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eHarmony’s Free Trial: For Dating Blindly Only*

eharmony large We have all seen the TV commercials for eHarmony, an online matchmaking service, with psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren. He touts the free personality profile offered on his website that matches you to potential mates based on 29 key dimensions of compatibility.

With 12 million members, surely your match might be among them. So it was great news to read their newspaper ad about 10 days ago promoting a free weekend to “try eHarmony for free.”  “All weekend long you’ll be able to communicate with people you’re matched with for FREE!”

Buried in the “help” section was a “special notice” sure to disappoint many:

*MOUSE PRINT: “FastTrack and Photos are only available during the free weekend if you are a paid subscriber.” [website 11/17/06]

So, if you find the person of your dreams on paper, you will have no idea what they look like. Pardon the shallowness, but looks do matter. Now, since it is “free communication” weekend, you can simply ask for a picture, right?  Not exactly.

“Free communication” is a term of art used by eHarmony, and refers to an anonymous, structured communication system (“guided communication”) that uses sets of pre-defined questions that can be sent to the potential love of your life. You must go through four stages of “guided communication” before you get to more “open communication.” You cannot use “Fasttrack” that bypasses the canned questions and permits more opened-ended, but anonymous emails.

So, it appears you neither get to see nor really communicate instantly with your matches during the “free” weekend. For that, you need to subscribe to eHarmony for fees ranging from $59.95 (one month) to $251.40 (year).

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Toys R Us Price Guarantee: We Match Prices Only When We Feel Like*

TRU logo Many shoppers like to buy at stores that offer a price protection guarantee. That means if you subsequently find an item you bought there for less money elsewhere or even at their store, they will give you back the difference.

For some who have bought toys over the past few weeks, the Toys R Us “Black Friday” sale is going to bring wth it an unwelcome surprise. A fine print footnote indicates that they are suspending the price guarantee:

*MOUSE PRINT: “Price Guarantee is not in effect for other retailer special offers or Doorbusters.” [Circular, November 23, 2006]

So, on the day with some of the lowest prices of the year, if you paid more at Toys R Us, it looks like you are out of luck, even if Toys R Us itself is selling the item as a “Doorbuster” for less. [Since they have capitalized “Doorbusters”, it appears that they are referring to their own early morning specials that go by that name.]

Of course, since the store has a liberal return policy, you could return the overpriced item, and repurchase it on the spot at the lower “Doorbuster” price. If Wal-mart or another store is offering a lower price, however, it looks like they will not match that price.

Thanks Toys R Us for suspending a good consumer policy on the day it matters most.

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Chase Credit Cards: How to Avoid 32.24% Interest*

Chase change in termsDo you ignore those fine print notices that credit card issuers send out from time to time?  They are often accompanied by a letter that says there will be a “change in terms,” but it leaves the details to the fine print enclosure.

“Change in terms” is bank speak for a price increase or change that is not in your financial best interest. If they were lowering your rates or easing any terms, they would boast about that in the letter.

Many [but not all] Chase credit cardholders just received an “IMPORTANT NOTICE OF CHANGE IN TERMS AND RIGHT TO OPT OUT” in the mail. For those who did not take the time to read it, here is the bad news and the good news:

*MOUSE PRINT: Your default interest rate is going up to 32.24%. But… you don’t have to pay it if you send them a letter by November 23 opting out of the change.

[The default interest rate refers to the penalty APR that will be used to calculate your finance charges if you pay late, are delinquent, or speak ill of the credit card company to your friends.] 

This notice is unlike similar notices in that your account will not be closed if you reject the changes. But like similar notices, they don’t tell you what the current terms are, so you can’t compare old with new.

It does appear, however, that in additional to raising the default interest rate, they are adding terms of when the default rate will be triggered. (For example, a default late in the month will be treated as if you defaulted on the first day of the billing period.)

Another change that is not obvious because the prior terms are not restated is the apparent lifting of the cap on balance transfer fees. In the past, on some Chase cards, the maximum fee  you could be charged was $75. Soon it will be unlimited.

Since most people have ignored this notice, they don’t realize the once in a blue moon opportunity they have been given to opt out of certain of the new provisions (APRs and default rules). Their silence will constitute acceptance of these terms, including the new 32.24% default interest rate. All that because they didn’t take the time to read the mouse print.

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