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July 15, 2019

Klutzes Have Two Left Feet, So What Is Kmart Insinuating?

Filed under: Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:26 am

Before we get to this week’s story…

UPDATE: A few weeks ago we told you that Citi was dropping most benefits from some of its credit cards including the very popular Citi Double Cash 2% cashback card. After searching for weeks, MrConsumer finally found an equivalent card, with 2% unlimited cash back AND virtually all the benefits like price protection, double the manufacturer’s warranty, CDW, lost luggage coverage, etc. It is the PayPal Cashback Mastercard. NOTE: Many consumer reviews of this card are negative concerning the bank’s customer service.


Let’s take a summer break this week from the nasty surprises that sometimes are buried in the fine print. Instead here’s the tale of MrConsumer’s recent purchase of sneakers from Kmart.com and its nasty surprise.

By accident a few months ago, MrConsumer found a pair of lightweight Everlast brand sneakers at Kmart that were the most comfortable ones he had ever worn. They soon became only available online and all the 9.5s were sold out. So I decided to bite the bullet and buy two pairs in size 10.

Kmart sneaker order

About 10 days after ordering, a bag arrived with four loose shoes inside:

3 left shoes

It may not be obvious from the picture, but they sent three left shoes and one right one. And they weren’t even all size 10. Duh?

The folks at my local Kmart had quite the chuckle when I dramatically pulled three left shoes out of the bag one-by-one. But they said my order didn’t beat the record they had previously seen of all the kids shoes in an order being only for the same foot.




 

 

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July 8, 2019

This Free Pet Food Rebate Turns the Table on Retailers

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

Shoppers often complain that mail-in rebates are a pain in the neck. You have to send in the proof of purchase, pay for postage, and keep your fingers crossed that you will actually get your money back.

Now one pet food manufacturer, Pets Global, is doing it differently. The company issued a unique manufacturer’s coupon/rebate good for a free four-pound bag of Essence dog or cat food worth up to $17.99. But instead of making the consumer buy the product and send in the proof of purchase, they are making the store do it.

Essence pet food rebate
Click to enlarge

This looks pretty normal. While it appears the consumer has to fill out the coupon, one of our faithful readers says it really is the retailer’s contact information that is required according to the company. The fine print turns the tables on the retailer who sold the product converting the coupon into a rebate of sorts.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Retailer Instructions: 1. Return this completed form. 2. The original proof of purchase receipt dated on or before 7/31/19 with the purchase price of the product circled. … Must be sent to a Pets Global distributor within 60 days of date printed on receipt for redemption.

Distributor Instructions: Send completed coupon form and receipt from retailer to Pets Global…

Some would say all rebates should work this way… but don’t hold your breath since manufacturers rely on the “breakage” and “slippage” that results when shoppers don’t follow through with the rebate process. But some states and municipalities have adopted rules that require retailers to provide the rebate to customers at the time of sale. Witness the fine print for the 100% rebates for several items in this week’s Macy’s Black Friday in July sale featured in Consumer World (see Bargain of the Week):

*MOUSE PRINT:

In “CT, RI, PR, and Dade and Broward counties in FL, rebate is given at the register.”




 

 

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June 24, 2019

This Advertised $9.99 Oil Change Actually Costs 70% More

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

MrConsumer loves a bargain and to find an offer for a $9.99 oil change these days is unheard of. But that’s what Monro, an East coast auto service chain, advertised. They also run nine other auto service chains in the Eastern half of the country and in California. They are Mr. Tire, Tread Quarters, Ken Towery’s, TireChoice, AutoTire, Tire Warehouse, Tire Barn, TiresNow, and CarX.

Monro $9.99 oil changeEnlarged for better readability

*MOUSE PRINT:

That unreadable fine print says there is an additional charge (where permitted) of $2.90 for an oil “filter and/or waste recycling fee and a 9.99% service charge which represent shop supply and equipment costs and profits.”

So already, the $9.99 price is out the window. The $2.90 waste disposal fee is not required by the state, and retailers are required to take back up to two gallons of used oil sold by them per day per person at no charge. A service shop like Monro is not considered a “retailer” according to the state. And then there is that 9.99% shop fee.

But is it really only 9.99% for this oil change?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here is a condensed version of an estimate from a Monro location using the above $9.99 coupon:

monro estimate

In this case, the 9.99% shop fee charge totals $3.29! Where did that come from? Shouldn’t it be about a dollar on a $9.99 oil change? What Monro does is charge the customer 9.99% on the regular price of the oil change. In this case, that is $25 plus $4.99 for the oil filter plus the $2.90 disposal fee, totaling $32.89. Ten percent of that is $3.29. This is similar to a misguided retailer trying to charge sales tax on the regular price of an item rather than on the discounted price when it is on sale.

We contacted Monro’s chief marketing officer trying to determine if this was a computer programming error or a deliberate and misleading way to calculate the 9.99% shop fee. Her response sidestepped the question:

“We disclose the inclusion of a disposal fee and a service charge fee based on the retail price in all marketing materials.”

We also questioned whether the sales tax was being calculated correctly by basing it on not only the oil change, but also on the environmental/disposal fee and the shop fee. The company expressed confidence in its calculation. However, Massachusetts law only provides for assessment of the 6.25 percent sales tax on tangible goods, and therefore not on services, shop and recycling fees, and service plans, particularly when they are itemized separately on the bill. While Monro did only charge tax on the net price of the oil change excluding the $2 labor charge, they did tax the recycling fee and the inflated shop fee.

It is misleading to customers to advertise what looks like a complete price when in fact the company has additional required fees in order to purchase the advertised service, particularly when clear disclosure of those charges is not made.




 

 

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June 17, 2019

Barilla Settles Class Action on Underfilled Boxes

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Back in 2016, four Italian consumers sued Barilla, the largest pasta maker in world for misleading packaging. They alleged that the company sells specialty pastas like gluten-free, whole grain, “ProteinPlus,” etc. in the same size cardboard boxes as their traditional pastas. There is only one problem — the specialty boxes are the same size as the regular boxes but typically contain 25-percent less pasta, 12 ounces instead of the usual 16 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Barilla 12oz vs 16oz

In this case, the boxes head-on appear identical, and they are equal depth front to back. But there is more empty space inside that the shopper is not able to detect until purchasing the product. This is known as “slack fill” — non-functional empty space — and it is illegal under federal law and some state laws. (Pictures of the gluten-free and whole grain boxes are shown in the lawsuit above.)

Late last year, the company decided to settle without admitting any guilt and the case is now closed. Purchasers of Barilla will get nothing other than satisfaction that the company has agreed to make a disclosure on the box and also include a “fill line.”

It should be pointed out that Barilla is not alone in selling partially filled pasta boxes. For example, Prince engages in the same practice as demonstrated by these two spaghetti boxes that are both the same size but one has 25-percent less product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Prince spaghetti

Notably, Stop & Shop and Giant’s store brand has taken appropriate steps to put some of their 12-ounce pastas in thinner boxes than the one-pound size.

*MOUSE PRINT:

SS rotini front
SS rotini top




 

 

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June 10, 2019

Did Those Clever Keebler Elves Try to Pull a Fast One?

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

While shopping recently, MrConsumer spotted this bonus pack of Keebler Chip Deluxe cookies.

Keebler Chips Deluxe bonus pack

The package proclaims “Now 20% More Cookies FREE.” Great, who doesn’t like a free bonus? The package weighed 15.8 ounces.

A couple of rows over, however, MrConsumer saw some regular (non-bonus) packages of those same cookies.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Keebler Chips Deluxe regular

That package doesn’t claim to contain a bonus, and it also weighs the exact same 15.8 ounces. The “old” package just above appears to have been manufactured only FOUR DAYS before the bonus package based on their “sell by” dates being only four days apart (July 31, 2019 for the old one, and August 4, 2019 for the new bonus one).

So what did those clever little elves do? According to the label, both packages had 30 cookies? Is this the new math?

We asked Kellogg’s, the manufacturer of Keebler cookies, for an explanation. Unfortunately they sidestepped the issue, only saying:

We increased the weight (ounces) of each of our Keebler Chips Deluxe retail packages by 20% without an increase in price as a way to offer more value to our consumers. Each package now has up to six more cookies.

The availability of the new packages varies, as they flowed through over time. We started production of the new packages at the end of last year.

Because we have covered the downsizing of Keebler cookies in the past, we know the packages had gone down to the 11-12 ounce range about five years ago. The packages are clearly larger today.

The best we can tell, checking hundreds of Keebler Chips Deluxe pictures in Google image search, the most prevalent previous size was 12.6 ounces. The package contained about 24 cookies. The current 15.8 ounce packages contain about 30 cookies according to the label. Mathematically, that’s 25-percent more cookies, not 20-percent.

But that still does not explain how the 15.8 ounce bonus package above can be identical in weight and number of cookies (30) as the non-bonus package that immediately preceded it, being produced seemingly just four days earlier. We may never know.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if manufacturers who downsize their products called shoppers’ attention to it in as a bold a way as when they upsize them?

Keebler Fewer Chips package




 

 

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