Business Opinion

Consumer Diary: Memorial Day Cookout Costs Up, Some Scams

Burgers and hotdogs may be on the menu for many over the Memorial Day weekend, but prices are up over last year. (we-ha.com file photo by Ronni Newton)

Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter.

Harlan Levy. Courtesy photo

By Harlan Levy

This Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, will cost a significant amount more this year than a year ago, according to website Datasembly, which provides real-time pricing data on billions of grocery and retail items from over 150,000 stores in over 30,000 zip codes.

Datasembly predicts cookout items will cost an average of 10.2% more than last year, a sharp hike from the overall 0.03% grocery inflation increase in April. The biggest jump is for relish, up almost 50%, followed by burgers, and mustard. The smallest price hike is for hamburger buns, up less than 1%.

Cost breakdown:

80/20 fresh ground

beef burgers

$7.04 $$8.07 14.63%
8-count hamburger buns $3.04 $3.06 0.66%
8-count hotdog buns $3.06 $3.09 0.98%
Beef hotdogs, 8-count $3.15 $3.15 Unchanged
Relish, 26 ounces $3.14 $4.67 48.73%
Ketchup, 32 ounces $5.43 $5.53 1.84%
Mustard, 20 ounces $2.53 $2.61 3.16%
$27.39 $30.18 10.19%

So, get your shopping done early.

New scams

It seems the variety of scams is endless.

Here are some new ones that recently hit a load of consumers (including my wife), an acquaintance, and her friend:

  • Last week my wife got an email supposedly from Xfinity, our cable provider, informing her (she’s listed as our account holder) that there was a problem with the account. That was believable, because her credit card on file in autopay had expired after it was recently hacked, forcing issuance of a new card. So, when asked to click on a link to provide account information, my wife clicked and gave the site our data. But she hesitated on writing in the PIN. That looked suspicious. Why did Xfinity need the personal PIN when all it needed was the new credit card number? She called Xfinity customer service and found out that “there’s a lot of this scam going around,” the customer service rep said. So, always verify with any company supposedly requesting information that it’s valid and comes from the company you get your services from.
  • Also last week Margaret, who was helping us with a historic spring cleaning effort, got a phone call supposedly from AT&T, informing her that someone was purchasing two new iPhones and that she needed to verify that or reject the purchase by providing her account information and credit card data, including her PIN. She complied, rejecting the unknown buyers. Then, a few minutes later, after telling me what had just happened, she called AT&T to make sure the call and the canceled phone purchases were legitimate. They weren’t. AT&T doesn’t contact customers by phone asking for account information. So, she called her credit card company, canceled any purchase, canceled her card, and applied for a new card. ”What a pain,” she said.
  • This one is not that new: You’ve probably heard and seen the countless ads on TV for CarShield extended vehicle warranty service, which in most cases is not needed. A friend of Margaret’s says she has been harassed by phone calls supposedly from her car dealership offering essentially the same thing. She has rejected the annoying offers, because, rightly so, most recent car models have sufficient manufacturer’s warranties … and most recent models don’t break down often, if ever.

NOTE: If you have a consumer problem, contact me at [email protected] (“Consumer” in subject line), and, with the power of the press, maybe I can help.

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