Alpha Consumer

January 2008


Avoid Awkward Coffee Shop Encounters

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Whether you're meeting a blind date or a client, get-togethers at the coffee shop can be awkward. If you arrive first, do you buy yourself coffee, or wait for your guest? If you arrive second, do you stand in line to get coffee while your guest waits for you? Or do you follow the example of Lucy ...

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TAGS:
food and drink

Valentine’s Day: Spend or Save?

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The National Retail Federation reports that the average person will spend almost $123 celebrating Valentine's Day this year. But instead of buying candy or flowers, which will be slightly less popular, consumers will lavish the objects of their affection with nights out and even gift cards.

Have you ...

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TAGS:
holidays
consumers

Quick Tax Refunds Carry High Fees

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Tax season brings with it a variety of headaches, but there is one that can be especially costly for consumers: refund anticipation loans, or RALs.

These loans, typically used by low-income consumers who lack bank accounts, provide filers with quick money, taken out as an advance against their ...

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TAGS:
tax returns
taxes
loans

Resolving Credit Card Disputes

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Dear Alpha Consumer,

I was renting a storage room from a popular company. I set up automatic payments on my credit card to pay for it. After closing my account at the storage place and moving to another state, my card continued to get billed. I realized this about a month later and called to tell ...

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TAGS:
credit cards

Weak Holiday Shopping Adds to Economic Fears

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With the recent reports of weak retail sales, here's an argument for why December may not be as important as you think.

Were holiday sales weak this year?


For the most part, yes. According to TNS Retail Forward, the December same-store sales growth of about 50 retailers weakened to 0.2 percent, down ...

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TAGS:
shopping
sales

Shopping Leads to More Shopping

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If you've ever impulsively bought a muffin to go with your coffee, or surprised yourself by buying a whole new outfit when you meant to get only a shirt, then you will relate to the findings of a new study: Shopping, it turns out, leads to more shopping.

Before you beat yourself up for this kind of ...

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TAGS:
shopping
consumers

Paying for Free Money

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Updated on 1/9/08

My husband received a letter in the mail yesterday with a $300 debit card enclosed. "Congratulations," it read. "You have been pre-selected by NCLI to receive $300.00 at NO COST TO YOU."

It was sent from the marketing department of the National Collegiate Lending Institute. To ...

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TAGS:
student loans
fraud

Premovie Ads Frustrate Viewers

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When I went to see Nicolas Cage in National Treasure: Book of Secrets over the weekend, I found myself stuck in a half-hour of previews and a Disney short before the movie even started, not to mention advertisements for local businesses before the previews began. The 9:30 p.m. showing of the movie ...

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TAGS:
movies
advertising

Credit Card Users Win Cash

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Tens of millions of credit card users received letters in the mail over the past couple of months informing them that they may be eligible for a refund of the currency conversion fees paid during overseas transactions. The settlement was the result of a lawsuit alleging that Visa, MasterCard, and ...

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TAGS:
credit cards