Consumer advice: Target app proves in-app-ropriate

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In an environment where consumers are constantly under siege by scammers, now we have to deal with legitimate companies potentially trying to scam us. A two-month investigation by KARE-TV in Minneapolis found that Target has been engaging in deceptive behavior.

The Target app, would reportedly show one price to users when they’re away from the store — for instance, at work or home — and then the app would use geolocation to secretly push through price hikes when it sensed the user was in a store.

In some instances, these price hikes were $100 or more, like on a Samsung 55-inch Smart TV or a Dyson vacuum cleaner, the TV station’s report says. An astute shopper tipped off the reporter and during the investigation, the reporter also noticed the drastic price hikes when walking from the parking lot outside a Target to inside the store.

Worse yet, Target didn’t disclose the fact that the app was taking advantage of shoppers this way. When Target management was confronted with the evidence, they stated they updated the app so now it clearly displays the “online” versus “in-store” prices right next to a product. I didn’t see where they apologized for the deception.

Just to be sure, if you’re still concerned about price switching in the Target app, there’s a way to turn off the location services within the app. When you’re in the app, click on your name icon in the bottom right of the screen. Scroll down to “app settings.” Then click “Location” and switch it to “Never.” That way you won’t see anything but online prices on your smartphone, whether or not you’re in a store.

It would be interesting to know if Target would honor the online prices if the customer were standing there at the register ready to pay.

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GOD IS FROWNING: A CDA reader called to warn us of a flyer she received from the Christian Seniors Association, part of the Coalition to Guarantee Social Security. The booklet paints a dire picture claiming that Social Security is going bankrupt and might not be there for seniors.

After doing some research, it seems that this mailer first appeared in mailboxes across southern California and is now making its way eastward. It appears to be nothing more than a clever ploy to seek contributions supporting non-existent legislation.

There’s even a pitch to help President Trump champion new, no-nonsense legislation that would prohibit politicians in Washington from ever reducing the amount of your Social Security check.

The pitch? Answer a handful of survey questions about legislation called the Social Security Guarantee Act and send some money.

The problem? There is no Social Security Guarantee Act. There was legislation by that name introduced in 2016 but it went nowhere. So far there hasn’t been any follow-up legislation, either.

Bottom line: The only thing going on here is the mailer combines Social Security and Christianity to scare seniors with dubious claims and then dupe them into contributing cash for legislation that doesn’t even exist. If you do happen to respond, chances are you’ll become a target to more solicitations. Do yourself a favor: Throw that flyer away and tell anyone else you know who gets one to throw it away, too.

•••

RISK-FREE TRIALS ARE RISKY: The appeal to risk-free trials is they allow us to try products for free, but the next time you’re tempted to sign up for a risk-free trial, know what you’re getting into.

Many of the so-called “celebrity” endorsements are fake. Oftentimes, the celebrity hasn’t given permission or even endorsed the product and the fine print admits this.

The BBB has investigated many complaints and has uncovered that many “free” product samples are largely exaggerated and that the strict conditions are buried deep in the fine print.

For example, watch out for the claims that say you can try a product for a small $1.95 shipping and handling fee. It’s easy to sign up; just enter your name, address and credit card number and hit enter. But here’s the catch: There could be a monthly subscription attached to the offer and it might not be obvious until you get your statement with the true charges.

So here’s the best way to handle “risk-free” trials:

1. Always read the fine print. This tells you how much time you have to review and return the product to avoid being charged.

2. Don’t fall into a subscription trap. If there’s no phone number to contact the company, avoid it. If you can’t get hold of the company, halting the shipments and getting a refund will be challenging.

3. Don’t use a debit card. If you sign up for one of these trials, use a credit card since they offer more consumer protections.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter, columnist and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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