July 26, 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.

Mom Can Win New Appliances

Indianapolis-based appliance and electronics retailer hhgregg (NYSE:HGG) announced that it will be celebrating Mother’s Day by inviting customers to enter its Frigidaire kitchen appliance package giveaway. From April 26th-May 5th, one contestant will be selected daily to receive $100 hhgregg gift card and all contestants will be registered for the chance to win the grand prize; a kitchen appliance package that includes a refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave.

hhgregg’s Mother’s Day giveaway will also support the heart health of moms everywhere. For each Facebook “like” hhgregg receives during this time frame, the company will donate $1 to The American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life” fund, up to $20,000. A minimum of $10,000 will be donated.

“We wanted to honor mothers everywhere this year by not only hosting an exciting giveaway, but by giving back to the American Heart Association, a wonderful organization that promotes healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” said Jeff Pearson, Vice President of Marketing, hhgregg.

To register for the Mother’s Day Giveaway, please visit www.hhgregg.com/hhgives.

To “like” hhgregg on Facebook, and have $1 donated to The American Heart Association, please visit www.facebook.com/hhgreg

Ten Money Saving Tips – Read This Before You Buy

Here are some handy tips to consider if you really want to save money on your next appliance purchase:

1. Buy Last Year’s Model
If you don’t mind owning last year’s model, you can shave hundreds of dollars off of your appliance purchase. Best time to shop: September and October when stores are under pressure to clear space for the new arrivals.

2. Shop the Scratch and Dents
A small scratch or dent could become your best friend if you’re on a tight budget. Ask the sales associate if they have any damaged appliances for sale. Then, survey the damaged models to decide what you are willing to live with – even the smallest blemish can net big savings.

3. Buy What You Need
Have you ever noticed how the most expensive appliance models are typically the first that you come to in the store? No coincidence, I assure you. To keep yourself from falling for the latest bells and whistles, make a list of what you need before you venture into the stores. Then, buy the cheapest model that meets those needs. Just remember: that refrigerator with the built-in TV isn’t going to keep your food any colder.

4. Do a Trade-In
It’s no secret that trading in your car can save you money on a new car purchase, but did you know that you can sometimes do the same thing with your appliances? Check with appliance dealers in your area to see if any accept trade-ins. Then, find out how much your current appliance is worth. It could just be your ticket to a bargain.

5. Shop the Sales
Find something you like, but not thrilled with the price? Ask a sales associate when your pick is scheduled to go on sale. Waiting a week or two could be all it takes to reduce your purchase price by 25%. September and October are the best months to make major purchases but the second-best time is during the holidays. Merchants offer deep discounts at Christmas, when consumers want to spiff up their homes for the holidays. Also keep an eye out for sales on the less-celebrated weekends, like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day and Labor Day.

6. Look for a Package Deal
Need a washer and dryer or all new appliances for your kitchen? If so, an appliance package could be your biggest source of savings. Retailers frequently bundle appliances to boost sales, and these packages can offer significant savings over the price of purchasing each item individually.

7. Buy a Floor Model
Do you mind if your new appliance comes without a box? If not, consider purchasing a floor model. You’ll enjoy the same warranty that you’d get with a new-in-box item, without the new-in-box price. Sacrifice a little cardboard and save a lot.


8. Shop Box Stores

Shopping warehouse and box stores can be hit or miss. Sometimes you get a great deal and other times you may pay more. When it comes to appliances, however, you may be surprised at the bargains you can find. Such stores don’t usually honor price matches so what you see is what you get. Before hitting these cut-rate stores, research prices and quality online.

9. Avoid Rentals
It’s tempting to pay just $20 a week for a new refrigerator, but the interest you’ll pay for a rent-to-own appliance means you end up paying much more than the purchase price. These retailers thrive on consumers who pay the minimum amount each month or end up reneging on payments and losing the appliance.

10. Surf Craigslist
Keep an eye on the appliances section for low prices on brand new appliances. Dealers sometimes advertise their overstocks on Craigslist. Look for “dealer” notations to know if you’re working with a store and not a private seller. Realtors and remodeling contractors also offer new or nearly new appliances. You’ll likely have to manage your own delivery and installation, however.

Credit to about.com and couponshepa.com

Getting Your Government Funded Appliance Rebate

The good news is  that the US Government’s appliance rebate program has finally begun.  The bad news is that you have a bit of footwork to do before you get it.

Under the federal program, the rebates can go to buyers of new central air conditioners, room air conditioners, heat pumps, boilers, furnaces, washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, and water heaters with the Energy Star seal.  Also, it doesn’t matter how old your clunker appliance is, it needn’t be in working order and, in some states, such as Arizona and Florida, you won’t even need to trade it in.

The tricky part is that each state will run its program differently, deciding which of the possible products it will include in the program, when to start and stop offering rebates, the size of the rebates, and which residents will qualify. In Minnesota, for instance, only washers, dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators are covered. The refrigerator rebate is worth up to $100 in Nebraska, but no more than $50 in Georgia. The Alaskan program is limited to residents receiving disability payments from the state or federal government. In Kansas and Oregon, rebates are restricted to low-income people. States have until February 2012 to allocate their rebate money, but the programs will likely expire long before then. Some will last only a week.

Eight states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin) have launched their appliance programs, at least for some products, to capitalize on President’s Weekend appliance sales. The rest are likely to rev up by May, many around Earth Day in April. You can find the rules for your state’s program at Energy Star Web site.

More details to be aware of courtesy of CBSNews.com:

Energy Star appliances can cost $50 to $100 more, on average, than ones that don’t. But the appliance should pay for itself over five or six years through savings on your utility bill. In some cases, your savings come faster. Replacing a washer made before 2000 with a new Energy Star model, for example, can save up to $135 a year, according to the Department of Energy.

• Only 55 percent of new major appliances have the Energy Star label. So you might not be able to get the rebate on the product you want to buy.

• You might not actually get cash. Although some states will issue rebate checks, many will instead give out prepaid cards issued by Visa or MasterCard.

• Unlike “Cash for Clunkers,” where dealers handled all the paperwork, in most states you have to deal with the forms to get your rebate. That means mailing in your receipt, along with proof of residency, a rebate form from the retailer or your state energy department web site, and usually proof that your clunker appliance was picked up.

• It’ll take roughly four to six weeks to get the rebate.

Before you shop:

1. Drill down into the details of your state’s plan. Some states have rigorous requirements about which products qualify, beyond the Energy Star stamp. Others are rolling out their programs in two phases.
Minnesota and Texas let consumers reserve rebates online or by calling a toll-free number about two weeks before they buy. Check online to see if your state has rebate funds left. Some state sites provide an up-to-date tally of the amount left in the kitty.

2. Make sure the retailer you plan to visit is participating. Some small dealers are sitting out because they’ve decided the program is too costly. In Georgia, online purchases won’t qualify.

3. Learn the precise rebate amount for the appliance you’ll buy. You may encounter unexpected twists. In New York’s “Great Appliance Swap-Out,” consumers get rebates for buying eligible appliances individually or in a bundle of three, where the rebate may be larger.

4. See if you’ll get a recycling bonus. Some states boost the rebate by $25 to $75 if you recycle your old appliance.

5. Ask about additional deals. There’s a good chance your new appliance is also eligible for a manufacturer’s rebate or store promotion, too. You may also be able to combine a state rebate with the federal one. Call your local utility to see if it is dangling rebates, too. Often, utilities offer $50 off new energy-conserving appliances. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency is a good place to do your research.

6. Apply for the rebate as soon as you can. Some retailers have in-store computer kiosks where customers can apply for rebates on the spot. In Georgia and New York, as soon as you’ve bought a qualifying appliance, you can reserve a rebate either online or by calling a toll-free number. Since states will halt their programs when their money runs out, you won’t want to conserve your energy when it comes to applying for rebates.

Is it Time to Replace Your Old Appliances?

If you’ve been thinking about whether it is time to replace your aging appliances, or if you are wondering whether you could be saving the big bucks in energy costs if you had an all new suite of kitchen appliances,  Alina Tugend at the New York Times has some thoughts to share.

One of the first thoughts I have about replacing an older, working appliance that whether “besides the money, is this really a good idea environmentally, to get rid of an appliance that is operating just fine to buy another one, even if it does have better energy standards?”

“It takes energy to make a product,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You don’t want to replace perfectly good products.”

He gave his rule of thumb for refrigerators.

“If it’s avocado or brown-colored, it’s time to retire it,” he said. Refrigerators from the 1970s, the last time I believe those particular appliance colors were in vogue, use three to four times the power of today’s models.

A spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Energy Star program along with the Department of Energy,says that, generally, any appliance over 15 years old probably should be put out to pasture. The good news is that about 80 percent of a refrigerator or a clothes washer is recyclable.

Getting rid of an old appliance “is not without some environmental impact, but because so much can be recycled and reused, if you have a guzzler, you’re better off sending it to the landfill,” said Jennifer Amann, a senior associate at the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Try to find a place that will pick up your old refrigerator for recycling, either the company you are buying your new one from or see if your state or local government has a recycling program.

Even if they are brought to the landfill, Ms. Amann says, most of the appliances’ parts are then recycled, because they take up too much space.

What environmentalists do not want you to do is place the old one in the garage to hold two six-packs of beer. If you really need it, Mr. Horowitz suggested, leave it unplugged until, say, holiday time when you need the extra space for those pumpkin pies.

And do not resell it. Retiring the energy-inefficient model is the best thing to do.

Clothes washers and dishwashers have pretty much the same criteria as refrigerators — they have become much more energy-efficient. So if yours is inching toward 15 years, consider replacing it.

For clothes washers, the new front-loader models use much less water and spin clothes dry much more thoroughly, so you are spending less time — and power — drying.

I also learned something interesting about washing dishes. Unless you are an extremely frugal hand dishwasher, you are certainly using more water hand-washing dishes than a dishwasher does, Ms. Amann said. And with a newer model, do not even pre-rinse by hand.

“A good dishwasher can use just four to seven gallons of water to wash a full load of dishes,” she said. If you do not have a full load, but are afraid the food will get stuck on, a good feature is rinse and hold, which uses less than a gallon of water.

 

Although clothes dryers are big energy suckers, there is not much that can be done to make them less wasteful. So just hang onto yours until it gives up the ghost. One good feature of newer models is a moisture sensor, so the dryer stops when clothes are dry.

The federal government does not issue Energy Stars for dryers, because there is not much difference in energy use among the models.

As we move toward summer, it is a good time to replace an ailing central air-conditioner. New federal standards just started two years ago. But if you are keeping your old one, check to see if the ducts are leaking. You can waste about 30 percent of energy through leaking ducts, Mr. Horowitz said.

Window-box air-conditioners  are inexpensive enough that it is worth swapping an old one for an Energy Star model. The more recent ones also have a thermostat that will shut off the air-conditioner when the room gets cool enough. Sometimes the local utility company will pick up old boxes through an “early retirement program.”

So if you are planning to use that window air conditioner to keep cool this summer, check its age.  You might want to add it to the list along with the new suite.