JC Penney Turns Over an Old Leaf

At JC Penney, it’s “so long, Everyday Low Prices” and “welcome back, Big Saturday Sale!”

We last visited this topic back in May 2012 (see The Return of the Saturday Sale.) By that time, it had been decided that JCP’s experiment with ditching sales in favor of their “Fair and Square,” i.e. Everyday Low Prices, wasn’t exactly working out.

In fact, business is down 20%, a loss of $160 million. Of course, JCPenney’s CEO says, no, this is still the right idea. You just haven’t caught on yet. It’s YOUR fault, dummies! (I may have added that last bit.) …Me, MindFieldLive 5/18/12

Apparently, JCP boss Ron Johnson was determined not to panic, so he “let it ride” until they had lost a cool billion dollars.

Now, it’s Back to the Future, and JCPenney has thrown in the towel. That is, they are taking that towel and boosting its price by up to EIGHTY PERCENT…then immediately putting it on sale and slapping a “30% OFF” sticker on it!

A pair of Nike swimming trunks priced at $25, for example, has been raised to $45, according to data reviewed by The Post. A bikini top under the retailer’s Arizona label was hiked to $24 from $15, while an Arizona men’s polo shirt is now $14, up from $9, the data show. New York Post

So, it’s back to the way things once’ta was. The question is, will the customers return? I recall a lot of EMOTION surrounding the death of the Saturday sale… are you happy now? Will you go back to JCP or have you moved on? Let us know, and have a great weekend!

Cheap, Frugal or Both?

Get it?
Get it?

It’s kind of a slow consumer news day, other than the persistent economic gloom. So I thought we would surf the web for money saving ideas! See if any of these make sense for you and your family. Follow the links to savings! or something…

As a counterpoint: 5 Household Items Worth the Splurge

Also, a question: has the downturn “educated” us to the point that we no longer need coupons?Read: Coupon clipping declines as shoppers get savvier

What do you think? Any good tips here? Do you have any to share from your personal experience? Let us know!

Fighting Fitness Myths

Yesterday my new, seemingly 14-year-old doctor said to me in a comforting tone (or so she thought,) “If being in shape were easy, then everybody would be in shape.”

Uh, thanks, Bones. Can we be done now?

Anyway, with news like we highlighted yesterday (“Get healthy or pay more for your employer’s health insurance,”) and with the continuing mystery of what our health care system is going to look like in the coming years…

Like this, I fear...
Like this, I fear…

…people are starting to see “getting in shape” as a sort of hedge against the unknown, instead of a goal in and of itself. Hey, health is health, but using the wrong motivation can lead to mistakes like using ancient, outdated diet advice (you know, more than 3 months old!)

So, the good housekeepers at Good Housekeeping have rounded up some dieting myths for us to ponder…

  1. Carbs bad. CARBS BAAAD!!! Carbs are fuel. While the white grains can be trouble, the browns are less so.
  2. Fresh fruits and veggies are always more nutritious than frozen. Unless you pull them out of the ground yourself, there’s no real difference.
  3. Egg cholesterol BAD! It’s not great, for sure. But you can probably still eat 1 or 2 a week. Or switch to egg whites, and have as much as you want.
  4. Skipping breakfast? Don’t do it, man!!
  5. It’s all in your GENES. Actually, they say that weight is 25% genes, 75% behavior.
  6. Creative combinations. I did this once. Something with cottage cheese and beet juice. You see, the CHEMISTRY of the foods in certain combinations means that your body reacts by burning more… yeah, it was all nonsense.

There’s your top 5. For further explanations, as well as a list of Exercise myths, check out the original article. And have a great weekend!

The Death of the Price Tag?


They say the price tag is dead.

Price tags have become an endangered species in the 21st century American economy. Can you say how much you spent on your cellphone bill last month? Or pay television? I’m sure you can’t say how much you paid in fees on your investments. NBC Redtape Blog

The thing is, you see price tags everywhere. What they really mean, I believe, is that the stated price has no MEANING anymore. Car loans, mortgages, cable TV offers, data plans, etc. Sometimes, spotting the offenders is easy. You see “Just $99 a month!” followed by an asterisk, and 500 words in tiny print. You know something’s up, even if you have no idea what it is.

What sorts of things are lying in wait behind that (*) ? According to Yahoo Finance:

  • Free-to-Paid: Free trials that become paid after a length of time
  • Unknown Subscriptions: Watch for boxes that are already checked, forcing you to UNCHECK to avoid extra charges!
  • Unwanted Auto Renewals: Unless you state otherwise, you will be automatically billed at renewal time.
  • Zombie Subscriptions: You cancel and the charges stop. You stop paying attention, and the charges start again.
  • Cost Creep: “Prices subject to change without notice.” Grr!

So, what’s the real damage?

This (confusion) hurts consumers, but it hurts industry too — with clear pricing, the best companies with the best products and the best value are rewarded over time. Without clear prices, companies that create the most confusion win, and honest companies slowly fade away. NBC Redtape Blog

What do you think? Have you noticed the death of the price tag? Are you confused and distrusting? What’s the answer? Read the original pieces, and let us know!

Kiss Me, I’m Irish


St. Patrick’s Day by the Numbers!

  • Nearly 35 million Americans claim some Irish heritage. That’s seven times the population of Ireland, around 4.58 million.
  • Americans, Irish- and otherwise, will spend around $4.5 billion for various St Patrick’s day food, and festivities, at around $35 per person. Where does it all go?
  • In the all-important food and beverage category, St. Pat’s celebrants will buy 26 billion pounds of corned beef and over 2 billion pounds of cabbage. Then, they will combine those, boil them to death and EAT them!
  • Meanwhile, they will spend $435 million on beer alone, not all of it green.

Other popular expenditures?

  • Irish-Americans will spend $24 million on lime-green dyed potted  mums for Ma and Gran.
  • We will send 7 million St. Patrick’s Day greeting cards, presumably with leprechauns on the front.
  • And we will spend around a billion dollars on trips to Ireland.

Sounds like a blast. The good news is that you don’t have to be Irish, at least according to the stats. While Irish-Americans make up about 11% of the population, fully half of all Americans say that they will be partaking in the St. Pat’s festivities. So tilt a pint of the green stuff, but please do it responsibly! Thanks, and have a great St. Pat’s weekend!

Cool links: Here, here, and a really fun graphic here.

Lose Weight Get Paid!


Or, just the opposite! Sometimes we need a little incentive to change our habits. In this instance, it’s cold hard cash!

Researchers followed 100 Mayo Clinic employees over the course of a year as they took educational classes on how to eat healthy and lose weight. They were broken up into several groups – some of which got financial incentives to shed the pounds and others that just got the classes.  CNN.com

What they found is that the people getting cash incentives lost around 9 pounds on average in the course of the year, vs. the info-only folks who lost 2.

Programs like this are not exactly new. “About 86% of large employers are already offering some kind of financial incentives to help employees reach their health goals,”  (CNN again.)

Here employees who lost received $20. BUT, if they gained, they owed $20. This is effective for two reasons. Reward is nice, but reward and penalty together are even more effective. Second, these types of programs can get really expensive. Losers helped pay the winners in this case, and helped keep the cost of the program lower for the company.

So, what are your thoughts? Have you done this at your  company? Did it work? Read the original piece, and let us know!

Grumpy Consumer Top 10 List!

What’s your favorite scam? Mine has to be the infomercials where, if you call now, they will double your order…. “You just pay separate shipping and handling!” Which suggests to me that THAT’S where they are making their money. I have also heard stories of people whose orders were doubled without their permission – as well as the shipping and handling. The remedy, when the company owns up to it, is to return the product for the full refund…but you still pay the S & H! Grrr.

Anyway, they have just published a list of top consumers scams of 2012. The list is from Missouri, but I bet it’s pretty typical. Take a look, listed in order of obnoxiousness!

  1. NO-CALL COMPLAINTS (39,990 complaints)
  2. DEBT COLLECTORS (1,769)

Interesting that Do Not Calls are by far the biggest complaint, when that is the area the government has been attacking the hardest for years. Again, technology has made it easier to get around the laws.

The article has several tips and tricks and numbers/websites to call to get help. So check it out!

So, again, what’s your favorite scam-ola? Let us know!

Don’t Buy These Foods?

Wow, Google Image Search...that's the best you got?
Wow, Google Image Search…that’s the best you got?

I love lists like these because people take them so personally. “You’re wrong, stupid and ugly!”, etc.  Nevertheless, an article has been published citing the 27 Foods You Should Never Buy Again.

Looking down the list, these no-no foods seem to fall in a few categories:

  • Luxury items, where quality is high, but so is the price, and you could make them yourself for much less.
  • Healthy items, where price can be high, and where a negative element is often replaced by a different negative element with less bad press.
  • Convenience items that you can almost always make yourself for less, and are packed with preservatives.

So, let’s take a look at some highlights…

  • “Blueberry” items: Fad foods, yay! All it takes is for someone to say “Blueberries are BURSTING with anti-oxidants” and, suddenly, blueberries are in everything. Problem is, it’s usually just blueberry flavor with none of the supposed benefits!
  • Reduced fat peanut butter: A recurring theme: they take out a vital ingredient and claim you won’t notice the difference. Here, what they take out is fat. What they add so you won’t notice the difference is sugar.
  • Tomato-based pasta sauces: My favorite on the list. I abandoned the name brand jars of spaghetti sauce long ago in favor of Walmart’s “Italian style (basil, oregano & garlic) diced tomatoes” in the can.
  • Energy drinks: Just stick to coffee. If you nod off in the afternoon and Robert Goulet sneaks into your office and messes with your stuff, well, that’s entertaining, at least.
  • Gluten-free baked goods: Unless you are diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you are participating in another food fad. You are paying higher prices, eating ingredients that are bad in different ways, and getting no benefit.
  • Foods made of WOOD: You’ll have to read this for yourself. Keyword: cellulose.
  • ‘Gourmet’ frozen vegetables: Frozen peas? Cheapest thing you can buy. Frozen peas with 11 herbs and spices and a rich creamy saffron butter sauce? Not so much!
  • Premium frozen fruit bars: Come on! Ice tray, fruit juice, Saran wrap, and tooth picks. DONE!
  • Spice mixes: Dudes fall into this trap most often with grilling or barbecue “rubs.” Wise up, dudes!
  • Trail mix: Been making our own for years using raisins, peanuts and coconut shavings. Wouldn’t call it healthy, but it’s cheap!
  • ‘Snack’ or ‘lunch’ packs: Don’t forget to pack your lunch…full of salt and preservatives!!

And there are 16 more on the list, so check it out, give us your opinion, and have a great weekend!