Archive for the ‘Fine Print’ Category

Service of Shopping Without Your Reading Glasses

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Even before the pandemic I’d find myself in a grocery or drugstore without my reading glasses. While then it was only occasionally because I’d drag pounds of belongings with me, because I carry almost nothing now I leave my glasses at home.

I can see sell-by dates on milk and other crucial info without specs but lately, because I want to get in and out of any business in a flash, I have made a few irritating errors.

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

Have you noticed the baffling number of toothpaste choices at any standard drugstore? I opened a new tube last week and without paying attention placed some toothpaste on my brush. Turns out I bought Colgate Zero, one with no taste. While I prefer seltzer, coffee, and most everything in its original state, without embellishment, I like my toothpaste minty. I’m trying to think of other things I can do with Zero Colgate as I dread using it and dislike waste so I hesitate tossing it.

I had a battle bringing home the correct yogurt: I prefer the gutsier Greek style. Recognizing the brand I grabbed what turned out to be a giant container of standard yogurt which I find slimy. I was more careful the next time only to discover I’d bought vanilla flavor Greek style, not the plain. Not good.

Any ideas for what else to do with toothpaste? Have you made mistakes choosing products when distracted, rushed or without your specs? Do we really need all those choices of toothpaste and for that matter, yogurt?

Photo: wbur.com

Service of Reading the Fine Print and Your Emails: Amazon’s Subscribe and Save Program

Monday, September 26th, 2016

terms and conditions

I’m not a fan of automatic anything. When I buy OTC items from a drugstore website, I’m asked if I’d like a monthly order of shampoo, toothpaste, vitamins or makeup. No thanks.

So I didn’t know about Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program where people sign up to get repeat orders of staples like coffee or trash bags. It should be called Subscribe and Sometimes Save. It’s a great example of people signing up for something they haven’t looked into carefully and being duped into thinking they are always getting a good deal.

toothpasteAccording to Brian X. Chen in his New York Times article, “Subscribe and Save on Amazon? Don’t Count on It,” the company’s pricing model doesn’t always work out in the customer’s favor. “Any sticker shock, analysts said, may be the result of Amazon’s complex pricing system coming into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.”

He wrote that Amazon “frequently adjusts item prices based on a sophisticated set of variables like supply and demand, time of day and prices offered by competitors.” He shared the insight of Jared Wiesel, a partner at consulting firm Revenue Analytics. It “is the company’s way of making it look as if you are always getting the best deal.”

chewing gumChen identified one customer who paid $10 for gum when signing up and was charged $100 on the repeat. “Prices of most items, including dishwasher soap and toilet bowl cleaner, changed frequently. As often as weekly, prices rose, dipped and rose again like a roller coaster. In extreme cases, prices for items like instant coffee and napkins jumped between 90 and 170 percent.”

  • A 30.5 oz tub of Folgers ranged from $6.64 in June to $12.50 in August.
  • Vanity Fair napkins moved from $7.94 in May to $21.46 in June/July and $15.36 in August.
  • More high/lows include an air purifier filter and humidifier filter, $18.06 to $33.24 and $$4.67 to $11.27 respectively.

Participants are given a chance to opt out. Amazon sends them an email 10 days before a delivery with the price they’ll be paying and they can cancel. I suppose not everyone reads them.

The trouble with the concept, according to Wiesel is: “I think they’ve violated the psychological concept of a subscription with their customers in changing prices like this. When people think of a subscription, they think of locking in a set cadence of receiving a good.”

Chen offers a solution: “If you truly want to save money on Amazon, one approach is to sign up for price alerts on Camel Camel Camel to get an email when a price drops to a desired amount. When that happens, manually reorder — yes, that’s an extra step — your instant coffee, toilet cleaner or lint rollers.” [Camel Camel Camel is an Amazon price tracker Chen explained.]

Why should Amazon change an eyelash on this or any other of its programs? In the last 17 months its stock price closed at a high of $800, more than doubling in 17 months.

Do you automatically receive anything from Amazon or any other company? Have you fallen for a deal that seemed great only to learn it’s more complicated—and not as great–as you first thought?

Camel

Service of False Advertising

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on money.cnn.com. According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of Reading the Fine Print

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Fine Print

I’ve railed against teensy type in photo captions, especially when an art director puts copy on top of an image or colored type against a dark background. Guess he/she figures nobody reads captions so the objective is to make the page look good.

But the fine print I had in mind for this post was more about fees that are easy to miss.

charityI received a request to support a small-town businessman with hefty bills to pay for melanoma treatments. The email came from the upstate car dealer from whom we’ve bought or leased cars for years. He obviously shared his database for the cause.

I followed the link to the website that was collecting the money. Most donated from $10 to $100 [your choices start at $100 but there was an “other” option] and a few gave $1,000.

When I looked they were $2,000 short of the $30,000 goal.

In addition to amount, a donor had other choices. You could post your name or be anonymous; jot a message or not but the donation appeared on the list. In small print next to a box to check [or not] you were asked to agree to cover the $8.20 transaction fee. When I looked in there were 271 donors so the website’s fees were $2,222.

Crowded barI knew a woman who had many friends in NYC police and fire departments and she frequently went to fundraisers at neighborhood bars for life or death causes, education funds for orphaned kids and the like. The bars threw in snacks and made money off the beer they sold. In this context an $8.20 transaction fee may be a legitimate cost, though I think that there should be a ceiling. If a community generates mostly $10 donations to reach a $30,000 goal, the fee would be outrageous–$24,600–and if the family had to pay it, they’d be only $5,400 ahead.

Have you heard of ways a community can help someone in time of financial crisis?

What are your thoughts about the online method of gathering such support?

 Doctor bills

 

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics