Self-identified rational people take pride in the fact that they can’t be easily manipulated, but of course that’s the pride part of their dumb monkey brains talking. Here’s an interesting study that measured whether hard-to-pronounce words were perceived as riskier than words that were easier to pronounce—in this case, by comparing fake additives in food and asking which ones were more likely to be harmful.
Great idea from reader CumaeanSybil: “One thing I’ve been doing lately: every time I buy something on sale, I take the difference from regular price and put it in savings. It keeps me motivated to seek out sale prices and coupons, because I like seeing that account grow.”
We’re having a hard time figuring out how Vonage can justify pulling their “Visual Voicemail” scam on customers without even offering the option of a refund, but that’s exactly what they’re doing to Daniel. They quietly turned on the feature over a year ago. You’d think in a year of logging onto the website, an observant customer would catch that sort of thing—only Vonage makes it actually look like it’s not enabled on your control panel, all the better to sneak it past you. Here’s how they pulled it off with Daniel’s account.
Josh has been paying $30 extra to change out the air filter each time he brings his car to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. This time, to save money, he decided to do it himself—and that’s when he discovered that Jiffy Lube lied to him about the filter.
UPDATE 2: the phone has been returned!
Starting next month, you might see TV spots advertising Dairy Queen‘s new “Sweet Deal” menu, which is supposed to be a value-priced alternative to their regular menu. They’re already rolling it out, and at least one item on the menu will actually cost you about 8% more than it used to.
Mail in rebates (MIRs) are the among the worst “deals” you can fall for, because any number of issues—most of them beyond your control—can render your supposed savings moot. Now a reader wonders whether Worldwide Rebates is deliberately employing what has to be the world’s least durable check mailing system to throw yet another obstacle in the difficult path to a successful rebate.
Last week, “This American Life” featured a 30-minute piece on people who scam the scammers—in this case, three guys who prey upon small-time Nigerian con men and try to trick them into placing themselves in mortal danger. “This American Life” tells how they almost got a guy to enter a Western Union office in Chad carrying an anti-Muslim/pro-Bush note that announces his intention to rob the place. Whether you think these stunts are funny probably depends on your level of empathy even for criminals, and whether you think the avengers ever fully succeed. But c’mon, getting someone in another country to hold up a sign that’s offensive in your language is pretty much always funny.
How retailers trick you into buying more crap than you really need. Mmmm, delicious sample day at Costco. [Joe Consumer]
When Kristi went to her car the other day, she saw this mysterious note stuck to her mirror. “PLEASE CALL ME ABOUT YOUR CAR!” Immediately, she thought someone had run into her car—she walked all around it looking for damage, but couldn’t find anything.
Trent at the Simple Dollar describes the “one month coupon strategy”—a cool trick that lets you line up coupons with in-store sales for massive discounts. Set aside grocery coupons for a month, then go through and select the ones you’re interested in. Bring them to the store and you’ll find that many of them are for products that are now on sale. On Trent’s last visit to the supermarket, approximately 40% of the coupons matched on-sale products—in the most extreme example, he was able to purchase some ice cream for 19 cents.
Citibank’s online form for communicating with their customer service department times out after 6 minutes, a customer discovered—after that, it looks like it successfully sends your message, but actually just discards it.
The Chicago Tribune recaps the findings of some recent consumer behavior studies—for instance, we’re irrational buyers, prone to shoddy math and emotional decision making. The studies might be paid for by advertisers so they can better manipulate us, but as the Tribune notes, they’re useful for us too because they “can help shoppers make better spending decisions if they understand themselves better.”
How to calculate compound growth in Excel using the RATE function. [AllFinancialMatters]
Should you ever venture into a live auction, you know, gavel, real chairs that you sit in, etc, Consumerama has some tips on auctioneer scams to watch out for. Let’s say the price drops to $300, and three hands shoot up. By law, he’s supposed to just accept one bid at $300 and move on, but:
If your empty wallet makes you feel the same, one way to boost your spirits is to get rid of crap around your house you don’t need, writes Debt-Proof Living.
2. CURB THE CLUTTER. I don’t care how clean your house may be, if you have clutter it’s pulling you down. Clear your closets, drawers, cupboards, garage and counters of everything that you do not need or brings beauty to your life. Clean open spaces, tranquility and simplicity chase away feelings of poverty. Clutter invites chaos which leads to depression and feelings of deprivation.
Toss it, garage sale it, give it away, burn it. Unnecessary objects steal energy and attention. Freeing up physical space frees up psychic space and boosts your mood, maybe even giving you enough energy to tackle a project that will more directly impact your bottom line, like figuring out a way to make more money, or reducing expenses.