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July 23, 2018

Even Our Readers Get Tripped Up by the Fine Print

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Mouse Print* readers are a savvy bunch, but even the best of them may get caught by surprise by the fine print they find after making a purchase.

Tom B., who is a professional landscape contractor, recently was looking for a good quality garden hose nozzle for a commercial customer. He thought he found the perfect product — a Gilmour professional nozzle, with a lifetime warranty and tested to a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch:

Gilmour nozzle

Our landscaper became disenchanted after trying it, and discovering the fine print on the back of the package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Gilmour nozzle warning

Although the nozzle is tested to withstand pressures of up to 250 PSI, the company warns users not to subject it to pressures over 60 PSI.



About six months ago, Tony P. bought a MacBook Air from Micro Center and was convinced to buy an extended warranty for $79, being told it would “cover everything” for a year.

Sure enough, a couple of keys came loose from the keyboard last month and he couldn’t re-attach them. So, Tony went back to the store, expecting a quick fix. Instead he was told that Apple requires them to replace the entire keyboard. What really upset him was that the cost of the repair — $280 — would be deducted from the total dollar amount of repairs he is entitled to under his contract. Huh? This is the first time Tony is told there is limit on repairs, and he was never given a copy of the actual extended warranty when he bought the laptop.

Sure enough, in the terms and conditions statement of his service contract, there is language to limit the issuer’s liability to the price of the computer purchased:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Administrator may elect, at Administrator option, to buyout the Service Contract during the coverage term for the lesser of (I) current market value of a Covered Product with equivalent specifications or (II) purchase price of Your Covered Product minus sales tax and claims paid.

Who would ever suspect there was a clause allowing the provider to get out of all future liability when they have paid for repairs equal to the purchase price? (If this were challenged in court, it is unclear if a judge would even enforce this clause.)

Our consumer was advised to buy the missing two keys online for about $15 and save the benefits of his plan for a more serious repair.


If you come across a nasty bit of fine print in an advertisement, product label, or contract, please let us know.




  ADV


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May 28, 2018

Samsung Compares Apple and Oranges

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

A new commercial from Samsung urges viewers to upgrade their iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy 9 because the Apple phone is slow and frustrating.



There’s one big problem with this advertisement, and its secret is buried in virtually unreadable fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

disclaimer

What Samsung has done is compare a 2014 model of the iPhone — the iPhone 6 — with Samsung’s latest and greatest model. Had it compared the current iPhone models, the 8 and the X, the slowness depicted would have magically disappeared.




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January 22, 2018

Best Buy’s (Not So) Generous Birthday Offer

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

MrConsumer celebrates his birthday in January and has been receiving birthday offers from various retailers and restaurants.

Among them was an email from Best Buy offering a surprise:

Best Buy birthday email

What could it be? A big screen TV? $100 off an item of your choice? A free major appliance?

Clicking through to Best Buy, these delusions of grandeur quickly evaporate.

Best Buy Birthday gift

Okay… I’ll take 10% off. But a big catch looms with the dreaded list of exclusions.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Best Buy exclusions

At least they didn’t exclude sale items… or did they? Two savvy readers point out the first line of the disclaimer which says “Markdowns taken from regular or Was prices.” What does that mean? Is that just standard language in disclaimers that many retailers use, or did they really mean to say that the 10% discount is only applicable to regular priced items?




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November 27, 2017

Some Retailers Misled Shoppers on Black Friday Savings

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

[Note: The next new Mouse Print* story will be December 11.]

For both Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, retailers know that shoppers love a bargain, so the bigger the savings they can claim, the more sales they will likely ring up. Telling shoppers they can save hundreds of dollars by buying now is potent advertising.

The trouble is some of the discounts claimed are grossly exaggerated, promising illusory savings of $100, $200, $300 and even $600 in the following cases.

Take this Samsung HDTV, model UN55MU6290FXZA, that many major retailers used as a doorbuster deal for Black Friday. It’s a new item that was just introduced in August according to Samsung and was only recently stocked in stores. Some might call it a “made for Black Friday” TV. On Samsung’s own website, it was on sale for $499.99 — a savings of $200 compared to the regular price of $699.99:

Samsung TV Samsung site

A Samsung spokesperson confirmed for Consumer World that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this TV is in fact $699.99.


The Good Guys (maybe)


How did major retailers promote this TV around Black Friday?

Among others, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, Sears/Kmart, and surprisingly J.C. Penney (which is known for inflating regular prices just to offer goods at big discounts) played it straight. They advertised the TV as being on sale for about $499.99 — a savings of $200. (Of course, we don’t know if all these stores really offered the TV at what they claimed was the “regular price” of $699.99 price for any substantial period of time before discounting it to $499 — a requirement under some state laws.)


Best Buy Samsung TV

Walmart -Samsung TV


Sears Kmart 699-499TV

J.C. Penney Samsung TV



The Other Guys

1. BJ’s Wholesale Club:


At other stores, sellers took some liberties it appears in telling customers how much over $200 they would save if they bought this TV for $499. Early in November, BJ’s Wholesale Club seemed to suggest that its regular price for this TV was $699.99, and once put in the cart, the price became $499.99 — the standard $200 savings.

BJs TV Nov. 3

Then, in promoting its upcoming Black Friday savings event, the BJ’s cover item in circulars now proclaimed that buying this TV for $499 would save customers $300! Miraculous.

*MOUSE PRINT:

BJs Samsung $300 off

How did they do that? Online, BJ’s simply replaced the previous crossed out $699 regular price and changed it to a $799.99 regular price crossed out. Neat trick, huh? Raise the regular price and claim bigger savings.

BJs TV 799.99



2. Target:


BJ’s was not the only seller seemingly playing games with the regular price of this TV in order to make a more dramatic savings claim. Target, which historically has not engaged in questionable pricing practices, appeared to have slipped this time. In their Black Friday week circular, they claimed a regular price of $799.99, and a sale price of $499.99 — for a $300 savings. That is an extra $100 of phantom savings compared to the real list price of this TV.

To make matters worse, on their website, starting on November 19th, they were claiming a $400 savings because their regular price of this TV inexplicably jumped up to $899. (See update at the end of this story.)

*MOUSE PRINT:

Target 799 regular

Target $899 regular



3. Kohl’s:


The inflated regular prices compared to list price didn’t stop there. Kohl’s which has also been accused of inflating regular prices to offer illusory discounts on its merchandise, was selling this TV on its website prior to Black Friday “on sale” for $899.99 — a savings of $100 over its supposed regular price of $999.99. This TV is a key doorbuster in the Kohl’s Black Friday ad, selling for the standard $499.99 sale price but with a savings supposedly of $500 compared to its so-called regular price of $999.99.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Kohl's TV 999-899

Kohl's TV 999-499



4. Shopko:


Lastly, taking the prize for the most exaggerated saving claim is Shopko. They contend that this $499.99 TV on sale was regularly priced at $1299.99 — providing lucky purchasers with a whopping $800 in savings.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Shopko - 1299-499



The Law


Under FTC Guides Against Deceptive Pricing:

If … the former [regular] price being advertised is not bona fide but fictitious — for example, where an artificial, inflated price was established for the purpose of enabling the subsequent offer of a large reduction — the “bargain” being advertised is a false one; the purchaser is not receiving the unusual value he expects…

At least under Massachusetts law, “regular price” refers to the seller’s own previous selling price that the store actually offered the goods for. “List price” is different, and cannot be used as a basis of comparison unless a reasonable number of sellers actually offer the goods at that list price.

Now, just because Samsung has established a suggested list price of $699.99 for this TV, doesn’t mean retailers have to sell it at that price. They can establish any regular price they want for goods generally as long as that price is legitimate, meaning it is not substantially above the manufacturer’s list price, is not set artificially high to facilitate a false price drop with huge but illusory savings, and is one that the store openly charges for a reasonably substantial period of time.



Company Responses:


Some sellers, including Samsung itself, really did offer this TV at the full list price of $699.99 at least for a short time. It is doubtful, however, that all the stores that advertised this item as regularly selling for $799, $899, $999, or $1299 ever really offered it at those prices for any appreciable period of time in any of their stores. We don’t know for sure because not all stores responded to our inquiries including BJ’s and Kohl’s. We asked when they offered this TV at the high so-called regular price noted in their ad and how they respond to critics who say that the savings they advertised for this TV were exaggerated.



Target’s Response:


Target did respond, explaining that the $899.99 regular price for the TV was a “system error” and to their credit, they immediately changed their website to show only a $200 savings from the now updated $699.99 regular price.

Corrected 499-699 comparison

The company could not immediately explain, however, why other of their advertised Samsung TVs also had grossly exaggerated regular prices too.



Shopko’s Response:


A spokeperson for Shopko said it was not their policy to inflate regular prices, and was committed to following all laws and regulations. Michelle Hansen, the spokesperson, further indicated that the TV was a seasonal item gotten in for Black Friday and could not say if the store ever offered it at $1299. Of course, this suggests that the only price they ever charged was the $499 Black Friday price and they advertised an arbitrarily high regular price for the TV to attract customers to their big sale.



Final Thoughts


It is time for the FTC and state attorneys general to take action against retailers that have established a pattern and practice of deceiving the public about the actual savings that their customers can achieve when buying advertised items.

And for shoppers, the unfortunate truth is that you cannot always rely on advertising to truthfully disclose the amount of money you will actually save on any particular item.

[Note: graphics were edited for size and to add store logos.]




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• • •

November 20, 2017

Thanks for Nothing:
P.C. Richard’s Black Friday Price Guarantee

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

It is rare to find any retailer offering to match competitors’ prices on Black Friday, but New York area appliance discount chain P.C. Richard & Son is advertising just that.

PC richard price guarantee

Wow. Walmart did this a few years ago, but has not since. But before you get all psyched about shopping at P.C. Richard, you better follow the asterisk to their fine print disclaimer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

PC Richard price guarantee details

It basically says that while it lasts 30 days, their Black Friday price guarantee excludes Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the weekend after Black Friday, and Cyber Monday for any competitor advertising limited quantities, certain hours for sales, etc. But virtually every retailer has those restrictions on their doorbusters or other great deals that you might only see between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

We asked the company about the dubious nature of this policy and they have yet to respond.

So to P.C. Richard, for your Black Friday price guarantee we say, thanks for nothing.




  ADV


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