Do you have questions about how the business of retail works from the other side of the register? Are you curious about store credit cards, loyalty cards, confusing signage, women’s clothing sizes, loss prevention, sales goals, the all-consuming power of Corporate, or other things that form the basis of most Consumerist complaints? The Consumerist’s Mystery Manager is here to answer your questions.
Next time a checkout clerk offers you an “opportunity” to sign up for a store credit card so that you can get an instant 10% discount on that pack of gum or box of tissues you’re buying, remember this: the price you’ll pay for that deal is an interest rate as high as 25%. And, yeah, you’re telling yourself that’s no big deal, since you’ll pay it off every month. But will you? And are you prepared for the other gotchas tied up in a bright ribbon by your friendly retailer?
Barnes & Noble shares are soaring after it announced that it was up for sale and may even go private, or merge with Borders.
There is a free thinker at the Lowe’s in Fort Oglethorpe, GA, who has rejected the system’s stifling rules for spelling. Nice penmanship, though. (Thanks to Tim!)
Ultra-cheap discounter Dollar Tree has turned off the in-store music in all of its stores, citing cost issues. On the company’s Facebook page, shoppers keep complaining that the company is being too cheap (many don’t seem to know about licensing fees for music), but Dollar Tree’s official response is that it freed up expenses to keep prices low.
Now that Walmart has finally triumphed over Chicago, it’s setting its sites on the remaining urban markets that have so far resisted the retailer. The Washington Post says an unnamed source has told them that Walmart is in final negotiations with a plot of land “on New York Avenue NE near the intersection of Bladensburg Road.” The area currently houses an auto parts shop and a strip club, among other businesses.
Like a big city pimp waiting to pick you up off the ground when times get tough, Walmart was able to establish its first stores in Chicago through guile, perseverance, and a few meaningless reassurances. Smaller stores! $0.50 pay raise! Union-built! These are the meager concessions that led Chicago to sell-out their local retailers.
Mail in rebates are a sneaky way to make things look cheaper than they actually are at the point of sale, since many consumers never actually get any cash back. Now New Jersey’s state Assembly is considering legislation that would require retailers to charge shoppers the after-rebate price on goods, instead of forcing them to mail in or submit online requests. If the retailer still wants to take advantage of the rebate, that’s no problem; he’ll just have to mail it in himself.
If security guards start carrying guns at department stores, I’m going to stop referring to them as rent-a-cops. Not because they’ve suddenly jumped up on my respect-o-meter, but because they might open fire. At a mall in Virginia last Sunday, a J.C. Penney security guard pursued a shoplifter into the mall parking lot and fired a gun into the air. The shoplifter was arrested, and the police confiscated the guard’s gun. The store won’t say whether it was owned by the guard or issued by management.
It’s not often that a retail store becomes an icon even before it opens for business, but Apple managed to pull off this weird architectural/cultural feat with its glass box Apple store in NYC in 2006–it’s the 5th most photographed landmark in the city and 28th worldwide according to a new study of Flickr images. The man who designed it, 70-year-old Peter Bohlin, has been awarded the 2010 gold medal from the American Institute of Architects for his entire body of work, and he doesn’t like computers and had never designed a retail environment before the Apple store.
Reader Patricia is angry and somewhat baffled by Target’s insistence that Target and Target.com are not the same company and its not a Target store’s problem if the website is messed up and tells you to drive 25 miles to buy something that isn’t in stock.
Thinking about the controversy over asking for ID during credit card purchases, and the competing values of privacy and safety, Daniel had an interesting idea–though it isn’t a new idea. What if credit cards were photo IDs, and had our pictures on them? Logistical nightmare, or handy fraud-prevention tool?
Ideally, companies choose to lessen their environmental impact because it makes financial sense, not because it makes them feel good–which is a good thing, since companies don’t have feelings. Today, FastCompany published a slideshow that looks at 12 ways the mega-retailer is trying out various green initiatives. Some of them are more about selling the concept of green to consumers, which is dumb, but the ones that deal with shipping, energy consumption, and market creation are pretty impressive.
In the comments to our most recent receipt check story, I noticed a reader argued that as long as the store wasn’t willing to reimburse him for his time, he wasn’t willing to give it to them. It makes sense; nothing in the marketplace is free, right? Why shouldn’t consumers be compensated for bag searches and receipt checks?
Another reader, Adam, suggested a similar idea in his email to us this morning. In fact, he thinks maybe the exiting-the-store moment could be a chance to make a little extra cash.
I’m going to grab a bunch and
resell adopt them out for extra money in 2010. Thanks to Kevin, who snapped the pic and who adds, “I know Hollywood Video isn’t probably doing that hot with the advent of Netflix, but I’m not sure if this is the way to go.”
A dispute over pricing has led Costco to stop selling a number of Coca-Cola brands, which means all Coke varieties as well as Sprite, Squirt, Dasani water, and Full Throttle energy drinks, reports the Associated Press.
Last week, Daynah wrote about how she was forced to stop writing anything down during a recent shopping trip to the cosmetics store Ulta. At the time, Daynah grudgingly gave in because she really wanted to make a purchase (she tests products for consumers). But once she left the store, she took the fight back to Ulta.