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Produce is placed on Whole Foods paper bag in Andover, Mass. (Elise Amendola/AP/File)

Whole Foods experiments with flash sales, deep discounts

By Summar GhiasContributor / 09.07.13

Whole Foods generally takes the (gluten-free and locally sourced) cake for pricey organics, but according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the upscale grocer is reforming its ways to appeal to more than just the average wealthy foodie. In fact, the brand has begun to employ common discounting methods such as flash sales and "buy one, get one" deals to draw in customers.

Whole Foods may undoubtedly still be a leader in the organic food movement, but the chain now faces stiffer competition from discount grocers like Kroger, which have begun to carry high-end goods at reasonable prices. Coupled with an unwieldy recession, the once exclusive produce and grocery market is seeing the benefit of discounting products in a universally budget conscious environment.

Flash Sales & Social Media Bring Discounts to Organic Food

As a result of the current economic climate, organic shoppers can now snag deals via the Whole Foods Twitter and Facebook accounts, which regularly post about sales. These social announcements include discounts on everything from Organic Valley 12-packs of milk to whole roasted chicken, as well as time-sensitive promotions, like a 5-hour buy one, get one free deal on ice cream. According to the WSJ, the brand is increasing its volume of one-day sales on items to a total of 17 this year, up from 14. But that's not all: the chain is also stocking up on "lower brow" items like frozen meatballs and vacuum-packed fish fillets. ( Continue… )

A woman (L) sits on a mattress, next to her daughter, at a mattress store in Sao Paulo, Brazil in February. Memory foam mattresses have good warranties and a high level of customer satisfaction, but that comes at a hefty cost. (Nacho Doce/Reuters/File)

Should you spring for a memory foam mattress? Pros and cons.

By Tom BarlowContributor / 09.05.13

There is nothing quite like a good night's rest. Unfortunately this level of beauty sleep often comes with a price. Although Tempur-Pedic mattresses have a reputation for being among the priciest solutions to a good night's sleep, over 7 million people have made that choice and are resting easy, content with their memory foam beds. But before you consider this expense, here's the lowdown on Tempur-Pedic reviews, materials, prices, and user satisfaction.

Know Your Memory Foam Mattress

Unlike conventional innerspring mattresses, Tempur-Pedic mattresses are made of memory foam. This foam is derived from visco-elastic polyurethane that promises to provide support to sleepers' heads, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet while keeping spines in proper alignment. Resting in a comfortable position all night long promotes sound sleep, and ensures that people wake rested and without aches and pain.

However, it's hard to draw precise price comparisons between Tempur-Pedics and other mattresses on the market. For one, innerspring mattress vendors make different mattresses for different stores, so it's hard to choose just one to compare. Secondly, not all memory foam is the same. Some manufacturers measure mattresses by indentation load deflection units (ILD): the higher the number, the denser the foam. Tempur-Pedic products usually clock in at 14-15 ILD. The Signature Sleep Memoir 8" Memory Foam Mattress in Full ($199 with free shipping, a low by $100) has a 9 ILD.

Unfortunately, this density measurement isn't usually noted in advertising. Tempur-Pedic competitors such as the Novaform Serafina Gel Queen Memory Foam Mattress ($979.49 with free shipping, a low by $1) may not be dense enough to provide proper support, especially for the above-average sized American. However, more dense memory foam does not necessarily result in greater customer satisfaction: around 80% of memory foam bed users are satisfied with their product, whether sleeping on a high-end mattress like Tempur-Pedic or a cheaper knockoff. ( Continue… )

iPhone 5 models are pictured on display at an Apple Store in Pasadena, Calif. in July. Cheaper iPhone options are on the way for September, with a new model announcement expectecd and rumors flying that Apple is planning to release a "budget iPhone" as well. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/File)

The best and worst things to buy in September

By Lindsay Sakraida and Lou CarlozoContributor / 09.01.13

September is an odd month for shopping, since summer has officially come to a close, and we're inching ever closer to Black Friday. But September has its own deal virtues, including Labor Day sales! So, we've mined the extensive dealnews archives of sales, coupons, and individual products from the past few summers to find out what are the best and worst things to buy in September.

Patio Furniture Deals Are Sitting Pretty

As we mentioned in our Labor Day weekend sales guide, it's finally a great month to buy patio furniture. September will see an increase in the sheer number of outdoor furniture sales and deals on seasonal outdoor items. Look for discounts from retailers like Target and Sears, each of which took up to 60% off their stock of outdoor furniture last year. However, Kmart stole the show in 2012 by slashing up to 90% off its collection of outdoor items, including patio chairs and tables. Here's hoping the store offers similar discounts this year.

Get Your Coffee Fix for Free

Are you a devout coffee drinker? Then make sure to mark September 29 on your calendar, as several food chains will offer a free cup o' Joe in honor of National Coffee Day. In years past, Krispy Kreme, Waffle House, 7-11, and Caribou Coffee all offered special promotions to celebrate, and it's possible that other chains and local cafes will do the same this time around, too. ( Continue… )

A Google logo is seen at a Best Buy electronics store in this file photo illustration taken in Encinitas, Calif., in April. In response to Gmail's new layout, many retailers are asking their customers to move their promotional coupons into their primary inboxes. (Mike Blake/Reuters/File)

New Gmail promotions tab means special retailer coupons

By Angela ColleyContributor / 08.31.13

Technology companies are always trying to improve their products and get a leg up on competitors; frequently such competition results in finer, nuanced tools and products for the consumer, as is the case with the latest iteration of Gmail, in which incoming emails are automatically grouped into three tabs: "Primary," "Social," and "Promotions." But while consumers may herald these new default organizational tools, some retailers and marketing gurus are becoming worried, and as a result, attentive shoppers stand to profit.

Gmail's Promotions Tab Causes Retail Marketing Hysteria

The Gmail redesign lets users customize tabs to their liking. But by default, those pesky notification emails from Facebook and Twitter will fall under the "Social" tab, and newsletters and emails from retailers, discount sites, and the like will show up under the "Promotions" tab. If you decide you'd rather get messages from LivingSocial, Kohl's, or Facebook in your primary inbox, you can simply drag an email into the primary tab.

While the new design has rolled out gradually, it's making waves in marketing departments across the country. Companies are worried that being out of sight really will put them out of mind for consumers; they worry that if subscribers don't see those emails in their regular inboxes, customers will stop reading them and stop shopping their sales.

Many companies, from newegg to Kate Spade, are taking the proactive route asking their readers to keep retail emails front and center in primary inboxes, and not hidden away under promotions tabs. And while in theory you could just simply click the promotions tab and browse through a daily blast of sales and coupons, early research conducted by MailChimp indicates that users might not actually do so with the same regularity as before. MailChimp compared around 1.5 billion emails delivered to Gmail addresses in six weeks during the introduction of the new tabs. They found that open rates dropped from 13% to 13.5% to a steady 12.5% after the redesign. A 1% drop may seem like a small percentage, but it is a big deal to advertisers, who will likely alter their mail strategy to fix this differential.

User Optimization: Organization Is Key, Take Advantage of Special Promos

For Gmail users who want to make the most of a prioritized and organized inbox, there are a few different ways to customize your setup. First, if you're not thrilled with certain marketing emails being filtered out, you can drag an example of one to the primary tab, indicating to Gmail that you would prefer emails from that account to appear in the main inbox. Or you can completely do away with any and all tabs and revert to the old layout via the settings menu.

Either way, you will want to keep an eye on the promotional emails you've subscribed to, especially in the near future. Google plans to let users keep deciding how they want to organize their updated inboxes, and recently told marketers that there's nothing they can do about the "black hole" promotions tab. Surely this has made at least a few companies anxious about the fate of their mass emails — and shoppers might stand to benefit from their scrambling. For example, Gap recently sent an email to tabbed Gmail users offering a 30% off coupon for moving Gap messages from under the promotions tab to their primary inbox.

Since the updated version of Gmail is still in its infancy, we will likely see more emails like the one from Gap being delivered. To remain up to date on your retailer subscriptions and daily deals, you'll either have to check the promotions tab regularly or move select stores' emails over to your primary inbox. Of course, you could always re-sort your emails back to the promotions tab after the initial panic phase subsides and deals become less frequent. With the new Gmail, it really is up to you.

Angela Colley is a contributor to Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared. 

Original story: http://dealnews.com/features/New-Gmail-Promotions-Tab-Yields-Special-Retailer-Coupons/839955.html

Aa shopper heads into the American Eagle store in Cherry Creek Mall in east Denver in 2006. American Eagle is offering a 40 percent coupon on its online merchandise through Labor Day weekend. (David Zalubowski/AP/File)

Fall fashion for cheap: the best deals at Target, American Eagle, and more

By Lou CarlozoContributor / 08.29.13

Even though it's becoming pants weather, you know we're never short on deals! As such, this week's best clothing deals feature the latest additions to the summer clearance sale rack — up to 60% off apparel at Target and the best coupon we've seen from American Eagle Outfitters all year — plus an assortment of new fall arrivals priced to sell from the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th and Barneys Warehouse.

Eddie Bauer Women's V-Neck Sweatshirt Sweater 
Store: Eddie Bauer
Price: $14.99 with $7.99 s&h
Lowest By: $35

Is It Worth It?: Get ready for fall with this sweater/sweatshirt hybrid. It's available in seasonally appropriate colors, too: Butterscotch, Dark Charcoal Heather, or Heather Cranberry in sizes XS to M, but not in all size/color combinations. Made from a cotton/nylon blend, this sweater features gentle gathers below the center neckline and ribbed trim at collar and cuffs. 

You'll find this sweater and more in the clearance section of Eddie where select men's, women's, boys', girls' apparel, swimsuits, and gear items are up to 75% off. (Prices are as marked on the product page.) With deals from $4.99, this sale is a little bit better than our mention from two weeks ago. Note that orders over $99 receive free shipping via coupon code "BLUE".  ( Continue… )

Vacationers on the beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in May. Beachfront hotels are available in Myrtle Beach this week for as little as $29 per night. (Bruce Smith/AP/File)

Take a post-summer vacation! The best travel deals to California, Myrtle Beach, and more

By Joshua Nichol-CaddyContributor / 08.24.13

We hear some of you are looking forward to sweater weather and the return of Standard Time. Well, that can wait! This week's best travel deals on the other hand, are time sensitive! There's never been a better time to find endless summer in California, stay in an oceanview room for less than $30 in Myrtle Beach, or get outta town on a road trip for just $17 a day.

United Airlines Roundtrip Flights to California
Vendor: ShermansTravel
Price: From $137.80
Lowest By: $11
Expires: August 31

Is It Worth It?: We know you've been California dreaming for a while now, so why not make it a reality aboard a United Airlines flight for as little as $137 roundtrip? It's the second-lowest base fare we've seen this year. 
Click on "United.com" in the main paragraph to see this sale; all taxes are included. This price is valid on flights departing from Portland, OR, (PDX) to San Francisco, CA, (SFO) on September 18; prices vary depending on the travel cities and dates chosen. Blackout dates may apply. Book this travel deal by August 31 for travel September 1 through October 31. 

Myrtle Beach Resorts Sale
Vendor: VisitMyrtleBeach via Travelzoo
Price: From $29
Lowest By: $12
Expires: August 30

Is It Worth It?: Of course, the Carolina coast is nearly just as warm and picturesque as California's this time of year. For the East Coaster at heart, book yourself a beachfront hotel at the Captain's Quarters or Hotel Blue for as little as $29 per night. You'll be within walking distance to all the boardwalk amenities that this mid-Atlantic seaside town has to offer. 
Additional fees and restrictions may apply.  ( Continue… )

Customers shop at a J.C. Penney store in New York, New York in April 2013. As Labor Day approaches, customers can expect to see retailers advertising sales on everything from summer apparel to high-end goods. (Mark Lennihan/AP/File)

Labor Day sales: Scoping out the best deals

By Louis RamirezContributor / 08.20.13

Summer's last hurrah is almost upon us, but before you fire up the grill for one last cookout, you may want to jump online: September typically begins with a wave of discounts thanks to the culmination of back-to-school, end-of-summer, and Labor Day sales. We analyzed last year's trends along with current summer sales to find out what kind of bargains should you look for this Labor Day weekend.

Back-to-School Deals Come to a Close

Although most students are already in school by September, solid back-to-school bargains can still be found during the first half of the month. Last year, Lenovo, J&R, and newegg each extended their back-to-school sales through the first week of September, inclusive of Labor Day. Lenovo, which took 15% off its ThinkPads, featured laptops starting at $494, which at the time was among the lowest prices we had seen for such systems. However, the longer you wait, the smaller your chances are of scoring a deal. Pickings will be slim, so make sure to act fast if you see something you need.

The Best Summer Apparel Sales

Along with shorter days, September also brings cooler weather, which means stores need to sell off their inventory of summer apparel to make room for fall fashion. For shoppers, that equals serious discounts on summer clothes. Last year during Labor Day weekend, Wet Seal, Macy's, Oakley Vault, and PacSun led the charge with discounts ranging from 30% to a whopping 85% off.

And although you may be tempted by the volume of fall apparel sales out there, September is actually one of the worst times to buy autumn clothes, as you'll pay in-season prices. Instead we recommend using Labor Day weekend to stock up on summer essentials for next year like shorts, polos, and swimwear, and snatching up anything that transitions well into the fall.

  ( Continue… )

The Roku, which streams Internet video to TVs, is displayed in March 2013. In addition to snapping up deals on home furniture and fitness equipment, readers can get a discount on the Roku this week. (Roku/AP/File)

Monday jolt: Deals on electronics, home furniture, and more

By Donna DoyleContributor / 08.19.13

It may be Monday, but we've dragged ourselves out of the early morning drudgery to mine a range of impressive discounts, helping you make it through the day with at least one dapper deal. We've spotted a massive $446 off a Whitehaus Dynastyhau sink, an all-time low on a BaoFeng 2-Way radio, and more in today's list of five Editors' Choice deals that we found overnight and early this morning.

1. Top Gadgets Deal

BaoFeng Dual Band Ham 2-Way Radio
Store: Amazon
Price: $31.79 with free shipping
Lowest By: $9

Do You Need It?: This multifunctional VHF/UHF radio transceiver is a serious piece of equipment, suitable for use in emergencies. It features 128 channels and can operate on a range of frequencies, including amateur radio frequencies (although, an FCC license may need to be obtained to use these). It's dropped $2 since May to an all-time price low and is a worthy bargain for those "just in case" moments.

2. Top Home Deal

Whitehaus Dynastyhaus Drop-In Fireclay Sink
Store: Quality Bath
Price: $99 with free shipping
Lowest By: $446

Do You Need It?: Now, we typically promise to bring you deals on everything but the kitchen sink, but at such an incredible price low this Whitehaus Dynastyhaus model makes the exception. It weighs 90 lbs. and features two basins, giving you enough room to stack the dishes until you're good and ready to get round to doing them. ( Continue… )

Consumer credit cards are posed in North Andover, Mass. A recent report warns consumers about 'gray charges' on their credit card statements. These are fees that cardholders are paying for unwanted products or services. (Elise Amendola/AP/File)

Beware of 'gray charges' on your credit cards

By Bill HardekopfContributor / 08.18.13

Look closely at your monthly credit card statement. There may be a few surprises – small, "gray charges" that can add up quickly.

These are fees that companies put on your credit card bill without clearly notifying you about what they are. These small charges are a hassle to deal with and easy to brush off, which is what the company wants you to do.

In 2012, there were an estimated 233 million gray charges, which cost consumers more than $14.3 billion, according to a recent study from BillGuard and the Aite Research Group. The average gray charge amounted to $61.

One in three cardholders is being charged for an unwanted service or product, according to the report. ( Continue… )

A Best Buy logo is seen at the company's store during Black Friday in San Francisco, November 23, 2012. According to a recent AP article, Best Buy and several other retailers use an outside company to create a "return profile," or a history of customers' returns, in an effort to battle return fraud. (Stephen Lam/Reuters/File)

Point of no returns? Stores are tracking your return merchandise history.

By Josie Rubio / 08.17.13

The government is monitoring your phone calls; social networks and phone service providers are selling your data; and retailers are tracking your movement through stores using the WiFi signals from your smartphone. And now, the latest privacy concern centers around stores tracking returns.

According to a recent Associated Press article, retailers such as Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Home Depot, and Nike collect data from merchandise returns and use an outside company to create a "return profile," or a history of customers' returns, in an effort to battle return fraud.

Tracking Customer Returns with a Return Profile

If you've ever had to provide a photo ID to return merchandise, a company like The Retail Equation is likely tracking you. The Retail Equation has created return profiles for more than 27,000 stores. Your name, address, date of birth, and ID expiration date are kept on file, along with a copy of your original sales receipt.

The company then analyzes the data: frequency of returns, return dollar amounts, purchase history, and whether the merchandise return is accompanied by a receipt. In about 1% of cases, The Retail Equation notifies a store of suspicious activity and possible return fraud; the store can then reject a customer's returns for a period of time. Fortunately, the Retail Equation doesn't share specific customer returns data amongst retailers, so Home Depot doesn't know you've returned sweatpants at Victoria's Secret. In an effort to remain transparent amongst modern day privacy concerns, the Retail Equation offers consumers a copy of their return activity report available by phone or email request. ( Continue… )

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