The Shopping 'Tips' You Don't Need

11/22/2010 2:12 pm EST

Focus: MARKETS

Terry Savage

Author, The Savage Truth on Money

As the holiday shopping season swings into high gear, everyone’s giving advice. As if you needed it. If you haven’t learned the lesson of self-discipline by this point in the Great Recession, no blog will help. But here are a few tips that might make a difference in your shopping style—or at least make you smile.

I didn’t make these up. As a journalist I’ve been inundated with press releases ranging from idiotic to outrageous, to a few that highlight a new level of online shopping help that comes with a few strings, or cookies, attached.

What’s my pet peeve? Surveys that are beyond obvious. Take these two that landed in my inbox:

Surveys

Headline: Citibank announces its National Consumer Holiday Spending Forecast:
45% of Americans expect to spend less than last year for the holidays while 47% plan to spend about the same.
Duh! I hope they didn’t pay their PR department much for this one. It came with a note that the “news” was embargoed until the following day.

Headline: 2010 Gift Giving Survey: 65 % of respondents said they’d rather receive a Visa Gift card over a “non-essential” holiday gift, such as a holiday scarf, bottle of cologne or gift basket.  
Did I forget to mention that this “survey” was sponsored by Visa! It included another tidbit to remind you that people don’t really want the gifts you’re running around to pick out for them: 28% admitted to re-gifting at least one of their holiday gifts from last year.

Online Shopping Advice

Headline: All-Out Free Shipping War  
Pitch: FreeShipping.org notes that Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and other major retailers are shipping everything FREE Go to this site to download the coupon codes for free shipping from nearly 4,000 merchants.
Comment: Every retailer is trying to send you stuff for free. But they still have to pay Fedex and UPS, so tip: Buy stock in those delivery companies.

Headline: American Express offers Online Shopping Tool to Cardmembers. 
Pitch: AmericanExpress.com offers a free, downloadable tool that offers discounts and coupons. “When cursor is placed over the icon, the offer is revealed and can be easily redeemed when you pay using your American Express card.”
The ultimate in technology. Isn’t it nice that “don’t’ leave home without it” now has been updated to “don’t shop online without it.”

Coupons

Headline: What’s In and What’s Out for Online Couponing
Pitch: “What’s really ‘out’ is “wasting time searching for online coupons, jumping between retail pages and couponing sites, and deciphering valid coupons from bogus ones. DropDownDeals’ coupon browser ap will save ‘time, money, hassle, and headache’ by automatically delivering vetted discounts and deals.”
Downloading the ap meant it would follow me around to all my shopping sites with a popup box to offer discounts. What are they doing with all my shopping info anyway?

The Worst Holiday Shopping Tips

The Kardashian sisters—those icons of sex and shopping—have launched a new pre-paid credit card aimed directly at the teen market. It’s being promoted as a way for parents to monitor their children’s spending, while teaching them money management skills!

Not only are these sisters the very <<worst>> people to be giving shopping advice to the impressionable, the card itself is a horrible deal for everyone—except, of course, for the Kardashian sisters! 

According to Bill Hardekopf of LowCards.com, this is one of the most expensive cards around.  The fee for the first year is $99.95. Then there’s a monthly fee of $7.95. ATM withdrawals cost $1.50 in addition to the ATM fees. Automatic bill pay using the card costs $2 per item. There are more fees to add money to the card. And if you want to close the account it will cost you a $6 exit fee!

Since prepaid cards are not subject to the protections of the CARD act, which protect minors, parents should be especially alert to make sure their children don’t get caught up in this scam.  “Keeping up with the Kardashians” may be a popular TV show, but you don’t want your kids financing Kim’s shopping sprees with their card fees.

Do you have some holiday shopping tips or warnings? Feel free to join the conversation and pass them along.

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