Tuesday News Chum: Corporations and Profit

Ah, lunchtime. A new year. A new set of news chum. Today’s chum seems to have a consumer-beware theme, a theme that explores how large corporations have their schemes, and why, perhaps, we shouldn’t be so trusting of big business. Just remember, as Alton Brown once said, “Ronald McDonald doesn’t give a damn about you. Neither does that little minx Wendy”:

  • From the “Nudging The Consumer To Make Profit, Part I” Department: The NY Times is reporting how Visa has manipulated card fees to make money. Heaven forfend! Basically, retailers pay a fee to the card issuer everytime the card is used. These fees vary based on the type of card (for example, Discover has low fees, and AmEx has very high fees). This article discusses how Visa charges debit cards a different fee based on whether you just sign (like a credit card), or enter a pin. Signing, which Visa encourages, generates them a higher fee. Surprised?
  • From the “Nudging The Consumer To Make Profit, Part II” Department: In the auto-biz, it’s called upselling: the practice of selling add-ons that are pre-installed so you must pay for them (a great example is the supposed window etching of a VIN or undercoatings). The Consumerist has a nice article on how Best Buy is upselling “optimization” of new PCs. Basically, they attempt to force you into paying for a questionable service that adds little value and you could probably do better yourself. Again, surprised?
  • From the “Nudging The Consumer To Make Profit, Part III” Department: So you go to relax at the movie theater. You want that full experience so you buy that popcorn. You’ve been nudged again. SmartMoney has a nice piece on 10 Things Movie Theaters Won’t Tell You, including all they ways they attempt to make more money, from special events, advertising for captive eyeballs, concessions, and so on.

However, it’s not just corporations that can do you in. Your relatives can also hurt you. Here are two examples:

  • From the “My Mother-In-Law Is So…” Department: Urged to make that joke about your in-laws? Be careful. The Jewish Journal is reporting that some in-laws are fighting back by suing their daughter-in-law, a professional comedian, for making jokes about them.
  • From the “It’s Your Husband’s Fault” Department: St. Louis Today, citing the New York Times, is reporting on a study that women with a mate get heavier. After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions. They blame altered behavior.