Ikea completes Marketplace makeover

Ikea (Bloomington, across from Mall of America, 952-858-8088, www.ikea.com.us) has remodeled its Marketplace section and added hundreds of new items including cookware, bedding, lighting, home organization and textiles. The bath shop is also remodeled, with 19 vignettes, said spokeswoman Brooke Nelson. The new sections are in place, but during Saturday's official reopening, there will be an appearance of the Radio Disney Road Crew, food sampling, one-day product offers and free meals for kids.

What does it cost to join DirectBuy?

Is the wholesale club DirectBuy (www.directbuy.com) worth your time and investment? It's been five years since I last wrote about the buying club with franchises in Bloomington and White Bear Lake. Since then the membership fee has increased to $5,490 plus a $199 annual fee that begins in the third year. For such an investment, you pay less when you buy directly from nearly 700 manufacturers for kitchen cabinets, furniture, flooring, appliances, lawn and garden, sporting equipment, electronics and jewelry. Some popular brands, such as Apple, are not offered.

The presentation is high-pressure; once you walk out the door you won't be allowed to join again for several years, they say. But it might be a good deal for a person who needs to furnish an entire house. To get an idea of how much you can save before you commit, make a list of 10 major purchases, including the manufacturer and model number, and take it to your appointment. Keep in mind that DirectBuy adds an 8 percent handling fee on larger items, plus freight fees and sales tax on all items. Items cannot be returned without a restocking fee unless they're defective.

As with any major purchase, there can be some flexibility in the membership price. One deal spotter said that during a recent visit the $5,490 price was lowered by $500 after his resistance and a limited, Internet-only option for $1,990 was also offered.

If you buy a membership, you have three days to cancel but after that, cancellation is very difficult, even for those with an inability to pay, according to complaints at the Minnesota Better Business Bureau (www.thefirstbbb.org).

No more 'Your call is important to us'

FastCustomer, I've been waiting for you. It's a smartphone application that eliminates hold times when you call companies such as Comcast or Verizon. The free app offers a database of more than 3,000 companies. I tried it with Comcast, requesting that the company call me when a rep was free. I ignored the first attempt while I was on another call, but the app tried again within a few minutes and I got my question answered immediately. It could be especially helpful when calling an airline such as Delta. With holding on the line eliminated, customers and agents are in a better mood when they finally converse.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or jewoldt@startribune.com. If you spot a deal, share it at www.startribune.com/dealspotter.