The Checkout

Archive: Marketing

The Cost of Christmas Carols

You think your budget is tight this Christmas. Just think how the poor folks suffered in 1780. That is the year the lyrics to the popular "Twelve Days of Christmas" were written, at least according to Wikipedia. Among the many presents that my poor true love had to dig up were five golden rings, seven lords a-leaping and 12 drummers drumming -- and this was way before Life Took Visa! In today's dollars, the full set of items would cost you $21,080.10, according to an in-depth analysis by PNC Bank this week. That's an 8 percent increase over last year,...

 

By Ylan Mui | December 4, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Vote with Your Coffee Cup

It's official: There is nowhere left to hide. Yes, this is Washington, and yes, the presidential election is only 21 days away. But now you can't even buy a cup of coffee or eat a burrito without becoming embroiled in partisan politics. Convenience store chain 7-Eleven launched its "7-Election" campaign this month. Customers "vote" by choosing which 20-ounce coffee cup they want to use: one with Sen. John McCain's name or one with Sen. Barack Obama's. As of this morning, here were the standings: DC: Obama, 83 percent; McCain, 17 percent MD: Obama, 59 percent; McCain, 41 percent VA: Obama,...

 

By Ylan Mui | October 14, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (2)

Wal-Mart Wants Mommy

Wal-Mart is making a play for the YouTube generation with the help of a dozen "mommy bloggers" tasked with making their own videos on ways to save money and live better, which just happens to be Wal-Mart's motto. The program launched this week and is called Elevenmoms, but of course, being Wal-Mart, they threw in one more to make 12. One of the bloggers, Jessica Smith of JessicaKnows, hails from Olney, Md. Smith said Wal-Mart contacted her early this summer with this offer: Create short videos of money-saving tips to kick off its new YouTube channel. Smith did not receive...

 

By Ylan Mui | September 4, 2008; 07:01 AM ET | Comments (3)

Naked for a Cause

Some companies donate money to their favorite causes. Others put their CEO on the boards of important nonprofits or organize their staff for a volunteer day. Beauty retailer Lush asked their employees to get naked. Oh, we are so there. The premise is that excess packaging is bad for the environment because it uses precious resources and wastes space in delivery trucks, which in turn wastes fuel. Lush bills itself as a "deli-style" beauty bar that sells soaps, shampoos, even deodorant in solid form and unwrapped -- aka naked -- which the company says makes the products more environmentally friendly....

 

By Ylan Mui | August 27, 2008; 04:48 PM ET | Comments (0)

Chatting It Up with Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart held its first online chat with shoppers Thursday on its new Web site, www.makeyourdollarstretch.com. The guest chatter was Ellie Kay, who dug herself out of $40,000 in debt and now writes books about saving money. The chat was the latest example of Wal-Mart's attempts to refresh its image under the new slogan, "Save Money. Live Better." (The old motto was "Always low prices. Always." Just in case you missed it.) For two hours, Kay fielded questions on everything from how to start a budget to paying for college tuition to filing bankruptcy -- though not in such a depressing...

 

By Ylan Mui | June 20, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Retailers Want Your Rebate!

Retailers are feeling very Jerry Maguire these days. All they seem to be saying is "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" That money would be your rebate check, or in government parlance, your "economic stimulus payment." The IRS announced last week that it had begun depositing money in taxpayers' bank accounts and expected to continue the payments through mid-July. The agency has posted a schedule for the rebates on its Web site, along with a calculator to help you figure out how much you're going to get. Retailers, of course, are wasting no time in helping you figure out how to spend...

 

By Ylan Mui | May 5, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

The Saucy Siren of Starbucks

We are on the phone with Starbucks public relations and trying hard to sound like a hard-nosed investigative reporter. We want to ask about their newly brown logo and the mermaid -- Compare the new logo (top) with the old logo (bottom). (Images Courtesy of Starbucks) "She is a siren," spokeswoman Bridget Baker corrects. "A siren has a split tail and a mermaid has a single tail." She pauses. "This is my job." Well, we had to ask. And that's because the logo unveiled this month to celebrate the new Starbucks' Pike Place Roast reveals the saucy siren in all...

 

By Ylan Mui | April 25, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Drug Ads: Taking Medicine Never Looked So Good

Remember all those tricks drugmakers used to get you to take medicine as a kid? They made cough syrup sweet and acetaminophen chewable. They transformed horse pill vitamins into friendly cartoon characters. Well, perhaps a better approach would've been to inundate you with ads--ones that depict a fearful and alone child who becomes happy, confident and popular after taking a pill. That formula, it seems, works well on millions of Americans, who watch as many as 16 hours of prescription drug ads every year -- far more than the average time spent with a primary care physician. Since the Food...

 

By Annys Shin | January 30, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fat Wallets, Slim Satisfaction

Reader Ken Roberts of Arlington recently wrote to complain about his fat wallet. The problem: It's gotten unwieldy thanks to all the customer loyalty stores from several grocery stores, the bookstore, pet store, drugstore, shoe store, sports-equipment store. etc. As Roberts said: "My wallet isn't that big." Besides, he added, "I'm always trying to simplify my life, so even one extra card bothers me." Roberts asked: "Wouldn't it be nice if they could all be combined onto one card. Rather than handing out new cards, stores could gather your card information and add the info to their database--maybe give...

 

By | September 7, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (43)

Whose Line is This TV's Anyway?

I went to the beach for an old-fashioned vacation last week and got a glimpse of the future: Checkout TV at the supermarket. Now that TVs are in every corner of every airport and even in a growing number of elevators, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see them in the grocery store. But I was. As I approached the checkout, there it was: a very loud TV promoting one supermarket item after another. And when the line was long enough (which it was a couple of times), I even got to listen to some entertainment news,...

 

By | August 9, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Fly the Noisy Skies

Just when you think flying couldn't get any worse... I took a trip to New York last weekend, flying U.S. Airways Shuttle. All went pretty smoothly; the plane even left the gate before the scheduled departure time both coming and going--a real treat. So why am I complaining? On the way home, as I settled in for a short nap, I was brusquely awoken by a way too loud announcement, "Welcome to US Airways." "OK," I thought. "Just go back to sleep." But the announcement went on and on and on and on as the airline used its captive...

 

By | April 28, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (40)

 

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