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Consumer Confidential: Fees, sales and coupons

October 6, 2009 |  6:38 am

Here's your totally-Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Only an airline would think of charging a fee for avoiding fees. Our friends at United Airlines have announced a new program in which passengers can pay $249 a year for the privilege of checking in two -- yes, two! -- standard bags without paying extra. But United says the program won't cover overweight bags, so you're still on your own there. Anyone want to bet how long it takes all the other carriers to follow suit?

--We've been hearing that it's going to be an ugly holiday season for retailers. But how ugly are we talking? The National Retail Federation says it expects sales this season to be down about 1% from last year, to $437.6 billion. My hunch is that this'll prompt most stores to slash prices in a bid to woo the few dollars shoppers are willing to spend. Keep a sharp eye out for sales.

--Ask.com wants to make bargain hunting easier. The search site is unveiling a new service that will allow users to sift through dozens of discount sites in search of money-saving online coupons. It will also mark regular search results with a special icon to let people know that a related coupon may be available. Electronic coupons now account for about 3% of all coupons used. Expect that number to grow as services like this make it simpler for people to ferret out deals.

-- David Lazarus

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