A new credit card rule going into effect Sunday, January 27, 2013, could cost you more when shopping with a credit card at some stores.
Visa and Mastercard have agreed to let merchants add a service charge equal to the cost of processing a credit transaction to the bottom line.
The cost of processing is usually 1.5 to 3%, and merchants are capped at a 4% fee under the agreement.
The rule change was made as part of settling an antitrust suit brought by retailers.
Merchants will still not be allowed to add a surcharge to debit card transactions.
However, few stores seem interested in raising their customer’s costs.
“We have discussed the settlement with many, many merchants, and not a single merchant we have spoken to plans to surcharge,” said Craig Sherman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, which was not involved in the lawsuit.
Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Home Depot all told NBC News that they had no plans to add a credit card surcharge.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas all ban credit card surcharges.
Both Visa and MasterCard have rules requiring retailers to handle credit cards the same way in every store regardless of location, so if a chain has a store in a state where surcharges are banned then none of its locations would be allowed to have a surcharge.
Under the settlement terms, a merchant adding surcharges on Visa or MasterCard would have to do the same with American Express cards, but that company prohibits surcharge fees.
“The bottom line is that very few retailers would be able to surcharge under the settlement, and that the vast majority don’t want to surcharge even if they could,” Craig Sherman said.
“In the brick-and-mortar world, no one who does any sort of volume business is going to want to surcharge because it will drive their customer crazy and slow down transactions,” agreed Ed Mierzwinski, Director of Consumer Programs at U.S. PIRG.
With the exception of small retailers, credit surcharges are not a major issue for most businesses.
A new credit card rule going into effect Sunday, January 27, 2013, could cost you more when shopping with a credit card at some stores
Still, over time they could become popular as a way for stores to make extra money.
That’s because stores already factor in the cost of processing a credit care when they price their merchandise. Unless they dropped their prices, second charge would be double-dipping at the loss of the consumer.
“We shouldn’t have gotten to the point, but unfortunately because of the court settlement we have,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.
“There’s no one standing up for consumers and saying that this is really bad.”
He notes that in Australia, where surcharging originated in 2003, extra charges have boomed to the point where one-third of retailers charge extra to use a credit card.
Advocacy group Consumer Action warns shoppers to watch their receipts and argue any fees that don’t belong.
“Customers shouldn’t stand for it,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities.
“Our advice is to tell them you don’t like the fee and this makes you want to take your business elsewhere.”
If a retailer plans to add a surcharge they are require to post a notification at the store’s entrance.
The exact surcharge per cent needn’t be disclosed until the sale.
Online stores with a surcharge will not be required to have a notice until shoppers reach the page where credit cards are first mentioned, which is most often the final step of checkout.
“We’re not convinced this is going to be an issue,” Ruth Susswein said.
“They may never do it, but as individual consumers we need to be aware.”
A new survey has found that more customers are opting to shop from the comfort of their homes this Thanksgiving weekend, forgoing the chaos of Black Friday for the ease of Cyber Monday deals.
But web shoppers beware: For the first time, residents in California, Texas and Pennsylvania will be automatically charged state sales tax at the checkout on Amazon and other online stores.
And next year, they will be joined by shoppers in Virginia and New Jersey, and by January 2014, those in Nevada, Indiana and Tennessee.
What comes as bad news for shoppers comes as good news for Amazon’s competitors, who have expressed their relief at finally “leveling the playing field” with the e-commerce giant, which earned a staggering $17.45 billion in the holiday quarter last year.
Other stores have claimed that Amazon’s success is partly due to the fact it can undercut them by avoiding sales tax, which is as high as 9% in some states.
The changes are coming into play after individual states have passed legislation on online sales tax after Congress has failed to pass a national law. Chains including Wal-Mart and Target have been lobbying the bills, Politico reported.
“Now for a sizeable chunk of the U.S. population, Amazon is playing by the same rules as the rest of the retailers,” Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, told the site.
“There are going to be fewer people who shop online solely for the sales tax benefit.”
But Amazon maintains that it expects this holiday season to be its most successful yet.
“As analysts have noted, we offer customers the best prices with or without sales tax,” said Scott Stanzel, an Amazon spokesman.
“We collect sales tax or its equivalent in more than half of the areas where we do business and we are pleased to say we are thriving in those geographies because Amazon offers low prices, vast selection and fast delivery.”
Residents in California, Texas and Pennsylvania will be automatically charged state sales tax at the checkout on Amazon and other online stores
Yet some retailers said they are already noticing a difference in states were Amazon is collecting sales tax.
Best Buy has seen a four to six per cent increase in sales in California, Texas and Pennsylvania compared to the rest of the chain, Amy Von Walter, a spokesperson at Best Buy, told Politico.
“These are encouraging data points,” she said.
“It lends itself to the idea that a level playing field is good for business.”
Online sales during Cyber Monday last year reached $1.25 billion, up 22% from the previous year, according to ComScore. This year, the data firm expects $1.5 billion in sales that day.
Despite changes to sales tax, research has shown that more people are shunning the mania of Black Friday to shop from their homes on Cyber Monday.
A survey by shopping comparison site PriceGrabber.com revealed that almost half of all Thanksgiving weekend shoppers will shop online on Monday – and more than half of these said they would shop more online than at shops on Black Friday.
Of the 5,000 people surveyed, 41% of people said they would shop on Cyber Monday – up from the 37% in 2011, and 33% in 2010, Fox News reported.
Eighty-four per cent of Cyber Monday shoppers said they wanted to take advantage of one-day deals, discounts and free-shipping offers.
A third of shoppers said they would be shopping on Monday after scouting for deals over the weekend.
But although the interest in online shopping is growing, the total sales will still not come close to those in shops on Black Friday. Stores are expected to take as much as $11.4 billion.
Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, was created in 2005 as an online alternative to Black Friday.
This year, as Black Friday begins earlier than ever – with retail giants nudging their opening times into Thanksgiving – e-commerce departments are doing the same.
Walmart emailed customers this week to reveal that its Cyber Monday sale will start this Saturday and last until Sunday, December 2, 2012 for deals on toys, electronics and video games.
Target, Best Buy and Amazon also announced they would have tech deals starting on Black Friday.
Amazon is also offering special Sunday deals – so that bargain hunters don’t have to click from their work computers come Monday – on golf equipment, clothing, lamps, books, clothes and cameras.
The name of the Christmas shopping game for the next 11 days is pre-Black Friday.
No longer just a term to describe the days when consumers are waiting for Black Friday, pre-Black Friday has its own official space on the 2012 retail sales calendar, and the biggest U.S. retailers like Amazon (AMZN), Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), Kmart (SHLD), and Aeropostale (ARO) are trying out some promotional moves in an effort to define the pre-Black Friday dance for the entire industry.
Retailers seem to have collectively come to the unspoken agreement that there’s really no fiscal logic behind waiting until the day after Thanksgiving before offering Christmas holiday shopping deals. So each year retailers dangle Christmas deals in front of online and in-store shoppers at earlier and earlier dates, to see just how soon Christmas shoppers are willing to put on their shopping shoes and join in the pre-Black Friday dance.
So, what hot deals and creative promotions do retailers have to offer to 2012 Pre-Black Friday shoppers who are willing to accept the new Pre-Black Friday shopping schedule? As is true for everything retail this time of year, the Pre-Black Friday promotions are announced often, and change quickly. But here’s some of the latest news from two of the biggest pre-Black Friday players, Amazon and Wal-Mart.
Free from any kind of brick-and-mortar history, Amazon was a notable first to disregard the Black Friday tradition, and because of that, Amazon is the retailer to beat for 2012 Pre-Black Friday sales. Amazon knows this, and is employing aggressive marketing innovations to maintain its Christmas sales lead. The mega Internet shopping site isn’t just sticking its toes into the pre-Black Friday sales pool. Amazon is jumping straight into the deep end of discounts right away.
Amazon Pre-Black Friday Deals
Amazon’s Pre-Black Friday deals so far include:
77% Off Kingston 16 GB Class 4 MicroSDHC Flash Card
60% Off SanDisk Extreme SSD 120 GB SATA 6.0 Gb-s2.5-Inch Drive
Up to 70% Off Men’s Watches
60% Off Fishing Rods & Reels
Up to 60% Off Diamond Rings
Up to 60% Off Android Apps
Percentage-wise, there are very few retailers that are even coming close to Amazon’s pre-Black Friday Black Friday Deals Week.
Amazon is also using every technology and social media outlet available to communicate with and offer Christmas holiday shopping season deals to its virtual customers. That’s part of the mastery of Amazon – being able to build strong relationships with virtually no person-to-person interactions.
2012 Black Friday sales will have Wal-Mart throwing open their doors earlier than ever before.
Opening at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year, the world’s largest retailer says they hope to relieve shoppers’ anxiety while also guaranteeing three of their most popular items for a special one hour.
If lined up inside the store between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, those three items guaranteed are: an Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $74 Wal-Mart gift card; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148, down from the original $228; and an LG Blu-ray Disc player for $38, about half off the original price.
If those inside during that one-hour window find the product sold out, Wal-Mart will offer a guarantee card for the item.
The item must be paid for by midnight and registered online. The product will then be shipped to the store where it was purchased for the customer to pick up before December 25.
“We know it’s frustrating for customers to shop on Black Friday and not get the items they want,” said Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Wal-Mart’s U.S. division.
To satisfy customers’ demands for coveted items, Wal-Mart “bought very deep” on products that matter to its customers, he said.
Duncan MacNaughton declined to offer details but he told reporters on Wednesday the discounter is offering sharper discounts and broader, deeper assortments for the kickoff and the rest of the season compared to years past. For example, Wal-Mart doubled the number of tablet computers it’s bringing in for the winter holidays.
2012 Black Friday sales will have Wal-Mart throwing open their doors earlier than ever before
The stepped-up strategy comes as Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is counting on keeping its momentum going at its U.S. business, which started roaring back late last year after struggling during a more than two-year slump.
It’s critical for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for as much as 40% of a retailer’s annual sales.
Wal-Mart’s strategy raises the competitive stakes for the start of the holiday season.
American retailers have increasingly expanded their hours on Black Friday to get ahead of the competition, but now the kickoff is creeping earlier into Thanksgiving Day.
Starting with the 8:00 p.m. sale on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart will have two more rounds of sales that will also include a consumer electronics sale two hours later and a sale at 5:00 a.m. on Friday.
Last year, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and Kohl’s were closed on Thanksgiving and kicked off Black Friday sales at the stroke of midnight, their earliest starts ever. Best Buy Co Inc, Macy’s and Kohl’s all plan to open at midnight again, while Target has not given its plans yet.
Sears Holdings Corp’s (SHLD.O) Sears and Kmart stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, Sears kept its discount chain Kmart open on Thanksgiving but the Sears chain was closed.
This year, Sears stores will open at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and stay open overnight until 10:00 p.m. on Black Friday. Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving for the last 21 years.
In 2011, Wal-Mart began with deals on toys, home items and clothing at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, followed by electronics deals at midnight and other offers at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, November 25.
Most Wal-Mart stores will be open on Thanksgiving, unless they are required to close by local or state law.
Wal-Mart has faced protests in various U.S. cities lately and some workers have planned to walk off the job on Black Friday. Such actions are being sponsored by groups including a contingent of workers called OUR Wal-Mart that receives union support.
Holly Averyt, a truck driver who slipped and fell on ice and grease while making a delivery to a Wal-Mart store in northern Colorado can collect a nearly $10 million award after the state Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict in the case on Monday.
Holly Averyt, 41, from Cheyenne, Wyoming, had to undergo three spine surgeries and was unable to return to work and lost her truck.
The woman lawyers presented city documents during the original trial that showed some grease from the Wal-Mart store’s deli didn’t get trapped in a device designed to keep it from getting into the sewer.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., told jurors there had been no grease spill at the store in Greeley.
Holly Averyt with her attorneys
A jury awarded $15 million to Holly Averyt in November 2010: $5.5 million for non-economic losses, $4.5 million for economic losses and $5 million for physical impairment.
Wal-Mart appealed and a lower court granted the company a new trial, saying the award was “excessive, not supported by the evidence and could only be the result of prejudice and bias and the jury’s desire to punish Wal-Mart.”
Wal-Mart had also said in its appeal that Holly Averyt’s attorneys failed to disclose the city documents.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday threw out the order for a new trial, saying Holly Averyt’s attorneys had no requirement to disclose a document that could be easily found in public records.
The court also said any prejudice the jury may have harbored toward Wal-Mart was due to its initial refusal to produce evidence or admit the existence of the grease spill.
Justices reduced the award amount by about $5 million because of a state cap on non-economic damages.
Holly Averyt attorney Bob Miller said “justice was done” with Monday’s ruling.
Attorneys for Wal-Mart and a company spokesman didn’t return a call and email seeking comment.