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A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Retail - All posts in category Retail

  • Nov 8, 2012
    5:04 PM ET

    Moths Got Your Clothes?

    It’s a seasonal tradition many consumers could do without — unpacking winter garb only to discover some has been rendered holey.

    The usual suspects for the damage, the two species of clothes moths that menace innocent garments worldwide. Experts say infestations become more or less common as natural fibers like wool, down and silk — the bugs’ preferred snacks — go in and out of favor with manufacturers of clothing and home furnishings. “As long as we’re using natural fibers, it’ll be a problem,” says Jason Dombroskie, coordinator of the Insect Diagnostic Lab at Cornell University. (Moths are less active in the cold, but if your home is heated, they can wreak havoc year-round.)

  • Oct 16, 2012
    11:39 AM ET

    For Appliances, Does Energy Efficiency Sell?

    A new study suggests that energy-efficient products now dominate sales in some appliance and electronic categories—and lag in others. Whether or not people buy those products may in some cases have less to do with eco-friendliness and utility bill savings than with the products’ secondary perks.

    Energy Star is a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy that identifies the most energy-efficient products on the market. Energy Star products account for close to 100% of the sales of some appliances like dishwashers and televisions, but they command relatively little of the markets for desktop computers and freezers, making up 17% and 21%, respectively, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The report measured market penetration of Energy Star products in 2011.

  • Sep 20, 2012
    4:42 PM ET

    iPhone 5 May Devour Data Plans

    Apple didn’t change the price of its iPhones with the latest upgrade, but analysts say owning one is about to get a lot more expensive.

    The combination of a bigger screen, access to higher-speed LTE networks and the ability to use the FaceTime video chat app on a cellular connection mean the iPhone 5 — which goes on sale Friday — will likely gorge on more data than its predecessors.

  • Sep 18, 2012
    7:00 AM ET

    Many iPhone 5 Buyers Own a Damaged iPhone 4S

    Oscar Wilde said, “Each man kills the thing he loves.” Many iPhone owners can relate.

    Some 30% of iPhone users damaged their devices within the past 12 months, according to a study by gadget insurer Square Trade. The phones get far more scratched, soaked and abused than iPads, only 10% of which were damaged during the same time period, based on data from 2,000 customers. Perhaps part of the reason some 2 million new iPhone 5s were preordered in the first 24 hours is that many customers didn’t have a choice: Their older models needed replacing.

  • Aug 28, 2012
    6:43 PM ET

    Google Turns Its Home Page Into a Billboard

    Just days after Apple’s patent victory over Samsung, the tablet marketing wars are heating up. is advertising its two-month-old $199 Nexus 7 tablet. But Google has one marketing weapon its competitors can’t match: A homepage that gets a virtually guaranteed hundreds of millions of views a day.

    Click on Google’s search page on  Wednesday the Nexus 7 pops up from the bottom of the page with the slogan: “The playground is open. The new $199 tablet from Google.” So why now? “This is a great time for Google to promote this tablet,” says branding consultant Rob Frankel. Given the uncertainty about how Apple’s victory will impact Android manufacturers, he says now is the time to aggressively push those devices. (Google says that most of Apple’s patent claims don’t relate to its core Android operating system.)

  • Aug 28, 2012
    3:28 PM ET

    5 Computer-Generated Sales Pitches

    These days, bending the truth in advertising goes well beyond the usual light airbrushing and color enhancement.

    To save on costs — and perhaps assembly time — Swedish retailing giant Ikea created computer-generated images of its furniture for the new catalog, rather than hiring a photographer. By next year, a quarter of the scenes depicted in Ikea’s print and online advertising will be digitally drawn rather than photographed, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.  In fact, Ikea says it is able to better depict its products with computer images than actual photography.

  • Aug 23, 2012
    4:29 PM ET

    Who Inherits Your iTunes Library?

    Many of us will accumulate vast libraries of digital books and music over the course of our lifetimes, but when we die, our collections of words and music may expire with us.

    Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated. And one’s heirs stand to lose huge sums of money. “I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be okay with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife.” “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”

  • Aug 17, 2012
    2:22 PM ET

    Baby Beware: 4 Child-Product Problems to Cry Over

    If parents have a superpower, it’s the ability to see disaster for their children at every turn, to envision every situation’s worst-case scenario. But even the most anxious moms and dads never suspect the strollers, car seats and cribs they buy could pose a danger. That is what makes recalls of baby products like the Bumbo Seat so unnerving.

  • Aug 10, 2012
    9:04 AM ET

    5 Oddball Olympian Promotions

    The Summer Games may be coming to a close, but not without one final opportunity to cash in on Olympic fever.

    No, we’re not talking about eBay sellers auctioning off a genuine $41,000 Olympic torch. Or online vendors offering Olympic souvenirs ranging from T-shirts to Team USA wineglasses. Instead, we’re talking businesses tying that noble Olympian ideal to anything they happen to be hawking, whether it’s a bottle of tequila or a specialty ladies’ undergarment. After all, is there any game greater than good ol’ capitalism?

  • Aug 9, 2012
    5:25 PM ET

    5 Best Olympic Marketing Coups

    The battle for publicity between the companies that paid to sponsor the 2012 London Games and those that saved their gold is not, itself, an Olympic sport. But experts say it’s just as competitive.

    Brands have spent more on these Games than on any previous Olympics. The 11 worldwide sponsors — including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Visa — have paid $957 million for marketing rights over the past four years, which includes their support of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. That’s up 10% over the $866 million spent by the worldwide sponsors on the Beijing and Turin Games. Still, there’s nothing to stop competing brands from piggybacking on to the Olympics to promote themselves. “These sponsors face a big challenge to protect their $100 million investments from the campaigns of outsiders,” says Jennifer P. Brown, spokeswoman for social media marketing company Izea.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.