Fingerhut.com--pay more than you get for!
Dec 16, 2009
My first experience with Fingerhut (not .com) came years and years ago, when I was a poor college student looking for something cheap with which to furnish my equally cheap apartment.
Cheap is exactly what I found. Fingerhut of the late 1980s was a clearing house of really cheap, shoddy crap. Cheap, shoddy, and over-priced crap, truth be known. But the credit terms were SO easy, it was impossible to resist. Or actually, the obtaining of credit was easy. The terms, interest-wise, were really rather horrifying.
That was a long, long time ago, and Fingerhut has come a fair way from where it was when it was the KING of cheap, ugly, brittle, unreliable garbage. In fact, Fingerhut has really improved the quality of most of its inventory in a most remarkable way.
The credit terms? Those are still pretty solidly Fingerhut-like.
Recovering from a bankruptcy tends to put your name on a lot of lists for less-than-reputable credit offers. One of those? Fingerhut. We filed (reorganization and repayment) almost 7 years ago. Fingerhut began sending us catalogues that first year. We gave such offers a wide berth, and, in fact, didn’t take out any credit accounts until after the bankruptcy cleared. Fingerhut kept catalogue-ing us, and we kept browsing, then tossing. . . until.
Until? Yep, until that fancy catalogue came with the even fancier Fujifilm S2000HD camera. The credit offered was just enough to cover the camera, case, and additional SD card. I hopped right onto the computer and . . . checked the prices at Target and Walmart. Ooooh, you thought I was going to say that I’d gone straight to Fingerhut.com, didn’t you?
Checking the prices, I found that the whole shebang was only fifteen dollars more at Fingerhut.com than at Target. Hey, that’s not TOO bad, right? And, with the oh-so excellent credit terms, it would only cost us 25 bucks a month for the rest of our lives. Or something close to that, anyway.
So off I went to Fingerhut.com to apply for the credit and get the camera and accoutrements. Yes, a stupid-ish move, but we really wanted the camera and we really didn’t have the cash at the moment. More on that later.
Fingerhut.com, first and foremost, is looking to push in-house credit accounts. Offers for credit are boldly displayed, not just on the main page, but also via links on every shopping page. In addition, each individual item offered on the site is tagged with a “how much per month this will cost with Fingerhut Credit” blurb. You know, “Only $6.99 a month” and “as low as $33.99 a month!” There are a LOT of asterisks going on with these tags, and I’d warn anyone to be very careful about reading the terms and conditions before applying for that credit.
Fingerhut.com offers a very wide variety of products for sale, all categorized according to product type: electronics, kitchenware, clothing, perfumes, personal care products, baby items, toys, pet products, and furniture. Many of these products are from reputable manufacturers and are of good quality. Personally, I wouldn’t be likely to order clothing or shoes from this site, and not just because I can’t imagine buying it without being able to try it on first. There’s another concern—price. Some prices are comparable to other vendors, but most others can come up at 15% - 20% more expensive than the non-Fingerhut price. Why would I pay $149.99 (plus shipping) for a pair of boots from Fingerhut.com when I can get those same boots for $124.99 at a local brick and mortar store?
Well, I’ll tell you why—if I couldn’t afford them otherwise, and decided to go with the easy-as-pie to obtain credit through Fingerhut.com.
Fingerhut.com has more than one way to make things more expensive for the unsuspecting customer. It’s not just higher up-front prices on most items. It’s also higher shipping costs than most, and the strenuous pushing of “extended service plans.” Not just for electronics or personal care appliances, but for things like garnet rings ($14.99 for an extended service plan on a $59.00 ring!) and the like.
Fingerhut.com is a really well put-together site. It’s easy to navigate and products are intelligently categorized. The customer service link is prominently displayed (not as prominently as the credit offers, of course), and has a fairly informative FAQ and easy-to-find phone numbers (though no email address). The layout is attractive, bright without being busy, and very intuitive. And, as I’ve mentioned, all clicks lead to the credit pitch. Check out does require full address, telephone number, email, etc., and offers a rather creepy “HEY, LET’S CHAT!” customer service pop-up that chases your mouse around the screen and left me feeling stalked and abused. Although Fingerhut.com does accept Visa, Mastercard, and Discovery, this option is not prominently displayed, and is quite obviously NOT what they’re shooting for. All through the check-out process, the screeching credit pitch appears. Again and again.
And that brings me back to “Don’t have the money but really, really want it NOW.” Bad idea almost always, I know. But we had a small vacation coming up (and wanted the camera for the vacation!), and knew we’d have the cash to pay the bill off in full a couple of months down the road. We did so, and Fingerhut.com has been emailing and snail-mailing like crazy ever since, trying to get us to use more credit. Every couple of months they’ve upped our credit limit by a hundred or so, and we now have twice the available credit we started with. We’re keeping the account open for one reason—it’s available credit, which our bank advised us looks good on the credit report. You know, the ratio of available credit versus balance? So we keep Fingerhut open, charge something small now and then, and then pay it off in full over two months.
In all? Fingerhut.com has absolutely improved the look and feel of Fingerhut’s catalogue. It’s an easy site to use, carries a broad array of often good quality products, and certainly offers up easy-to-obtain credit. And that last bit (along with higher prices/more expensive shipping) is exactly why I don’t recommend shopping at Fingerhut.com. Why spend that much more?
A note on my rating--I'm going to go with two stars, and feel guilty about it. Why? Because the prices, shipping, and credit are all one star worthy, but the layout of the site, the variety of available items, and the quality of many of those items really does deserve better than one star. So two.