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Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For

Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For
(See online!)

This book is very similar to another of my favorites: How to Complain for Fun And Profit, but the difference is that the complain book is about getting resolution for being treated badly, bad customer service, or otherwise making a case for why a company should consider giving you a break/a pass/or exception.

Unscrewed is a lot more aggressive, but effective in situations where a company owes you something, but refuses to comply. It's not for the weak of heart, but it does give you techniques to get resolution quickly and effectively as long as you are willing to hold their feet to the fire.

For those who are resolute not to be taken advantage of, this is a must have.

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Nordstrom’s Deserves Respect For Fighting Christmas Creep

Source

While complaining about the ills of society and bringing attention to stupidity and abuse are vital (and fun) activities, it is equally as important for us to band together and promote the positives by saluting those who are actually doing it right.

Today, the company that deserves our praise is Nordstrom's. Check out this sign found outside one of their stores:

Christmas creep is a problem of greed and of commercialization of holidays. It's an assault on our peace of mind and of the very few American traditions that we have. Or put simply, Christmas creep ruins Christmas. No music, no decorations, no nothing until AFTER Thanksgiving. It has always been and will always be that way in my house and I respect and support any company with the guts to keep to the same policy.

Nordstrom's, for today at least, you are my friend.

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Beware “Brick in a Box”

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Sometimes when you buy something online or at a major retailer, you'll get it home to find out that it's full of bricks or bathroom tiles instead of the product you expected. Sometimes this is due to shifty warehouse workers and sometimes because a customer buys a product, says it's defective and returns it even though they replaced it with bricks. If the customer service counter doesn't check the box before accepting it, it goes back on the shelf and you get stuck with it.

The store's response to this is generally not going to work in your favor, but there are ways you can make sure you don't end up with the brick.

Read the article for full details, but here are the two main tips they cover that I agree with:

  1. Pay with credit card – This will give you many types of buyer protection automatically like the ability to do a chargeback.
  2. Check the item before you leave the store – Make sure you know what's actually in that box before you walk out. It's much harder for them to make the claim that you put a brick in it inside the store.
  3. Policies aren't laws – Just because a story says "it's policy" doesn't mean you should give up. They often have very bad policies and even some that might be considered illegal. You should fight for what's right regardless of what the store says is "policy".
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The Golden Rule of Cables: There’s No Difference So Buy Cheap

Beware. Monster Cables are a scam.
(Image source is unknown)

The Consumerist was taking heat recently for posting articles about how Monster brand cables are no better than any other even though they cost so much more. Now Popular Science is joining the action with their article explaining that all high end cables are a ripoff.

The electronics industry’s dirty little secret is that they have extremely thin margins on gear, so they make up the cost difference by up-selling you on extended warranties and incredibly marked-up cables.

This is completely true. When I worked at a big named retailer, I could buy a 30 dollar cable for about $6 with my employee discount. Things like extended warranties, add on-services, and accessories are all the same.

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Monster Cables, Monster Scam

(Image source is unknown)

If you didn't know this already, stores make massive profits on cables and connectors. Most of these cost anywhere from 3 to 60 dollars for the store, but are sold from 19.99 to 179.99 or more!

There's just no way to get a good deal on cables from a regular retail outlet so buy them from an online outlet instead.

For a bonus, head over to the Consumerist for a full price sheet from Radio Shack showing their cost versus your cost on their stock of Monster brand cables.

Sample:

Item | Retail Price | Wholesale Price | Profit Margin

MONSTER 19FT HDMI-DVI | $179.99 | $99.94 | $80.05

MONSTER 8M L 26.24' | $137.99 | $73.49 | $64.5

MONSTER 19FT HDMI-HDMI CA | $169.99 | $105.5 | $64.49

"MONSTER 21' STRAIGHT 1/4""" | $149.99 | $88.87 | $61.12

MONSTER HTS 950 | $149.99 | $90.89 | $59.1

MONSTER SLVR FLAT MNT-37I | $149.99 | $91.44 | $58.55

MONSTER 16FT DVI-DVI CABL | $149.99 | $93.08 | $56.91

MONSTER 13FT HDMI-DVI CAB | $149.99 | $93.08 | $56.91

MONSTER 6M L 19.68' – COM | $114.99 | $61.24 | $53.75

MONSTER 8' DIGITAL FIBER | $114.99 | $61.24 | $53.75

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Use Caution When Buying Extended Warranties

(Image copyright Jeremy Duffy)

Consumeraffairs.com has an article today about extended warranties. With the way they present it, I wonder why anyone would ever buy one.

It turns out that I mostly agree with them. I sold extended warranties for a long time and I can guarantee that you'll get your money's worth in some specific cases, but unless you know your rights very well and push for them in the face of opposition from the store and the company, you probably will never recoup your costs.

If you don't have the tenacity to fight for your warranty terms, you're better off avoiding the expense.

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New Trend – Leaking Ad Flyers Online

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

So here's something new: finding out the prices on an upcoming sale by looking online. This is particularly useful when the ad flyer happens to be for Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

This follows another recent story of a Walmart ad being leaked online (which has, of course, been taken down due to a legal threat from Walmart).

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Angels and Demons: Profiling Customers for Fun and Profit

Angel Customers & Demon Customers (The book that started it all)
(See online!)

With the proliferation of data about customers on an individual level due to technology such as cookies, web bugs, and RFID (ie Spychips), companies have discovered a more valuable way to manage their assets. Customer profiling.

A new customer management policy has grown popularity in the business world which assigns customers the ominous labels of Angel and Demon.

Angels

This pleasant sounding label belongs to a customer who doesn't comparison shop, buys high-margin items, always picks up "extras" (such as extended warranties and accessories), uses store credit, etc. Basically, anyone who brings the store profit.

Demons

Imagine a point system, where every purchase made was given positive or negative points based on profitability. Now imagine that any interaction you have with a company could be tallied into your profile based on how much time and resources they need to spend on you. Here are some things that might count against you:

  • Submitting a rebate
  • Using your extended service plan
  • Making any purchase without a certain percentage of high margin accessories
  • Refusal to buy add-on services (such as a free Internet trial or movies-by-mail)
  • Spending an over-average amount of time making the purchase decision
  • Refusing to be upsold into a higher-end model
  • Complaining about the store to management, to consumer watchdogs, or government agencies
Best Buy, a major electronics retailer, is one of the early adopters of these types of systems

After compiling the results of your score, you may be offered terms of credit, pricing, or specials based on that score. For example, "Special price for our 'Platinum' grade customers only!" (where platinum is another word for "angels"). Another example might be putting better customers in a priority queue for customer service by phone. Though only Best Buy (that I know of) has looked at the angel/demon methodology, there's nothing to stop companies from using the profiles on you they already have to do the same.

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