Consumer Confidential: Baggage fees rise, Wal-Mart delivers, Nissan recalls SUVs
--It used to be that you could at least duck some baggage fees charged by airlines if you prepaid online. But apparently that's a perk that's going away. United Continental has done away with the $2 to $3 discount that passengers used to get if they paid for their luggage on the Net instead of at the ticket counter. The charge for domestic flights is now $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, no matter how or when you pay. United and Continental used to offer a $2 discount on the first bag and $3 off the second to encourage passengers to pay up before arriving at the airport. Delta Air Lines Inc. still offers a similar discount. Other carriers, including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, never offered different prices. Southwest Airlines Co. continues to allow passengers to check two bags for free.
--Need some food? Wal-Mart's website wants to be your first stop. The world's biggest retailer has started testing an online grocery delivery service, called Wal-Mart to Go, in the San Jose area. Other grocers, including Safeway and Peapod, offer similar services, though it's unclear how profitable these services are. Delivery charges for Wal-Mart to Go start at $5. For the test, Wal-Mart is shipping groceries from a San Jose store, packing them in tote bags and delivering them in temperature-controlled trucks that the company owns. Deliveries can be scheduled for the next day. The company is still working out deliveries of perishables such as meat and produce, but seems to be coming along quickly. On the other hand, it's hard not to recall the experience of Webvan.com and how that company crashed and burned with such a service.
--Heads up: Nissan is recalling nearly 200,000 sport utility vehicles to fix a defective steering column that can crack when exposed to road salt. An assembly hole can allow road salt and snow to collect in the steering assembly and cause corrosion, Nissan says. "The strut housing may crack and pull away from the inner hood ledge assembly," the carmaker warns. "This may lead to grinding noises, increased steering effort and possibly the steering column to break, resulting in the loss of steering control, which could result in a crash." The recall affects model years 1997 through 2003 of the Infiniti QX4 and model years 1996 through 2004 of the Nissan Pathfinder. Inspection and repairs will be conducted free of charge.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: Prepaying online won't always get a discount on checked bags. Credit: Tim Boyle / Getty Images