What drives shoppers crazy

Given the stakes involved, I would encourage retailers to pay attention to a holiday shopping survey recently released by Consumer Reports.

In its latest public-education campaign, the magazine is highlighting holiday retail practices that drive consumers bonkers.

“Shoppers are fed up with pushy retailing practices and it is further magnified during the holiday season,” said Tod Marks, senior projects editor for Consumer Reports. “Consumers are sick and tired of having to be bombarded with questions and offers when all they want to do is pay and leave the register.”

Every compliant listed by Consumer Reports registered with me. And they may be true for you too. Here are some of the annoyances and my solution for how to deal with each one:

Stores that don’t open all the checkout lanes. With unemployment in double digits, why can’t the stores hire enough cashiers to man the registers, at least during the busy times? At any rate, when I’m in a store and this happens, I search for a store manager and complain about the lack of cashiers. About 50 percent of the time, the manager opens up a lane or two. Hopefully, you’re not too far in the back of the line to take advantage of your assertiveness.

Fake sales. This so steams me. Again, be aggressive. If you have proof that an item is selling for its normal retail price when it’s supposed to be on sale, point it out to a manager and negotiate for a price reduction. If you don’t get satisfaction from the store manager, write to the company headquarters and complain about the deception. You should also report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. To file a complaint go to www.ftc.gov or call toll-free,

877-382-4357. Take a look at the FTC’s pricing guidelines at www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/decptprc.htm.

Coupons that exclude almost everything in the store. There is not much you can do about this particularly aggravating practice. However, if you find the exclusions are a regular thing, point it out to the manager before taking your business elsewhere.

Being pestered with an extended warranty sales pitch. “No” is a powerful word. On the occasions I’ve been pitched, I’ve found a firm “no,” along with that look your mama gave you when she wanted to stop you in your tracks, ends the hounding.

Store prices that do not match the same company’s online prices. If you want to take advantage of the online price but avoid shipping fees, many retailers allow in-store pickups for Internet purchases.

Employees up-selling at checkout. Up-selling means they try to get you to buy more stuff. If you go to the store with a list and a vow to stick to it, you can resist this sales tactic. Be strong. Remember your budget.

Pushing a store credit card. On this one you definitely need to be strong. In this economy, the typical 10 percent discount offered when opening an account can be a big temptation. Resist. Applying for the card will trigger an inquiry to a credit bureau, and that in turn lowers your credit score. So it’s important you limit the opening of new credit in order to optimize your all-important credit score. High credit scores often translate into better rates on the money you borrow.

Mail-in rebates. It’s so frustrating to get excited about an item on sale only to realize the discount is tied to a rebate. Since this sales strategy isn’t likely to go away, don’t procrastinate. As soon as you get home from the store, mail in the rebate.

Store personnel checking your receipt as you exit the store. I hate this practice. It just makes you feel like you’re a thief, and so soon after you’ve paid for your goods. Still, I understand the reasons for the practice and why only 26 percent of those polled were bothered by it. The retail industry will lose an estimated $2.7 billion in fraudulent returns this holiday season and an estimated $9.6 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Ninety-three percent of retailers said stolen merchandise has been returned to their stores in the past year, up from 88.9 percent in 2008.

For more holiday shopping advice, go to www.consumerreports.org or visit www.consumerist.com.

I know there are hardworking, often underpaid people staffing retail outlets doing their best to serve with a smile and no attitude.

Nonetheless, we’re spending our hard-earned dollars, and retailers should do what they can to avoid annoying us.

Washington Post Writers Group

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