Consumer

Bravo Best Buy!

April 2, 2005

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As a consumer, there are very few things I hate about big electronics retailers than mail-in rebates. In this week’s flyer, a particularly bad page had mail-in rebates for 14 items out of 17! A popular tax software is listed at $31.99 and offers a $5 mail-in rebate. Who are they kidding? It is an epidemic especially for computer peripherals and software.

Mail-in rebates are popular with vendors because they are betting that consumers will not go through the hassle of sending in the rebates. It is a good bet because mailing in a rebate is only slightly less complicated than filing income tax returns. There are special forms to fill, silly bar codes to be cut out, copies of receipts to be made, stamps to be bought, envelopes to be mailed by a certain date and cheques (if they arrive) to be cashed in. No wonder, most people just give up.

Finally, Best Buy has seen the obvious and plans to end this insidious practise (I hope this includes the stores they operate under Best Buy and Future Shop banners in Canada). A company executive says: “Our customers are telling us they just hate the process. They send it in, they remain aggravated until they get their cheque”. I am glad you finally noticed but what took you so long? Better late than never, I guess.

CBC Show on Credit Cards

March 4, 2005

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CBC Marketplace is repeating its recent program on credit cards called Card Tricks on Saturday (3:00 p.m. ET. Check local listings). The show provides an in-depth analysis of the various gotchas buried deep inside the fine print. Among the tricks:

  1. Partial Payment: Some cards require that the entire amount be paid in full. Otherwise, interest is charged on the full amount, not just the amount outstanding.
  2. Currency Conversion Fee: Currency conversion fee charged for foreign purchases.
  3. Interest Rate Increases: Credit card issuers can and do increase rates at their discretion.
  4. Payment Due Date: Companies take 3-5 business days to process payments. A late fee is charged if the payment was processed later than the due date.

Credit cards provide valuable benefits: a free loan for 20-40 days, purchase protection, air miles or rewards or points or cash-back, extended warranty, auto rental collision insurance etc. Consumers can enjoy these benefits and not pay a cent if they follow strict rules:

  1. Never carry a balance on the credit card. There are far cheaper ways of borrowing money (like a line of credit at a local bank).
  2. Never borrow from the credit cards. Shred the “convenience checks” that regularly appear in the mail. Avoid using the credit card at ATM machines.
  3. Avoid having to pay fees of any kind: late fees, fees for exceeding the credit limit, annual fees etc.

Number Portability

March 3, 2005

1 comment

The recent Federal Budget mentioned that the government will ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) “to move expeditiously to implement wireless number portability”. Newly launched Virgin Mobile is also pushing for portability that will enable it to be more competitive.
The Toronto Star
reports today that a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of wireless customers would like to keep their phone numbers when switching phone companies. The service providers have been claiming that number portability will increase costs for consumers. While it warms my heart to know that phone companies care so much about our pocketbooks, the CRTC should mandate the wireless industry to implement portability, so that Canadians ultimately benefit from increased competition.