Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Deals -OR- Black Friday Thrills & Chills

     Hang on to your wallet!  With Black Friday almost here corporate America is ready to cash in.  You could take one on the chin if you're not careful! 

     To be fair, many companies "do well by doing good".  But it appears that some companies are willing to risk reputations to make some extra cash.  Are the short-term profits worth the PR headaches?  You be the judge.

     Responding to new federal regulations designed to protect us consumers, banks and credit card companies are out with a host of new fees.  I saw a news story today in which a bank was charging $8.95 a month for a service it called "totally free checking".  Come again?
     I see that Target has teamed up with American Express to sell gift cards which include a "purchase fee".  When you purchase a $25 gift card- you get charged a $4 fee bringing the total to $29.  That means Target & AmEx are hitting you with a 16% fee to cover the cost of that little plastic card.  It's a great gift- at least it is for the folks at Target & AmEx.
     Consumer Reports is just out with a naughty and nice list.  CR says it didn't target any companies in particular.  It's just a list of some of the best practices and some of the not-so-best practices.

     According to CR, Dollar Rent-A-Car is requiring customers to produce a receipt to prove they bought gas within 10 miles of the car drop-off location.  No receipt means you're charged a "top-off" fee and the cost of labor to fill the tank.  Compare that to L.L. Bean.  L.L. Bean offers a 100% product satisfaction guarantee. Return anything at any time for any reason.

     Spirit Airlines charges $35 for a carry-on.  It's $45 if you pay at the gate.  Over at Southwest Airlines you can check two bags for free- and there's no charge for carry-ons.

     Macy's sets shipping fees for on-line customers based on dollars spent- not the size or weight of the package.  Meantime, Zappos.com has free shipping and free returns and they even send along a prepaid return label.

     J&R, an electronics superstore, has a simple price-match policy.  They'll "do everything possible to meet or beat" a competitors price.  United Airlines has a low-price guarantee.  If you buy a non-refundable ticket, and find a lower price, UAL will pay the difference.  But the airline will also charge you a $150 "administrative" fee.

     I think it was HL Mencken who famously said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public".  That could be true.  But as we roll into the holiday season this negative press isn't going to help anyone's bottom line.

     As a consumer which of these companies would you want to do business with?  If you're handling PR which companies are going to make your job difficult?  And if you're a CEO is this negative PR worth the money you're making?  It's your decision.  I'm voting with my wallet.

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all rights reserved by the author

Here's a link to Consumer Reports naughty/nice list:
Consumer Reports Naughty & Nice

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