Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Discounters

Discounts for laid off state workers; U.S. Bank adds skip-a-payment

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: July 12, 2011 - 8:14 AM

U.S. Bank is the latest business to come to aid of state workers and businesses affected by the shutdown. Any state employee, business or anyone else impacted by the shutdown might be eligible to skip a loan payment with US Bank , including installment loans such as auto, recreational vehicles, marine, manufactured housing, home equity installment loans, small business lines of credit and consumer credit cards.

U.S. Bank customers who sign up for skip-a-payment should know that interest will continue to accrue but no fees will be assessed. The skipped payment will not be reported as an adverse event to the credit bureaus. Accounts must be up-to-date on payments to qualify. To inquire or sign up, call 1-800-890-2233. 

The following offers are expired, but laid off workers might try asking those businesses if such offers can still be honored in certain circumstances. Please email me ( if you know of other deals and I will update this post.

The Sea Life aquarium at the Mall of America is offering free admission to any laid off state employee through Sunday July 10. Admission is regularly $18.74. The employee must bring a copy of the layoff notice. Family members accompanying the employee get 50 percent off the usual price.



The Minnesota Lynx women's basketball team is offering $5 tickets to displaced state workers at Saturday's 7 p.m. game against Connecticut. Bring an employee ID or a check stub. The discount also applies to family and friends. Ticket preices are normally $10 to $60.


Earlier this week Heidi's and Burger Jones restaurants were offering discounts. Those deals have expired but if you know of other discounts that are current, please add a comment. Thanks,

Wanted: Secret shoppers for Wal-Mart's new price match policy

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 15, 2011 - 1:14 PM

 Wal-Mart announced earlier this week that it is getting serious about “one stop shopping.”  It is simplifying its price match policy so that customers no longer need to bring in competitors’ ads to have prices matched. In other words, smart shoppers who used to do all of their shopping at Wal-Mart with ads from Cub, Rainbow, Target and Menards can now leave those ads at home, provided the customer knows the prices and asks for the price match.



I can’t think of the last time a retailer on this scale made such a consumer-friendly announcement. What this means is that Wal-Mart cashiers are essentially taking our word for it when we ask them to match a price without proof.


“We want to error on the side of the customer,” said Bloomington store manager Scott Rothi. Not so fast, say Wal-Mart customers who have contacted me from around the country. The "exceptions" are starting to pop up. Ursula Welch in Thomasville, Alabama said that she has had problems with cashiers refusing to match because a competitor is outside its local zone, Kristin from Orlando said that cashiers and managers are still requiring the ad for proof of the match, and Katelyn Rustin from New Richmond, Wis. said that the Wal-Mart said it took three employees to sort out her requests for matching.

I don’t know how well Wal-Mart has trained their cashiers, but let’s hope it’s better than when Target instituted a price match policy a couple of years ago. Readers told me stories of cashiers and supervisors gathering in a huddle, debating whether an item was match-worthy.

Wal-Mart has stated its ad match guarantee policy online at

Here's the official list of what Wal-Mart will and won't match.
Wal-Mart will match the following: Buy one, get one free ads with a specified price (buy one at $2.49, get one free), items that require a loyalty card for the discount to apply (Rice Krispies for $2.99 with card), fresh produce and meat items when the price is offered in the same unit (pound for pound, each for each).
The discounter will not honor ads where a price cannot be determined, internet prices, misprinted ad prices, ads from outside the store’s local trade territory, items that require an additional purchase to get the ad price (Buy Tostitos for $3 to get salsa for $1), items that require a purchase to get a competitor’s gift card (Buy Purina dog food and get a $5 gift card to Target), BOGO ads with no actual price given, going-out-of-business or closeout prices, percentage off (all mascara 40 percent off) and competitor’s private label promotions (Target brand ibuprofen for Equate). 

Will you be a "secret shopper" for the cause? Send me an email at or call me at 612-673-7633 and let me know your experience with a price match at Wal-Mart. 

Wal-Mart's new price match policy: "Name your price. We trust you."

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 11, 2011 - 5:18 PM

Wal-Mart announced today that it is getting serious about "one stop shopping."  It is simplifying its price match policy so that customers no longer need to bring in competitors' ads to have prices matched. In other words, smart shoppers who used to do all of their shopping at Wal-mart with ads from Cub, Rainbow, Target and Menards can now leave those ads at home, provided the customer knows them and asks for the price match.  



"We want to error on the side of the customer," said Bloomington store manager Scott Rothi. Case in point: As soon as I heard this was the new policy, I had doubts. I vaguely recalled that either Cub or Rainbow has Coke on sale this week 4-12 packs for $10, a good deal. So I took the Coke to the cashier and said "Either Cub or Rainbow has these 12 packs of Coke on sale 4 for $10."

"Okay," the cashier said, "that's $2.67 each, right?"

"2.50 each," I said.

"Oh, right," he said and rang them up without any further questions.

BTW, it's Cub that has Coke 4 for $10 this week (with a coupon).

There are a lot of smart, demanding customers out there, so I expect Wal-Mart's cashiers are going to be tested mightily. If a customer insists that a competitor's price is a lot lower than Wal-Mart's price, the cashier can ask for a manager to approve it. While I applaud Wal-Mart's "we trust you" price match policy, I worry that there will be too many prices that  need  "manager approval" if the customer doesn't have the competitor's sale flier to prove it.  

Remember when Target instituted its price match policy? You might not, because few people use it. But those who do have complained loudly to me about its exclusions. At last check, Target will not match BOGOs, non-branded items such as green grapes, store brands, store coupons such as $5 for a 24-pack of Coke, online prices, free products such as "Buy Cheerios and get a gallon of Kemps milk free." The list goes on.

I have heard in the past from readers that Wal-Mart's policy isn't as restrictive as Target's. Joel Anderson, senior vice-president of of the Northern Plains Division at Wal-Mart, gave a few examples of items they would not price match today: a buy-one-get-one-free offer in which a price is not listed in the competitor's ad, online prices, percentages off such as "10 percent off all Rubbermaid products." But when I asked where I could find a list of exclusions, he directed me to, where I was unsuccessful at finding it. 

I applaud Wal-Mart for simplifying its price-match policy, but it's too soon to know how good it is in practice. Let me know your experiences if you try out this new one-stop shopping "policy." I suspect that the reason that Wal-Mart made this announcement locally is because of the recent price comparison by CNN Money that had Target beating Wal-Mart's prices in several markets.

My recommendation if you go to Wal-Mart expecting a bunch of price matches is write them down from the ads, even if you leave the ads at home or in the car. Letsee, Pepsi at Rainbow for 4/$1, red seedless grapes for $1.29 at Rainbow,  Post or Quaker cereals for $1.75 each at Cub yadayada. I'd like to see the look on a cashier's face if you had 25 price matches and quoted them from memory.

Who's willing to give Wal-Mart's new price match policy a good test? Let me know. Respond here or send an email to or call me at 612-673-7633. This can be a great time saver if it works and Wal-mart has the items you're trying to match.  



This deal won't last: Tumi luggage at 70 percent off

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 6, 2011 - 11:06 AM

A friend of mine buys cheap luggage and replaces it every year or so. He probably pays less than $75 per piece. That's not a bad deal for frequent travelers, but here's a deal that is cheaper in the long run and won't add as much to the landfill:

Buy a piece of Tumi luggage discounted 70 percent at today's sale (April 6) at Opitz Outlet in St. Louis Park. It's top-quality luggage at an unbelievable price. Even when Tumi goes on sale (very rarely), you're lucky to save 20 percent.

The sale starts at noon and runs until 9 p.m. tonight. I don't expect much will be left after today, even though about 300 pieces are included in this sale.



The selection is all first quality from distributors ---no blemishes or defectives. About half of the selection is the less expensive T-Tech bridge line and the other half is the pricey top quality stuff. There is a variety of colors (black, red, orange, brown, green), materials (ballistic and regular nylon, leather and hard-sided) and sizes (duffles, messenger bags, garment carriers, 20-22-inch carryons with wheels and larger 25 or 26-inch expandables). 

Here is a sampling of what's included.

-Co-efficient messenger bags $45, regularly $150

- Factor duffel bags $82.50, regularly $275 

-Wheeled expandable carry-on (20 or 22-inch) in dark brown $178.50, regularly $595

- Wheeled expandable (25-inches) in light brown $178.50, regularly $595

- Wheeled expandable (26-inches) in red $255, regularly $850

-Wheeled expandable (28-inches) in dark brown $285, regularly $950



- T-Tech backpacks $75



-Leather backpacks $133.50, regularly $445, leather satchel $178.50, leather waistpacks $67.50 and leather wallets $26.40.

Caveat: Unless you're a Rewards or platimum customer at Opitz, you have to spend a matching amount in non-Tumi items. For example, if you spend $200 on Tumi merchandise, you will also have to purchase $200 in other merchandise or gift cards.

Star Wars Chewbacca fans, this suit's for you, if you hurry. (SOLD)

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 30, 2011 - 1:20 PM

Brand Name Deals in Fridley (1000 E. Moore Lake Dr., 763-572-9800) is advertising one, just one, full-sized Chewbacca suit (see below) for $149.99. The sale starts today (Wed., March 30) at 11 a.m. So Chewbacca geek, I hope you get it. Everyone say AAAEEEEEGGGGHHH. (SORRY, CHEWY FANS, IT IS SOLD. JE)


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