Archive for March, 2009

How to be a Smart Consumer 101: This Saturday
March 30, 2009

You’ve probably heard me talk about “The People’s Law School” on the air before.

It’s an awesome one day event held just twice a year at the University of Houston to teach consumers everything they need to know about wills, bankruptcy, consumer law, insurance law, landlord/ tenant law.. you  name it, they’ve got it covered.

Local attorneys, judges and professors teach all of the classes.  And the best part- it’s FREE. You do have to register because there are a limited number of seats. It’s from 9am until noon this Saturday, April 4th.

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Too Much of a Good Thing…
March 27, 2009

Ok… so you’ve paid for a membership at Sam’s or Costco.  But don’t assume that everything is a better deal at the discount warehouses.  At 10, we mentioned some of the best buys at Sam’s and Costco, and then some items you can save more money on elsewhere.

Here are some others we couldn’t fit into the broadcast version of the story:

Meat
Costco’s meat is a great deal according to the author of a “Smart Money” article.
Top-notch butcher-shop quality meets supermarket prices.”
Paper Goods
The same article lists paper goods as not such a good buy at Costco.  We found that Sam’s Club paper products were cheaper, but Costco’s price was lower than Kroger’s.  You should remember, though, that are some pretty good coupons out there for toilet paper and paper towels that are doubled and tripled at most grocery stores.
They say Milk, Butter and eggs are always good deals at Costco.  We only looked at milk in our comparison.  It was very close between all 3 stores, Sam’s, Costco and Kroger (.019 per oz. at Sam’s & Costco and  .023 at Kroger).
Consumer Reports did a very comprehensive survey in 2007.
I want your questions or helpful comments for other shoppers. We plan to use them in our “Ask Amy” segment Monday night at 10.
Have a great weekend!

The #s Behind the Sam’s/ Costco Comparison
March 26, 2009

Whew! Who knew comparison shopping could be so tough?

Tonight’s consumer investigation showed you which discount warehouse has the lowest prices… Sam’s Club or Costco.  And how do the prices at those warehouse giants compare with local grocery store Kroger?

It wasn’t as easy as one trip to Sam’s, Costco and another to Kroger…  so I wanted to explain our methodology.

I first went to Sam’s Club, selected 30 items and jotted down the brand, size and count and price of each product. When I took that list to Costco, I quickly learned that store didn’t have all of the same items.

For example, Costco doesn’t carry Tyson chicken nuggets or Pilgrim’s Pride Boneless Skinless Chiecken Breasts.  Sam’s carries Hunt’s Ketchup, but Costco only has Heinz. Sam’s has Wesson and Mazola corn oil; Costco only carries Mazola. You get the point.

Once we found 30 items of the same product, each store carried different sizes.  If there were individually wrapped items in a bulk product, like granola bars or Electrasol dishwasher tablets, we figured the cost per item.  If it was something like shampoo, we figured the price per ounce at each store.

Here is the full list of items we compared:

Generic Diapers
  • Sam’s Club Member’s Mark (234 count)      $39.48    .16 ea
  • Costco Kirkland Signature (216 count)       $29.99     .14 ea
  • Kroger Generic Diapers  (48 count)               $5.99        .12 ea
Huggies Natural Care Wipes
  • Sam’s Club  (720 count)     $14.86    .02 ea
  • Costco             (1000 count) $23.99    .02 ea
  • Kroger            (216 count)     $6.59      .03 ea
Kellogg’s Cereal
  • Sam’s Club    (46.5 oz)    $6.42      .138 per oz.
  • Costco               (52.5 oz)   $7.59       .14 per oz.
  • Kroger              (12.2 oz)    $2.98     .24 per oz.
Charmin Ultra Soft
  • Sam’s Club     (36 rolls)      $17.47      .485 per roll
  • Costco                (30 rolls)     $19.59     .65 per roll
  • Kroger               (18 rolls)      $13.79      .77 per roll
Bounty Basic Paper Towels
  • Sam’s Club      (12 rolls)     $17.58      $1.46 per roll
  • Costco                 (12 rolls)    $20.99     $1.75 per roll
  • Kroger                (8 rolls)      $14.79      $1.85 per roll 
Gain Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Sam’s Club      (170 oz)   $17.25      .10 per oz.
  • Costco                 (170 oz)  $17.25       .10 per oz.
  • Kroger                (150 oz) $18.59      .12 per oz.
Generic Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Sam’s Club    (170 oz)   $14.84       .09 per oz.
  • Costco              (170 oz)    $13.99      .08 per oz.
  • Kroger  (No generic) $14.79        .09 per oz. (for comps) 
Milk
  • Sam’s Club    (256 oz)    $4.98     .0194 per oz.
  • Costco               (128 oz)    $2.55      .0199 per oz.
  • Kroger              (128 oz)    $2.99      .0233 per oz.
Generic Chicken Nuggets
  • Sam’s Club   (44 oz)     $9.86       .22 per oz.
  • Costco              (80 oz)    $12.79      .159 per oz.
  • Kroger             (28 oz)     $6.99       .249 per oz.
Generic Chicken Breasts
  • Sam’s Club    (96 oz)          $12.06      .12 per oz.
  • Costco               (104 oz)       $15.99     .15 per oz.
  • Kroger              (3.03 lbs.)  $10.57      .22 per oz.
Bakery Cupcakes
  • Sam’s Club  (72 oz)    $11.88     .17 per oz.
  • Costco             (128 oz) $16.99     .13 per oz.
  • Kroger            (24 oz)    $5.99       .25 per oz.
Iams Dog Food
  • Sam’s Club     (44lbs.)     $36.28     .82 per lb.
  • Costco                (48 lbs.)   $35.19      .73 per lb.
  • Kroger               (17.5 lbs.) $21.99     $1.25 per lb.
Generic Dog Food
  • Sam’s Club   (50 lbs.)        $17.43     .35 per lb. 
  • Costco              (40 lbs.)        $21.99     .55 per lb. 
  • Kroger             (34 lbs.)        $11.49      .34 per lb. 
Dove Body Wash
  • Sam’s Club    (48 oz.)      $10.58       .220 per oz.
  • Costco              (48 oz.)      $10.79         .224 per oz.
  • Kroger             (24 oz.)       $7.09           .295 per oz.
Pantene Shampoo
  • Sam’s Club    (40 oz.)    $7.88     .197 per oz.
  • Costco               (40 oz.)   $7.78       .195 per oz.
  • Kroger              (25.4 oz.) $5.99    .24 per oz.
Woman’s One-A-Day Vitamins
  • Sam’s Club    (250 count)   $14.97      .0598 per vitamin
  • Costco               (250 count)   $14.99      .0599 per vitamin
  • Kroger              (200 count)  $15.79       .08 per vitamin
Tylenol Extra Strength
  • Sam’s Club     (325 Caplets)    $13.88    .0427 per pill
  • Costco                (325 Caplets)    $13.85     .0426 per pill
  • Kroger               (100 Caplets)    $8.69       .08 per pill
Nature Valley Granola Bars
  • Sam’s Club       (30 bars) $8.28      .28 per bar
  • Costco                  (48 bars) $11.89     .25 per bar
  • Kroger                 (6 bars)    $3.19        .53 per bar
Heinz Ketchup
  • Sam’s Club       (132 oz.)    $6.52       .0493 per oz. 
  • Costco                 (132 oz)      $6.49       .0491 per oz. 
  • Kroger                (36 oz.)       $2.09      .06 per oz.    
Opti-Free Replenish Contact Lens Solution
  • Sam’s Club     (28 oz)      $17.84          .6371 per oz.
  • Costco                (28 oz)     $18.29         .6532 per oz.
  • Kroger               (10 oz)     $10.29         $1.02 per oz.
Ester-C Caplets
  • Sam’s Club        (300 count)       $14.74        .0491 each
  • Costco                   (300 count)      $14.79        .0493 each
  • Kroger                  (180 count)       $19.49       .11 each
Gillette Fusion Manual Cartridges
  • Sam’s Club     (16 count)     $39.78      $2.486 each
  • Costco                (16 count)     $39.84     $2.49 each
  • Kroger               (4  count)      $13.59      $3.40 each
Kraft American Singles
  • Sam’s Club    (72 count)   $7.88   .1094 per slice
  • Costco               (96 count)  $10.94  .1092 per slice
  • Kroger              (24 count)   $4.79     .20 per slice
Velveeta Shells & Cheese
  • Sam’s Club      $1.47 each
  • Costco                 $1.33 each
  • Kroger                $1.79 each
Miller Lite 12 oz. Bottles
  • Sam’s Club     .7454 per bottle
  • Costco               .7495 per bottle
  • Kroger              .7495 oer bottle
Dole Fruit Bowls
  • Sam’s Club    (16 Count)  $6.74     .42 each
  • Costco               (20 count)  $7.99    .40 each
  • Kroger              (4 count)     $1.92    .48 each
Ziploc Sandwich Bags
  • Sam’s Club   (125 count)   $7.93     .063 per bag
  • Costco              (125 count)  $7.23      .057 per bag
  • Kroger             (50 count)    $2.19      .043 per bag
Swiffer Dry Refills
  • Sam’s Club   (64 count)    $12.72    .1987 each
  • Costco              (64  count)   $12.79     .1998 each
  • Kroger             (32 count)    $8.49      .26 each
Electrasol Powerball Dishwasher Tabs
  • Sam’s Club      (90 tabs)   $13.78     .15 each
  • Costco                 (100 tabs)  $11.85    .118 each
  • Kroger                (20 tabs)    $5.29       .26 each 
Coca-Cola
  • Sam’s Club    .25 per can
  • Costco               .31 per can
  • Kroger              .27 per can  

AG Says Don McGill Tricked Customers into Leases
March 25, 2009

Today Don McGill of Katy and Don McGill of West Houston agreed to pay $78,000. to customers for restitution plus another $20,000 to cover the cost of the Attorney General’s Investigation.

Read the full agreement.

The AG summed it up in this news release he sent out today:

According to complaints received by the Office of the Attorney General, certain customers believed they were entering into vehicle purchase agreements. However, customers indicated they were actually signing three-year lease agreements. The situation drew complaints because the customers wanted to own their vehicles outright, and the lease agreements were more expensive than an ordinary vehicle purchase. Among other relief in this settlement, the defendant agreed to implement a restitution fund of more than $78,000 for consumers harmed by this financial scheme.

After reviewing the complaints, the Office of the Attorney General investigated the allegations. That investigation revealed that some McGill sales personnel folded sales contracts in a manner that obscured the customers’ ability to view the entire document. Salespersons told customers that they would receive lower interest rates if their sales contract was prepared on a lease-type document. As a result, though customers were reassured their contract was a purchase, it was actually a lease. Investigators learned that salespeople targeted customers who didn’t speak and read English well.

 

In other cases, some customers complained that they were misled about key financial details involving the transaction. Certain lease customers were told that the term “residual value,” which appeared on the contract, meant the amount customers would receive if they sold the vehicle back to Don McGi ll after three years. However, “residual value” is actually the balloon amount customers have to pay to purchase their vehicles after the lease expired.

 

Finally, customers complained that the defendant added expensive options to vehicles, even if those options were not authorized by purchasers. For example, a “LoJack” vehicle security system was routinely included in the purchase or lease price – even if customers did not agree to purchase the security system. In some cases, salespersons assured buyers that the LoJack system would be included at no additional cost, however customers were nonetheless charged up to $2,000 for this system. The cost to the dealership for the system was less than $400.

I have to admit I’m surprised because I don’t receive all that many calls about Don McGill. I’m glad our AG is investigating these types of complaints.

I Had to Call
March 23, 2009

I was stopped at a red light at the corner of I-10 and Durham last week when I looked up and saw this sign.

img_0433

Who’s hiring and for what? I had to know, so I dialed the number while at the red light.

Turns out the “charity” behind a Local 2 Investigation needs some help collecting more cash.  Watch our investigation. Then call the number yourself.