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July 24, 2017

Free Wi-Fi Users Ignore Terms and Conditions and Get Pranked

Filed under: Business,Computers,Humor,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

An Internet company in Manchester, England called Purple decided recently to prove that consumers access free wi-fi services carelessly by not spending the time to click and read the terms and conditions of its use.

Purple terms

The company pranked users for a period of two weeks by tucking a “Community Service Clause” into their public wi-fi terms.


The user may be be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following:

• Cleansing local parks of animal waste
• Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs
• Manually relieving sewer blockages
• Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events
• Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence
• Scraping chewing gum off the streets

So how many consumers using their free wi-fi services clicked the “accept” button despite being potentially being required shovel poop out of blocked pipes? A staggering 22,000 people! And how many people caught the catch? Exactly one!




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February 27, 2017

Staples Charges for Staples!

Filed under: Business,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:19 am

MrConsumer is not fortunate enough to have a copy machine, so whenever he needs copies, he goes to his local Staples store. They have self-service machines where copies are now 12 cents each. Whatever happened to three-cent copies?

As most users of copy machines know, you have to select the number of copies, whether you want the machine to collate multi-page documents, staple them, etc. Choosing all those options, MrConsumer was surprised to learn that a new charge was placed on his bill.


Staples receipt

For my six-page document that I made three copies of, I was charged six cents for three staples — two cents apiece. Traditionally there was never an extra charge if you wanted your copies stapled at these machines. And yes, there was a manual stapler nearby that I could have used instead. And yes, the two-cent charge was disclosed on the copy machine payment screen for the job.

But the cost of a staple is so minimal that it baffles MrConsumer why any company would charge extra for one — and comparatively, a lot extra. At retail, Staples sells boxes of 25,000 staples for $6.79 — or 0.0002716 each. Put another way, Staples is charging customers at least 74 times its cost per staple.

We asked the company why it was doing this, and whether they thought this was a bit excessive. A Staples media representative responded:

Staples has recently rolled out new and improved self-service copy machines that are focused on ease of use and convenience, and provide a range of services that were not easily available before – scanning, printing from email and the cloud, stapling and faxing. This allows the customer to pick and choose how they want to print something, best fitted to their needs, with add on services such as stapling for a nominal fee, similar to other retailers.

Alternatively, customers can collate and staple their documents themselves free of charge. There are always staplers available and free to use on the counters near the copy & print area.

Here’s my two-cents-worth: I’m sorry, sometimes companies go too far in their penny-pinching practices.




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November 14, 2016

Is It a Story or Is It an Ad in the LA Times?

Filed under: Business — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Every week, MrConsumer searches through thousands of consumer stories trying to find the most interesting and useful ones to present to Consumer World readers.

In a Google news search last week, this story about store brands came up and I thought it might be a candidate as a “Consumer Quickie.”

Google story

Clicking through, here is the story that came up.

LA Times "story"

Use scrollbar above on right to view.

The L.A. Times story was actually kind of boring and was not put in Consumer World. But, upon closer inspection, another reason for rejecting it became apparent (yellow highlighting below added).


LA Times disclosures

This is not a real story but rather an advertisement made to look like a news story. It is called native advertising. Under the recently adopted Native Advertising Guidelines of the FTC, this content had to be clearly labeled as a paid advertisement or sponsor paid content or similar wording. Indeed, it is so marked but is it really conspicuous enough? The “story” is so designed to look exactly like an LA Times story that one has to wonder whether two small disclosures can overcome the overall impression created by the webpage.

And why is Google indexing advertising and listing it as a news story?

We raised this exact issue two years ago with the LA Times (see original story), which at the time said:

the advertisement in question is clearly labeled as such and the only path for readers to find that content was intended to be via an latimes.com panel that is also clearly labeled as advertising. However, your inquiry brought our attention to the fact that although this ad and others of the same ilk is not included in our News SiteMap and the page has “noindex nofollow” directives, there appears to be a technical glitch with Google News. We are working with Google to find out why the content is indexed incorrectly and have the issue fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have removed the advertisement from our site to eradicate potential for further confusion. V.P. Communications, Los Angeles Times

We did not recontact the LA Times, but clearly, two years later the problem still exists.




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September 5, 2016

“This is Not a Bill”

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Most people have no idea when their newspaper or magazine subscription is set to run out. So when you get a bill in the mail like this, it must be time to renew, right?

People around the country have been receiving bills like this:

Invoice frontClick to enlarge

Not so fast. The back of the invoice says the following.


“This is a magazine subscription offer, not a bill or invoice. You are under no obligation to either buy a magazine or renew at this time.”

And despite the appearance of this “bill,” the front bottom left hand corner says in small letters “RENEWAL OFFER – NOT A BILL.”

If it looks like a duck, it’s a duck, no matter what the fine print says. That’s the opinion of the Federal Trade Commission which recently filed a lawsuit against a web of companies for sending out these notices to subscribers of newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Seattle Times, The Denver Post, and over 350 others.

The notices claim that that the price is one of the lowest available rates and is authorized by the publisher. In fact, the FTC alleges the defendants do not have the publishers’ authorization and they charge up to 40 percent more than the newspapers typically charge. Purchasers often overpaid, got the wrong publication, and had difficulty getting refunds.

We say: go get’m!




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June 27, 2016

Ticketmaster Settlement Fine Print Trips Up Many

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

TicketmasterLast week, Ticketmaster began issuing $386 million in vouchers to some 50 million previous ticket buyers as part of a class action settlement. The company had allegedly failed to disclose all the details of the order processing and UPS fees they charged at Ticketmaster.com between 1999 and 2013.

Everyone who bought tickets during this period is being given a $2.25 credit per ticket (for up to 17 tickets) that can be used toward a future show. They are also being given a $5 UPS voucher for each time they used UPS for ticket delivery. The big thing that caught everyone’s attention, however, was receiving a voucher good for two free general admission tickets (up to 17 such vouchers) for certain Live Nation concert events “subject to availability.”

Beneficiaries of the settlement soon began complaining loudly that all the concerts that were being offered where they could redeem their vouchers for free tickets were sold out quickly. And the concerts being offered free were often second-rate, and with none available in 24 states.

How could this happen? Ticketmaster initially only made available $5 million worth of tickets available. Assuming each one had a normal selling price of a mere $25 (a very conservative price), that means only 200,000 tickets were available. And since each person could get a minimum of two free tickets, only 100,000 of the 50 million class members could be satisfied. Ticketmaster quickly added another $5 million worth of tickets to the pool (200,000 free tickets in our example), but those have been all but snapped already too. Now they are promising a new infusion of free tickets.


In fact, according to the actual settlement agreement, after the initial $5 million in free tickets, Ticketmaster only has to provide comparatively few tickets and only for the events of its own choosing.

Live Nation will arrange for at least 100 tickets at each event to be made available to the Class Members free of charge for at least 60% of the events that take place at Live Nation owned or operated amphitheaters.

There is overall only a $42 million minimum expenditure that Ticketmaster has to make during the years of the settlement, and if not enough vouchers are redeemed in any year, they have to pony up more free tickets to make up the difference.

From a practical standpoint, class members should not expect to receive any free tickets to shows, and no more than a couple of bucks off any ticket they actually purchase.




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