October 20, 2014

Check Your Cart at Sears.com

Is Sears.com tacking on added purchases without your consent? Automatically adding on a service package is up-selling and Sears.com may have been doing just that.

Edgar Dworsky, a nationally-respected consumer advocate and founder of the website ConsumerWorld.org, says he went on the site on Black Friday weekend looking for a refrigerator. He found a model he liked, put it in his cart and noticed that a five-year service contract for $469 had been added without his consent.

Dworsky points out that the charge for the service plan is easily removed from the cart if the customer spots it. If not, they could overpay from $110 to $550.

“How many shoppers have in their mind, ‘Oh, I’d better check the cart just to make sure they haven’t slipped something in there that I didn’t order?’”

Dworsky shopped for various appliances on Sears.com and he says the same thing happened every time: an expensive five-year extended warranty turned up in the shopping cart.

After Mr. Dworsky contacted Larry Costello, Sears’ public relations director, who says the company has received “very little negative customer feedback” about its up-sell policy,the company says it will change the way its website operates. Sears will now make their extended warranties an optional add-on, just as other major appliance sellers do.

Save Money on New Appliances and Help the World Too

We can all use a little help these days. If your budget cuts have you rethinking how to replace an aging appliance, GE offers a solution that lets you buy a new appliance while helping others. At the online GE outlet store, with any purchase of one of their discontinued, closeout or overstock appliances (which includes standard GE warranty and free delivery) they will donate 2% of the price to the United Way.

They have just about every appliance you could need – from refrigerators, and washers to trash compactors and range hoods. The supply and variety varies, with more choices in the larger kitchen appliances than others. The savings also vary. At last look, you could save $200 -$500 on a refrigerator, but just around $20 on a ventilation hood.

It would also be a good resource if you are trying to match older GE Appliances already in your kitchen.

Dishwasher Buying Guide – Special Features You May – Or May Not Need

Dishwashers come with many options to help you get sparkling clean dishes. Some come standard on a basic machine and some will add considerably to the price of your new dishwasher. Read on to see what Consumer Reports had to say about these features.

Adjustable racks and loading aids
Racks that adjust up or down, adjustable tines, and silverware and stemware holders let you reconfigure the interior and organize the contents. Those devices increase flexibility, especially when you cook for a crowd, and they can help accommodate large and oddly shaped items.

Dirt sensor
It adjusts water use and cycle length to soil level. A dirt sensor can improve efficiency, but not all work well.

Rinse/hold cycle
It lets you rinse dirty dishes before you’re ready to start a full cycle. This cycle can reduce odors and prevents soil from setting while you accumulate enough dirty dishes for a full load.

Filters
These keep wash water free of food that could be redeposited on clean dishes. There are two types: self-cleaning and manual.
Most filters are self-cleaning; a grinder pulverizes the debris and flushes it down the drain. That’s convenient but noisy. Some models have a filter without a grinder. It’s quieter, but it needs periodic cleaning, a job that takes a few minutes. It’s your choice.

Special wash cycles
Most dishwashers come with at least three cycles: light, normal, and heavy (pots and pans). Some offer pot-scrubber, soak/scrub, steam clean, china/crystal, or sanitizing cycles as well. The three basic cycles should be enough for most chores–even for baked-on food. A sanitizing option that raises water temperature above the typical 140° F doesn’t necessarily clean better.

Stainless-steel tub
Steel is more durable than plastic, but models with a plastic tub tend to cost far less. While light-colored plastic might become discolored, gray-speckled plastic should resist staining. Even a plastic tub should last longer than most people keep a dishwasher.

Hidden touchpad controls
Controls mounted along the top edge of the door are strictly a styling touch. They’re hidden when the door is closed. You can’t see cycle progress at a glance. (Partially hidden controls are a good compromise. They show that the machine is running and often display remaining cycle time.)

Appliance Prices Are Going Up

Top appliance makers Whirlpool and Electrolux are raising prices to pass soaring raw material costs on to customers, but their attempts may not pass muster with bargain-hungry shoppers.

According to Reuters, both companies reported quarterly profits that fell short of estimates as they grapple with tepid demand in major markets like the United States and Europe.
Many analysts questioned the timing of the move, especially since consumers in the developed world continue to look for incentives to buy expensive goods like appliances.

Korean manufacturer Samsung has not announced increases and appears to be planning to hold existing prices. Still, Whirlpool’s chief executive, Jeff Fettig, insisted it was not “economically feasible” for Whirlpool to remain indefinitely in the promotional mindset it adopted for the holiday season and last year in general. “For 2011, we expect positive but uneven demand levels around the world,” Fettig said, adding the company still hoped to expand operating margins in the year through price increases and boosts in productivity.

LG Electronics does plan an increase as well. The planned price increase matches moves announced earlier by Whirlpool and Electrolux.

Whirlpool has shut plants, cut jobs and moved some manufacturing to lower cost centers like Mexico. It has also started using common parts across its lineup of dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines.

Electrolux, which sells under its own name as well as the Zanussi and Frigidaire brands, is planning to raise prices by 8 percent to 10 percent in North America starting in April and gradually in Europe and other markets. The move comes as manufacturers around the globe plot price increases to offset higher materials costs and regain ground lost in the recession. Electrolux Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin said the rise in raw materials’ costs had been across the board.

New Incandescent Lightbulbs – Now There’s a Bright Idea

Everybody seems to be talking about it – Californians can start saying goodbye to traditional 100-watt incandescent light bulbs now that the state has become the first in the country to require a new standard for the screw-base bulbs.

Experts say the new rules, which took effect New Year’s Day, will save residents money and energy. California is already the nation’s leader in energy-efficiency standards.

As of Saturday, what used to be a 100-watt light bulb manufactured and sold in California will have to use 72 watts or less. The 72-watt replacement bulb, also called an energy-saving halogen light, will provide the same amount of light, called lumens, for lower energy cost.

Similar new standards for traditional 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs will go into effect in California over the next few years, with wattages reduced to 53, 43 and 29 respectively.

The new rule does not ban incandescent light bulbs; it just requires those bulbs to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient. And it only affects incandescent light bulbs manufactured in 2011 or later, not those already in use or on store shelves.

All this can be found in the Mercurynews.com which writes that the new lights are comparably priced to the regular incandescent lights. A two-bulb package of 100-watt incandescent bulbs is about $4.32 at Lowe’s, while a four-bulb package of new 72-watt halogen bulbs is $8.66, or $4.33 for two. By contrast, a two-bulb package of energy-saving compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) is $11.28.

“The 72-watt bulb is improving Edison’s original idea,” said Adam Gottlieb, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission.

“Consumers will still have the amount of light they need for the task at hand,” said Gottlieb. “But they’ll see lower electricity bills.”

Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the new regulation “a great thing for consumers.” He played a key role in the development and passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, upon which the new regulation is based.

“The 125-year-old incandescent light bulb is far and away the least efficient product in our homes, because 90 percent of the electricity is wasted as heat,” Horowitz said.

At Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, spokesman Gerard Littlejohn said the retailer is removing all 100-watt incandescent lights from its California stores.

Many consumers seem open to the new regulation.

“It’s not a problem at all,” said San Jose resident Daniel Robles, 28, who was shopping Saturday for CFL bulbs at a San Jose Lowe’s. He buys them to save money but said the light from CFLs give his wife migraines, so the new energy-saving halogen lights would be worth trying.

Government Appliance Rebate Not Working Perfectly?

The appliance business in Washington state did not see the benefits some might have expected from the government’s appliance rebate program. The Tri-City Herald reports:

About 38,000 people around the state got checks from $75 to $750 for buying Energy Star-rated appliances and properly recycling the old ones said Rebecca Stillings with the state Department of Commerce.

But all the money had been applied for by Friday, November fifth she said.

The owner of one Tri-City business was glad to hear that.

“That’s good news for us,” said Steve O’Neill, owner of Master’s Appliance & Refrigeration in Pasco. “We saw a lot less used appliances coming through our shop.”

O’Neill’s store sells new and used appliances, and the rebate program meant fewer used appliances available for resale or to salvage for parts. (The rebate program requires the older be recycled.)

“It really only helped the people who could afford the newer, high-end ones,” O’Neill said. “If you had to buy used, it just drove up the price.”

O’Neill said he used to bring in a truckload of used appliances a day to refurbish or use as parts to rebuild other machines for resell in the store he’s owned for 10 years.

Now, it’s down to two or three truckloads a week.

Because the store sells new and used appliances, O’Neill saw both sides of the program.

“What we lost on the used stuff, we didn’t make up on the new ones we sold,” he said.

At Garrison’s Home Appliance Center in Kennewick, owner Henry Garrison said some customers obviously knew about the rebate program.

“I had some people and they only wanted the ones they can get some money back on,” he said.

The program wasn’t much of a hit at Bunch-Finnigan Appliances in Kennewick. Dan Bunch said most customers weren’t aware of the program, and weren’t interested when they heard about it.

“The requirements and regulations are too strict, and it’s complex,” Bunch said.

Bunch said he didn’t notice an increase in business during the rebate program.

Paying for Your Next New Appliance

Household appliances are generally so reliable, having one break down takes us by surprise. The hassle of shopping for a new appliance is trouble enough without worrying about paying for it too. Plan ahead, because the dryer is not going to sound out announcements before it conks-out.

Repair or Replace?

The first decision to be made is if you really need a new appliance, or if repairs are in order. If the repair costs half the price of a new appliance, seriously consider buying new, says Mark Kotkin at Consumer Reports. According to the magazine’s research, any major household appliance more than eight years old should be considered for replacement rather than repair. The magazine also suggest you skip the repair and buy new if your appliance costs less than $150.

Budgeting

“I’ve seen a lot of people’s budgets over the years, and it seems like household maintenance is one category that people miss,” says Matt Bell of MattAboutMoney.com. People who know the age of their appliances and their expected life spans can budget better for replacements. Or they could maintain a more general emergency fund for when bad things happen. Either cash stash will help you avoid finance charges on a credit card you can’t pay off right away, said Bell.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a service contract for an existing home that covers major operating systems, such as a furnace or a dishwasher. The homeowner buys a repair contract, often for $300 to $500 a year, and pays a service charge for each call. If many of your major appliances are near the ends of their useful lives, a home warranty might be worthwhile. But warranties are complicated, covering some types of breakdowns and not others. Pre-existing conditions and malfunctions that stem from poor maintenance or installation can be excluded. Some companies will cover all or part of an appliance’s replacement cost. Choose this option carefully.

Frigidaire’s Swap and Save Works the $300M Rebate Program

The newly introduced Frigidaire appliance line received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious 2010 ENERGY STAR award for Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion.  The award specifically recognizes the brand’s Swap and Save Energy Conservation Program.

The Swap and Save program was designed to educate consumers on the
energy and monetary benefits realized by trading in their old appliances for new Frigidaire ENERGY STAR qualified appliances.  Most recently, Frigidaire announced “Paid to Upgrade”, which was created to add additional value to consumers on top of the $300m State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program.

“As a proud ENERGY STAR partner, Frigidaire is committed to helping
our customers save money and increase energy efficiency in their
homes,” said Marty O’Gorman, General Manager for Frigidaire.  “That’s
why our new line of appliances offers a range of energy efficiencies
along with innovative features that minimize energy and water
consumption.  We’re proud to offer appliances that save consumers
considerable amounts of energy and water – from washers that use up to
82% less energy and 60% less water to dishwashers that use at least
41% less energy and 40% less water than was used just 10 years ago.”

Frigidaire recently launched 250 new kitchen and laundry appliances
designed with easy-to-use time-, money- and energy-saving features.
The new collections are ENERGY STAR qualified, where applicable, and
offer a wide variety of stylish appliances that are from 10% to 80%
more energy-efficient than non-ENERGY STAR qualified appliances.