Woman believed she was misled by Staples sales ad

October 3, 2013 7:12:39 PM PDT
A popular office supply store ran an ad for 10-cent notebooks and a San Jose woman rushed down to buy them -- only to find out there was a catch.

Next she got very upset. A store manager told her she'd have to spend money in order to get that bargain. So we decided to take a close look at the advertisement that brought the woman into the store.

It all began when Ellen Morgensen of San Jose saw a 15 second ad on TV saying Staples was offering 100-page composition notebooks for just 10 cents each. That's a steal!

"And they flashed these colors. You can get them in blue and red and green, and it really caught your eye," said Morgensen.

It was a Back-to-School special, but she thought the colored notebooks were exactly what she needed to organize events for her ski club, especially at only a dime each.

"So that's a very good deal. To me it's a giveaway," said Morgensen.

So she marched down to the local Staples store and asked for her 10-cent notebooks. That's where she found out there was a little catch.

"So I get there and they say there's a $5 minimum charge," said Morgensen.

The store clerk told her she'd have to buy $5 dollars' worth of other stuff at the store if she wanted the notebooks for 10 cents.

"And they showed me the print ad in the store and sure enough it said '$5 minimum charge.' And I said, 'That's fine, but that's not what it said in your TV ad' and the manager said, 'Well, I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do for you,'" said Morgensen.

Ellen left the store without buying anything. And when the same ad came on TV again, she looked at it really close, trying to find any notice about a $5 minimum purchase.

"I never saw the $5 minimum and I was looking for it," said Morgensen.

She says she just wanted the ad to tell her about any conditions before she went shopping. She contacted 7 On Your Side and we asked Staples about the ad. The retailer provided us a copy of the ad saying it did have the required disclosure at the end. We showed it to Ellen. She looked very hard and at first she didn't see it and then she caught it.

It was there in a flash. We froze the frame and you can see the "minimum $5 purchase" in small print. We counted how long it was on the screen -- 1.7 seconds.

However, Staples gave us a statement, saying the ad complies with rules about truth in advertising since the required disclosure is, indeed, on the ad -- a practice common among advertisers. Staples said, "We strive to come up with great offers and communicate them to our customers and our advertising complies with network guidelines."

Retailers do have to disclose any conditions for special deals. However, if you see an ad that flashes by quickly, the disclosure might be just as quick. So check before you shop.


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