Here are steps you can follow if a merchant isn't treating you right.
If you've gotten a raw deal from a retailer, the law is often on your side, but many consumers are unaware of those protections when trying to resolve disputes.
People often make the wrong assumptions about what the laws allow, or they rely on misinformation from friends, family or merchants.
"There are recourses available to consumers, but often people don't know about them," said Noreen Perrotta, finance editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser. "From getting rain checks from your local supermarket when they are out of the spaghetti sauce they advertised as half off to doing a credit card chargeback after your refrigerator dies three months after the warranty expires, in many cases, consumers may have more rights than they think."
Here are some common scenarios and tips from Consumer Reports Money Adviser experts on how to get satisfaction:
Trent is making a list -- and sticking to it.
Thanksgiving will be upon us in a week, immediately followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is often the day that pushes retailers over the line into profitability for the year (from the red to the black), hence the name. Naturally, since it’s the day following Thanksgiving, many people have the day off from work, and many will use it to get started on their holiday shopping.
- Bing: Black Friday Web sites
In order to get customers into the stores on Black Friday, many retailers offer enormous discounts on a handful of specific items. These items are often sold at a loss in order to simply get people into the store, because the logic goes that once customers are in the store, they’re likely to buy other things. Plus, it provides some positive word-of-mouth promotion for that retailer, as people will talk about where they got enormous bargains that day.
As a result, many retailers heavily advertise their Black Friday sales in the week or two leading up to that day. Web sites proliferate online, tracking the bargains to be had.
And, through it all, the big goal is to whip consumers into a buying frenzy.
Such a frenzy is bad news. Getting caught up in Black Friday just to get deals on stuff you and those on your list don’t really want or need is a sure way to watch your money float away.
That’s not to say that Black Friday can’t be useful to someone with savvy. It certainly can.
Here’s exactly how I handle Black Friday.
There's seemingly no limit to airlines' attempts to generate revenue.
AirTran is selling ad space on the bottom of seat-back tray tables, and bloggers are having lots of fun with this.
"Since you've got to lock that puppy up for taking off and landing, and for any time you don't want to bang your knees on the tray in flight, those ads are going to get plenty of 'air' time," Bryce Longton wrote at BlackBook.
What’s next? Selling ad space on the outside of the plane? It turns out that’s been done -- by Skybus and Ryanair.
The new ads, which will appear soon in all 138 AirTran planes, were purchased by Mother Nature Network to promote a chance to win a Royal Caribbean cruise. Tom Johansmeyer of Gadling said subsequent ads in the 2.5-by-9-inch space will also be travel-related. (Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports, ads promoting alcohol, cigarettes and strip clubs won’t be allowed.)
However, Bryce suggested five other products he thinks would be a good fit as well, including the Slanket (a Snuggie competitor), Bose noise-canceling headphones, Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, and JetBlue. "What better way to steal business from your competitor than to advertise on their turf? 'You could be watching 36 channels of DirecTV instead of reading this ad!'" Bryce writes.
Distributing a huge catalog no longer makes sense in the Internet world.
J.C. Penney’s fall/winter Big Book is the last of its kind, as the once robust publication joins the Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog in the big recycling bin in the sky.
- Bing: Vintage Sears catalogs
“The Internet has made the 1,000-page shopping venue obsolete, and printing and transportation costs have been rising annually. The move also improves Penney's environmental footprint, reducing its catalog paper use by 30% next year,” The Dallas Morning News reports. (These are truths that keep newspaper publishers awake at night.)
Much slimmer catalogs will still be mailed to targeted audiences, but their aim will be to direct people to Penney stores or to jcp.com, rather than pick up the phone and place an order.
Big catalogs, thicker and heavier than the phone book in most towns, have a warm and fuzzy place in many people’s personal histories, the Morning News observes.
The way we pay for cell phone service doesn't make sense.
Would you rather pay $399 now and $20 a month for two years, or $199 now and $30 a month for two years? If you are a rational consumer, you probably prefer the $399 deal. The other one is like a $200 loan at 20% interest.
And yet, according to a long and meandering article from The New York Times on the madness of cell phone pricing schemes, we wacky Americans preferred the iPhone at $199 with a $30 data plan over the previous deal of $399 with a $20 plan. I’m not sure I buy that. IPhone sales could have increased for a number of reasons, including the fact that the $199 phone was an upgraded version. Still, the Times piece does bring up a number of peculiarities about the economics of cell phones.
Target, Wal-Mart have the bargains to beat this year
The ad, which comes six days ahead of schedule, contains a number of hot early-bird specials (5 a.m. to 11 a.m.), while supplies last:
Is the rising werewolf a victim of the recession or an empowered creature fighting back?
Are you wondering why you’re hearing so much about werewolves lately?
It’s the recession, say Bob Powers and Ritch Duncan, authors of "The Werewolf’s Guide To Life -- A Manual For The Newly Bitten."
The story of the werewolf is about personal struggle over adversity. No one chooses to become a werewolf. You're afflicted with the condition as a result of dumb luck. If you're unlucky enough to be walking down the wrong wooded path when the moon is full, a hungry werewolf just might jump out and change your life forever. The werewolf has no concern for how much money you have in the bank or how many people are counting on you, and he definitely isn't concerned with how attractive you might be. Anyone can be turned.
Many Americans are dealing with a similar feeling of helplessness as they study their bank accounts and listen to the workplace rumors about more layoffs coming down the pike. The pervasive feeling is that at any moment, a little bad luck can send everything spiraling out of control.
The reality of the werewolf lifestyle is all about making do, and finding a way to keep in control.
The vampire, so popular just a few years ago, has gone the way of the spendthrift years of the middle 00s, “when money flowed like blood from a jugular and no one had any idea that the vein might run dry.” Vampires, Powers and Duncan say, are the elite, a “creature of the country club.”
Plus 4 secret spendthrift confessions.
From time to time, I take inventory of my frugal habits. This review helps fine-tune my money-saving strategies.
Here is my latest list of 25 frugal things I do, plus a few spendthrift habits. It's a tradition I've picked up from my friend Dawn at Frugal for Life.
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