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CONSUMER AFFAIRS / DENISE GELLENE

Retailers Work Marketing Magic on 'Aladdin' Tape

October 08, 1993|DENISE GELLENE

The real magic of Walt Disney's "Aladdin" has less to do with a big blue genie than the prices of the newly released video.

Though it has a suggested retail price of $24.99, we've seen it priced as low as $10, thanks to the magic of discounts and rebates from retailers anxious to use gimmicks to get reluctant shoppers into their stores. It's being sold almost everywhere: video stores, department stores, discount stores, drugstores and supermarkets.

Thanks to all the deals, backed up by $20 million in promotional spending from Disney and Colgate, which is offering a $5 rebate, consumers have snapped up more than 10 million "Aladdin" videos since it went on sale Oct 1. It's on its way to becoming the best-selling video ever.

But just how do these special offers work? Vons is promoting "Aladdin" at the magical price of $9.99, but that's not what customers pay. The video is priced at $16.99. A $1 store coupon and a $1 discount for people with a Vons debit card brings the price down to $14.99. The advertised price takes into account the $5 mail-in rebate from Colgate.

To get the Colgate rebate, consumers have to buy a combination of toothpaste and toothbrushes that cost at least $8. Then consumers have to mail to Colgate receipts from the Colgate purchases and proof of purchase from "Aladdin."

Some merchants are bringing down the price by offering discounts on other merchandise. Blockbuster offers "Aladdin" for $13.95, but that includes coupons for two free video rentals worth $6. Montgomery Ward's special price of $9.99 reflects a $3 coupon for electronic equipment at the store and the Colgate rebate. Customers pay $17.99.

What's a good price for "Aladdin"? The New York consulting firm of Alexander & Associates says merchants are paying about $15 for each video. Retailers selling "Aladdin" at that price--before rebates--are breaking even on it to get you into their stores.

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No More Secrets: A new state law taking effect Jan. 1 requires car manufacturers to mail notices to car owners informing them about so-called secret warranties--programs to repair or fix factory defects for free.

The state law applies to defects not serious enough to trigger a federal safety recall. Federal regulations require manufacturers to inform car owners about warranty extensions for defects relating to safety or emissions.

Currently, auto makers notify dealers--but not vehicle owners--about less serious factory defects and free repair programs. This means that some car owners may unknowingly be paying for repairs covered by the manufacturer's repair program.

The state law also requires new-car dealers to post signs in showrooms telling consumers that they can review "service bulletins," which identify defects in vehicles after they are shipped to dealers. "New-car customers deserve to know if a vehicle has a defect that may cause problems in the future," state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles), bill co-sponsor, said in a statement.

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Not Ready for Prime Time: Prime Time Shuttle International, one of the state's largest airport shuttle services, has agreed to pay an $80,000 fine to settle charges that its hiring practices for drivers violated the state's public utilities code.

While denying guilt, Prime Time also agreed to a six-month suspension of its operating license, which has been stayed as long as the company operates its vehicles safely and has them regularly inspected. The settlement will not affect service.

The state Public Utilities Commission alleged that Prime Time improperly hired drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, as required, to reduce labor costs. The PUC investigation did not involve safety issues.

The fine is payable in five installments through 1998. The agency has agreed to waive the last two installments if Prime Time has complied with the settlement terms when those payments come due.

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This Store Is R-Rated: In more than a dozen of its 75 stores around the country, high-tech gadget retailer Sharper Image asks teen-agers to "visit us with a parent or guardian." At its store in Glendale, where a sign asks those under age 16 to stay out, a Sharper Image clerk explains: "We have high-tech items and we're kind of a touch store. If kids break something, what are we going to do?"

Sharper Image President Craig Womack said the unusual policy is more to protect kids than merchandise. A child visiting a store alone severed a fingertip on a stair-climber three years ago, he said. (The fingertip was reattached at the store's expense.)

Womack said he has received few complaints about the policy, which is enforced at the discretion of store managers. Teen-agers who gripe receive written responses from the company, inviting them to stop by a store and check out its electronic gadgets--with Mom or Dad.

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