This post was updated on Dec. 8, 2010.
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Consumer Reports has published a warning about some "naughty" retailing policies that could leave you stuck. The list includes the television retailer that won't accept returns, even after they've delivered a faulty set, and an airline that advertises that they'll match their lowest published rate, carefully hiding the caveat (that you might have to pay a $150 change fee to get it).
Some of the naughtiest policies, according to Consumer Reports:
Don't buy a TV at Buy.com. The online retailer has a no-return policy for t.v. sets that are 27 inches or larger. The moment you sign the shipper's release -- which you're likely to do before you've pulled the set out of the box and plugged it in -- any problem with the television is yours and yours alone.
Skip electronics purchases at CompUSA and BestBuy: CompUSA imposes "restocking" fees of up to 25% of the purchase price. And Best Buy's 14-day "grace period" to return computers, monitors, camcorders and digital cameras won't get you through Christmas.
Avoid Macy's Mail-order: While thousands of retailers offer free-shipping, Macy's not only charges for shipping, they charge based on the purchase price of the item, not the cost to ship it, CR says. How bad are the shipping fees? Think $6 for an order under $25; and nearly $24 for orders of $300 or more -- and that's not expedited shipping either. That's for standard delivery.
Fly away fees: The competition for most onerous fees among airlines is stiff, but this holiday's winner has to be United Airlines. Why? To offer customers peace of mind that they won't miss lower fares, the airline instituted a "low-price guarantee." If you find a lower fare on the company's web site for the same itinerary, they'll match it and give you a 20% discount on your next purchase. The catch, if you change the flight to get a cheaper fare, you'll pay a $150 "administrative" fee. Consumer Reports is also critical of Spirit Airline's charge for carry-on (not checked) luggage. Bring a handbag and they'll charge as much as $45.
Drive from Dollar's gas receipt: Another warning for holiday travelers has to do with gasoline charges at Dollar car rental. Where travelers are used to getting nicked with high refueling charges if they bring the car back with less than a full tank, Dollar car rental recently instituted a new policy that requires you to pay "top off" charges if you didn't get a receipt proving that you've filled up the car within 10 miles of the drop off.
The news isn't all bad. Consumer reports says there also are 10 "nice" companies, that offer consumer-friendly policies that make shopping and flying home a breeze. Some of the best from that report? Southwest; L.L. Bean; Costco and Hotels.com. Here's the full listing of both naughty and nice.
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