bargains that shoppers can get is when an electronic item is refurbished. Sometimes these are even brand new products but sold in plain brown boxes so as not to compete with the manufacturer’s own regular line.

The downside of buying a refurb is that it typically only comes with a 90-day warranty. And to add insult to injury, most credit cards with an extended warranty benefit (that doubles the manufacturer’s warranty) excludes refurbished items. Grrrr.

*MOUSE PRINT:

No refurbs

However, while perusing the fine print of the recently published credit card benefits booklet for the Chase Freedom Visa card, MrConsumer discovered a terrific change. While the standard language excluding used and pre-owned items is still there, Chase made an exception and is now covering refurbished goods that come with a warranty.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Refurbs allowed

And as an added bonus, unlike most policies that merely double the manufacturer’s warranty, which on a 90-day warranty only would add three months, the one from Chase Freedom adds a full year extra.

Thanks, Chase.

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• • •

May 18, 2020

Before You Sign Up for That $15 T-Mobile Plan…

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

As part of its agreement to merge with Sprint, T-Mobile promised to offer a really cheap basic plan. And they have launched it earlier than planned to help people who are watching every penny in these tough times.

T-Mobile $15 a month plan

While this is one of the cheapest plans ever offered directly from a major carrier and the extra data provided each year is a valuable extra benefit, buried in the fine print is a nasty surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

T-Mobile fine printFine print shown ACTUAL SIZE

This is just part of a huge block of virtually unreadable fine print that appears on the offer page.

The key part says that after you use up your two gigabyte monthly data allowance, your data completely shuts off rather than just decreases to a crawl as almost every other plan does these days. (You can buy extra data at an unspecified premium price, however.)

Note that Tello offers a 2-gb plan with unlimited calls/texts for just $14 and it slows speeds if you run out of high-speed data. You must use a Sprint-compatible phone for that service. ++

++ Consumer World will earn a small commission if you sign up for Tello using referral code P3F3SR3J .

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• • •

May 11, 2020

Bored at Home? Reading “Terms of Service” Agreements Will Fill Your Days!

Filed under: Business,Humor,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Most of us usually don’t have the time or patience to read a website’s “terms of service” (TOS) agreement. We simply click “agree” if we are even asked in the first place to consent to their various conditions. But now that we are all cooped up at home, we actually have the time to review those contracts. I know, you’d rather clean your kitchen counter one more time and wipe down all your groceries instead.

Some of those policies are ridiculously long. The Microsoft TOS agreement, for example, runs over 15,000 words — just slightly shorter than Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

So, to help you visualize what a daunting task it would actually be to read the TOS agreements from 14 of America’s leading companies and websites, the Visual Capitalist created this infographic. It depicts the comparative length of each company’s policy and how long each would take to read.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Terms of Service

Scroll down the chart OR Click to enlarge.

These companies rely on the laziness of their customers who rarely take time to read the fine print of what they are agreeing to. And most times, the terms benefit the company more than you.

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• • •

May 4, 2020

How Unscrupulous Sellers Mislead on Shipping, Country of Origin

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

In his quest to find protective masks after Amazon and eBay removed most of their listings on account of price gouging, MrConsumer turned to AliExpress — the eBay/Amazon of China.

While masks there were likely double or triple their pre-pandemic prices, some third-party sellers on the site offered fast four to seven day delivery from sources in the United States (at a higher price than the same masks if shipped from China).

AliExpress Mask Ad

So MrConsumer ordered these masks on April 11. The package was shipped two days later with a USPS tracking number from New Jersey and should certainly arrive in Massachusetts in just a matter of a day or two, or so I thought.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Shipping confirmation

While the USPS tracking number was issued on April 13, two days after ordering, as of May 4 – three weeks later – the post office still had not received the package from the company.

The tracking information screen showed that the item was being shipped from one United States location to another, however, a hidden tracking number indicated the real origin was China. See that inconspicuous link at the bottom that says “Data Provided by CAINIAO?” That takes you to a Chinese shipping company with the real tracking information.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Chinese tracking

The package was actually shipped from Shenzhen, China on April 21 — 10 days after the order was placed, and three days after it should have already been received.

What is going on here? It appears that this company and others that play this game on AliExpress, eBay, and perhaps Amazon Marketplace, make customers believe their shipment originates domestically when in fact it is coming from overseas. A USPS shipping and tracking number is issued at the outset to further mislead customers about the shipping timing and origin. At some point, either in China or when the package arrives in the US at the transfer point, the USPS label is slapped on the package indicating the final leg of its journey to the customer.

MrConsumer used the AliExpress dispute process because the goods had not been received during the buyer protection period. The company authorized a full refund on May 2.

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