BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Consumers' confidence and sentiment are down, and who can blame them? Even when they try to be frugal, someone's getting them to splurge.
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index was down 4.7 points last month, while the Thompson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index inspired celebration by falling 0.7 points instead of 2.3 points. Spending is actually up slightly, as the Commerce Department said the U.S. economy expanded 3.7% last month, but consumer expectations are down as job numbers stagnate and housing numbers slump.
It's a time when Americans are trying to be more stingy -- with the Commerce Department noting that Americans saved 5.9% of their disposable income in the second quarter -- but finding it increasingly difficult to do so amid poor package deals and overblown promises. Retail sales edged up 0.4% in August, but exactly how much of that gain did Americans really want to spend?
Across several sectors, the consumer is getting a raw deal. From "bargains" that include a lot of throw-ins they didn't ask for to "rewards programs" that don't yield many rewards, the consumer faces a retail and service culture where blue-shirted guys in large towers spend their days deciding what the customer wants and values before discarding that information and going with what works in their or their company's best interest. That's business, but that's also how garages, attics and storage units fill with useless crap and wallets fill with cards scarcely worth the plastic they're stamped on. We at TheStreet have put together a list of "deals" to avoid not just because they're bad decisions, but because they're bad investments: