STAMFORD, CONN., Nov. 25, 2003 - The American Homeowners Association (AHA)® debuts today its unique online service called Froople!TM (www.froople.com), which lets consumers comparison shop and find the lowest prices on five million products at more than 4,000 stores; browse the most popular retailers; check user reviews; and get shipping costs covered.
Froople! is the newest consumer benefit provided by AHA, the organization that has delivered buying power, influence and consumer advice to hundreds of thousands of members across the country since 1994. While home ownership is not a requirement for membership in AHA, Froople! is available exclusively to AHA members. A free 30-day trial membership is available through Dec. 23, 2003, allowing consumers to try Froople! at no charge for their holiday shopping.
Through the combination of its own affiliate relationships with more than 600 of the most popular, top-brand online retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, Sears and HSN, and a cobranded partnership with Shopping.comTM, which includes the leading comparison shopping service's access to 4,000 stores and more than one million consumer reviews, AHA takes online shopping to a new level.
While many shopping sites allow consumers to comparison shop by product or brand, with Froople! they can also shop by store preference, which surveys show is the way most consumers like to shop, and have their shipping charges rebated up to $25 per order, up to $500 a year, through AHA's cash-back rebate program. They simply complete and send in a brief "Free Shipping Claim Form" with a copy of the sales receipt. No minimum purchase is necessary and all shipping methods qualify, including next-day express and Priority Mail®.
Shoppers who sign up at www.froople.com or call 1 866-FROOPLE will receive online identity-theft coverage, included as part of memberships in AHA, which has partnered with AIG Affinity Group to provide Personal Internet Identity Coverage that includes income protection, expense reimbursement, an ID recovery kit and 24/7 toll-free assistance.
"AHA has always provided a discount shop-at-home service for members," says founder and CEO Richard Roll, noting that in 1995 it was delivered through a toll-free number. "But we knew that the high cost of shipping stops many of our members from enjoying the savings, safety and convenience of shopping from home. So last June we began a Free Shipping Zone on our Web site and started giving cash-back shipping rebates to our members who now shop online.
"The response was so great," he continues, "that we wanted to provide an even more complete shopping experience for members. We started with the Model T eight years ago and now, with Froople!, we've built the Maserati."
Roll notes that a recent independent study by Opinion Research Corporation (October 2003) revealed that 54 percent of Americans would be more likely to shop online this holiday season if they knew they wouldn't have to pay shipping fees for delivery. The percentage rises to 66 percent for Americans already online, according to the survey.
The name "Froople!," explains Roll, the coauthor of two best-selling personal finance books, was derived from "FRee Online shopping for peOPLE." When it is suggested that the two "O"s could be mistaken for zeroes, his response is, "That's fine, since zero is what Froople! shoppers could spend for shipping their holiday gifts this year."
An early advocate of consumer education to protect against identity theft, Roll says: "We included identity-theft insurance for members who join AHA through Froople! to remove yet another obstacle to more widespread adoption of online shopping." As he references the recent Citibank ad campaign that has raised the sensitivity of Americans about identity theft, he mentions that he is a former Citibank product manager who helped introduce the banking giant's first retirement savings accounts and says, "Millions more consumers are now aware of this issue, and millions are affected by it.
"A September 2003 Federal Trade Commission survey," he explains, "showed that almost 10 million people have been victims of identity theft in the last year alone, and that consumer victims reported $5 billion in related out-of-pocket expenses. Our group policy will cover member out-of- pocket costs up to $2,500, which, after a $250 deductible, is twice the reported average $1,200 in out-of-pocket expenses experienced by identity-theft victims. In addition, the typical case requires 175 hours to correct 'mis-identity,' which can be vastly shortened by the support line and 24/7 toll-free assistance provided through this ID-Theft Protection Plan."
The American Homeowners Association (www.ahahome.com) helps its members stretch their budgets and improve their lives at home, by negotiating vital benefits and discounts on their behalf, educating and informing them, and representing them on issues of importance. AHA provides dozens of benefits to consumers, including "how-to" publications and numerous discounts in such categories as home-repair, travel and legal services; vision care; and grocery coupons. Of the current AHA membership, some 20 percent do not own homes. A full year's membership costs $99, plus a nominal activation charge; currently, a 30-day free trial membership is available, with the activation charge waived. Froople! is powered by AHA's powerful Web-based, database-driven infrastructure hosted at Digex.
Contacts: For AHA: Greg Bibas, (203) 323-7715 ext. 307, [email protected]; For Shopping.com: Krista Thomas, (650) 616-6577, [email protected]. Related informational materials and graphics are available at www.froople.com/pressroom.
AHA and Froople! are trademarks of the American Homeowners Association. All other service marks and trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All AHA benefits offered are subject to terms and conditions stated on the organization's Web site. Insurance benefits and services referred to are provided by member companies of American International Group, Inc.; some restrictions may apply. For more information about ID-theft insurance, contact Mark Camillo, [email protected], 212-266-5821.