SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
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

  • Aug 9, 2012
    12:14 PM ET

    ‘Cutting the Cord’: Readers Respond

    On Wednesday, Pay Dirt responded to a report in The Wall Street Journal about the growing number of Americans who are ditching their paid TV subscriptions in favor of streaming and other less-expensive options — a practice known as “cutting the cord.” We offered a checklist of things to consider before making the switch, and asked our Twitter followers if they would cut their cable cord.

  • Aug 7, 2012
    6:12 PM ET

    Chick-fil-A’s Gay Marriage Stance: Good Branding?

    Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of heat in recent weeks for its opposition to gay marriage. But when the current controversy finally cools, experts say, the brand may do better than ever.

    The fast-food chain’s president and COO, Dan Cathy, made several public comments in recent weeks reiterating his opposition to same-sex marriage—those who support it, he said in one interview, were “inviting God’s judgment.” Since then, the Jim Henson Co. and Chick-fil-A ended a licensing agreement for a children’s “puppet meal.” The company’s contributions to groups that oppose gay marriage have gotten more public exposure, and political backlash has followed. The public is weighing in too, of course. On Wednesday, a group of activists is organizing a “National Marriage Equality Day” at Starbucks, a company that supports gay marriage. And last week, thousands of people stood in line for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” an event kick-started by Mike Huckabee, the radio and TV host and former Republican presidential candidate.

  • Aug 2, 2012
    4:58 PM ET

    Is Kindle Fire Burning the iPad?

    The iPad hasn’t gotten any smaller since it was launched two years ago, but new research suggests its market share may be shrinking.

    Half of all tablet owners in the United States own Apple’s tablet, a drop from 72% this time last year, according to a new report by Frank N. Magid Associates, a marketing research firm in New York. What’s behind the dramatic drop? The proliferation of cheaper tablets, including the $199 Kindle Fire, says Tom Godfrey, the firm’s director of mobile strategy who interviewed 4,700 people for the survey. He estimates that the Fire, launched last year, already accounts for 22% of the tablet market. (Apple declined to comment, and Amazon did respond to requests for comment).

  • Aug 2, 2012
    12:37 PM ET

    Light Your Own Olympic Torch — Just $41,000

    The Pitch:

    If you’re an Olympic fanatic, why not carry the torch for the games – literally? Yes, genuine Olympic torches, including the same ones carried in the weeks and days leading up to the London summer showcase, have found their way on to the memorabilia market. And they’re going for some very gold-medal-worthy prices on eBay. An Australian dealer is hawking a torch for $41,000, touting the “chance to own an OFFICIAL piece of Olympic history” and describing the cone-shaped collectible as a “magnificent piece” that’s  “beautifully engineered.” Another seller prices a torch at a more “modest” $4,900, but concedes it lacks “the burner system inside” (loose translation: good luck lighting the thing). Still, the seller says it could be a “fantastic” piece “for your sporting memorabilia collection.”

  • Aug 1, 2012
    11:04 AM ET

    Toughest Olympic Event: Turning a Profit

    During this Summer Games, a gifted few will run short bursts at over 25 miles per hour, lift triple their body weight overhead or jump nearly eight feet into the air. But no one will ever be talented enough to calculate a precise financial return on London’s Olympic investment.

    If someone could do the math, evidence suggests the return would almost surely be negative. That’s OK. Weddings have negative financial returns, too. People still like them.

  • Jul 20, 2012
    5:25 PM ET

    Religion, Like Sex, Sells on E-Books

    E-books appear to be doing for religious books what they did for erotica.

    After years of choppy sales, publishers of religious books posted revenue growth of 7% last year, to $1.45 billion — driven largely by sales of e-books, according to new data from the American Association of Publishers. A separate study found e-books accounted for nearly one-third of all Christian fiction sold in 2011. That marks a six-fold increase from the previous year, and puts it well above the level of all other publishing genres, according to Bowker Market Research. (The closest competitor was “general fiction,” with 17% of sales from e-books.)

  • Jul 11, 2012
    5:08 PM ET

    5 Store-Brand Items to Avoid

    Though grocery shopping experts have long touted buying store brands as a great savings strategy, consumers are finally paying attention. Maybe too much attention.

    Nearly 40% of shoppers purchased more store-brand items over the past year, according to a new survey from research firm Accenture. Two-thirds of shoppers say half of what they buy carries a store-brand label. The main reason: the prices beat those of the big brand names. In most cases, consumers aren’t sacrificing taste, either, because the same big brand producing say, canned veggies, is also responsible for packaging the store’s line. “Quality has really gone up,” says Jill Cataldo, founder of Super Couponing workshops. Stephanie Nelson, the founder of CouponMom.com, agrees. “Some stores actually have several tiers of private labels,” including gourmet and organic products, she says.

  • Jul 10, 2012
    2:35 PM ET

    Would You Pay More to Use Plastic?

    Nearly 95% of WSJ.com readers say they would not make purchases with a credit card if they had to pay a surcharge, according to a recent online poll. But many of them already do — at the gas pump.

    Merchants are pushing for the right to charge extra for credit-card sales to cover the 2% swipe fee issuers charge for every purchase, the Journal reported Monday. Although retailers are prohibited from implementing surcharges under a settlement agreement with Visa and MasterCard, they are allowed to offer a discount for cash purchases — a distinction many experts say is mostly semantics. “One man’s cash discount is another man’s credit-card surcharge,” says consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

  • Jun 24, 2012
    4:18 PM ET

    Why Sex Sells Better on E-Books

    E-books brought erotica out of the bedroom and onto public transportation. But with the wild success of the bondage-themed “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels, experts say readers may now be in for a deluge of dirty words.

    “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which might not even have been published prior to the Amazon Kindle, sold 10 million copies since March. Available initially just in e-book form, the books are helping to bring what was a niche genre to general audiences, publishers say. Back in April, the digital version of the book  was reportedly selling six times faster than the print one, although now it is a bestseller in both forms. One-in-three romantic and erotic books sold last year were e-books, according to the Romance Writers of America.  That’s compared to one in five for books overall, according to the American Association of Publishers. “Our racier content has always sold more in our e-book retail channels than other titles,” says Brian Matthews, a spokesman for e-publisher Lulu. E-books seem to be not only driving sales of erotic works, they are helping them go mainstream, he says.

  • Jun 18, 2012
    4:14 PM ET

    Baby Food for Adults?

    It’s not quite taking candy from a baby, but parents may be tempted by fruit purées once more commonly found in supermarket baby food aisles.

    Buddy Fruits, which sells the fruit in squeezable pouches, typically sell for $1.50 to $2. The company says the products were never intended as a children’s product.

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 quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.