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February 8, 2016

Thanks for Nothing #2:
Dollar General Found Selling Obsolete Motor Oil

Filed under: Autos,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

Many of us shop at dollar stores because of bargains you can often find there. Sometimes, however, the bargain is no deal.

For example, Dollar General sells quarts of its own brand of motor oil, DG, for $2.50 to $2.75. That is cheaper than the big name brands.

Dollar General oil

What could be bad?


Dollar General Oil back of label

The back of the label provides an unexpected shock. This oil is not for use in cars built after 1988?! Who would ever expect a common oil like 10W-30 sold by a major general merchandise chain to be inappropriate for the expected use for most customers?

While the label says it meets a particular automotive specification, that spec is outdated, and has been updated six times since then according to the Petroleum Quality Institute of America.

Another product the company sells, an oil called SAE 30, has an even more astonishing disclaimer on the back of the bottle:

SAE 30

This one is not for cars built after 1930! So for everyone with a Model T, go grab some.

But for everyone else, thanks for nothing, Dollar General.

Now, a California consumer who got snookered by Dollar General’s oil is suing the company for selling obsolete products. Here is the actual lawsuit.

We asked the company to explain why they even sell these products that are inappropriate for most of their customers, whether they would put up more prominent warnings for shoppers, and what their reaction was to the lawsuit. They responded as follows in relevant part:

We are confident that our DG-branded motor oil products meet not only our standards for quality and value, but also all applicable federal and state labeling requirements where they are sold. In addition, the labeling on these products contains obvious and unambiguous language regarding the products’ intended and appropriate use.

Dollar General intends to vigorously defend against the claims raised in the recently-filed lawsuits regarding these products, including the filing of motions seeking their dismissal. — Dollar General Corporate Communications

Few shoppers know that there is more to buying motor oil than looking for the proper viscosity, such as 10W-30 or 10W-40. You need to make sure that you are choosing the one specified in your owner’s manual, including the appropriate service category. This is an industry specification, noted on the label, relating to the additives put in the oil to help prevent corrosion, sludge build up, and engine damage.

The most current service category is API “SN”. The oils shown above have obsolete service category designations such as “SA” or “SF,” meaning they are missing more modern additives.

Here is a chart from the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (an organization that tests motor oils for compliance with the labeled standard) showing which car model years are covered by each service category designation. Each category is backwards compatible.

oil chart


We welcome your submissions of other great “thanks for nothing” examples. Just email them to edgar(at symbol) .


• • •

February 1, 2016

What are Sprint and Nielsen Hiding?

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

Last week, Sprint issued a press release touting results of a Nielsen study that found on average, that the Sprint network provided faster download speeds than T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T.

One of the comparison charts they included was this:

Sprint chart

While this chart shows the relative comparison between the cell brands, something important is missing.


The label on the Y-axis (going up the left and right sides) is missing or has been deliberately stripped off. (Remember your high school math teacher warning you to be leery of graphs that didn’t start at zero?)

If the figures on the Y-axis were shown, it would disclose what the actual average download speed was for each of the cellular networks — an important fact for consumers to be aware of. Is Sprint providing average speeds of 50 Mbps (really fast) or only 5 Mbps (really slow)? And what about the other companies and how do those speeds compare to home Internet speeds?

So, we asked Sprint to provide the speeds for each company, but they declined.

“We are not providing speed scale for the other chart per Nielsen’s request that we not share this data.” — Sprint Corporate Communications

They did provide a second chart showing the relative difference between the four carriers.

carrier comparison

In this one, Sprint and T-Mobile are shown to be only five percent apart. The first chart above, however, makes the difference appear much more extreme.

Hmmm. What’s going on here? Was it really Nielsen that didn’t want this information disclosed, or was it Sprint? (If, for example, Sprint promised a particular download speed to customers, and this study of 70 million downloads proved they weren’t meeting the advertised speed, that could spell a big problem for them or the other companies if they made similar promises.)

So… we asked Nielsen to provide the missing average speeds that they found for each carrier. And despite repeated requests, they would not provide the information nor provide an on-the-record reason why. Why are they hiding this information? We may never know.

To at least put some of the results in context, in the early months of the study, T-Mobile commanded the top spot for fastest downloads in the Nielsen study. It is probably not coincidental that their drop to last place began when, in November, the company introduced unlimited free downloading of video services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO.


• • •

January 25, 2016

Spiriva – Half the Medicine Provided is Wasted

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:35 am

This is a strange one.

Thomas A. wrote to Mouse Print* about Spiriva — an inhalation therapy drug for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The medicine comes in a metal canister that slips into an inhaler.


What caught Thomas’ attention was the net contents statement on two different inhaler boxes — the small size (for two weeks of use) and the large size (for four weeks of use).



Both contain exactly the same amount of medicine — four grams — but one canister provides 28 doses and the other 60. How could this be?

We called the company and spoke to a nurse there to try to understand how this was possible. She directed us to the patient information sheet packed in each box.


The SPIRIVA RESPIMAT cartridge for each strength has a net fill weight of 4 grams and when used with the SPIRIVA RESPIMAT inhaler, is designed to deliver the labeled number of metered actuations (60 or 28) …

It seems the company manufactures only one size of canister but sells two different inhaler mechanisms. One delivers two-weeks-worth of medicine (28 puffs) and the other four-weeks-worth (60 puffs). So basically, the two week version is overfilled, and half the medicine goes to waste.

Now, couldn’t a smart consumer who has to use this stuff on an ongoing basis just buy the two week version and use it for a month? Or if the inhalers really are different, first get a prescription for the four week size, and then subsequently refill it with a two-week canister and get four weeks of medicine out of it for half the price?

Nope. The company is not stupid.


When the labeled number of actuations (60 or 28) has been dispensed from the inhaler, the RESPIMAT locking mechanism will be engaged and no more actuations can be dispensed.

The cash price for a month’s supply of Spiriva is enough to take your breath away — about $400. The two week version is generally only available in hospitals or as a doctor’s sample.

If the company can afford to overfill the two week cartridges, that suggests the actual cost of the medicine must be minimal.


• • •

January 18, 2016

Diamonds in Mattresses! Cool?

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Every company looks for something unique about their product to tout in advertising. And that even applies to beds. Take the case of some Simmons Beautyrest mattresses.

They claim that they have infused diamond dust into a layer of their high-end memory foam mattresses in order to draw heat away from the bed, as explained in this video:

And a famed local furniture seller in the Boston area is even doing a commercial touting the amazing benefits of this mattress:

In a Q&A meant for dealers, the company says that diamond-dust-infused memory foam does not breath better than their regular memory foam:

Does Micro Diamond™ Infused AirCool Memory Foam breathe better or help regulate temperature better than regular AirCool Memory Foam?

While it does not “breathe” better, it performs better in the overall regulation of temperature. It conducts heat away from the body providing for a more comfortable sleep environment. The thermal conductivity of diamonds tops that of even the best conductors, like copper. In fact, a diamond’s ability as a thermal conductor is four times better than copper. Therefore, more and more diamonds are being used in applications to extract heat. One great example is with electronic devices, which allows them to be even smaller and more powerful.

The company says they put up to 500 carats of diamond dust in certain mattresses. That is the equivalent of just 3.5 ounces. To put that small amount of powder into perspective, a Beautyrest queen mattress is about 143 pounds according to Sears.

But where exactly do they put this diamond dust? It is in one of the memory foam layers, but the company refused to tell us where that layer was located within the mattress. Most mattresses today are made up of many layers of different materials, such as this generic Beautyrest Black cutaway illustration:


MrConsumer is no scientist, but if the diamond-dust-infused layer is not on top, it seems that it would be incapable of sucking heat out of your body and then moving it away from the surface on which you are lying. And since you are not lying on a sheet of solid diamonds, it is inexplicable how flecks of diamonds, not even touching one another, can conduct heat away from anything.

We asked the company to provide us with a copy of any research tests they conducted that would substantiate their claims, what the temperature difference is with and without diamond dust in the mattress, and as mentioned above, where exactly is the diamond-dust-infused layer located.


A PR person for the company called to say that she could not provide test results for competitive reasons, saying that the information was proprietary.

Without this information, it is impossible to judge whether the company’s claims are true… but MrConsumer has his doubts.


• • •

January 11, 2016

Can’t I Just Buy One?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

10 for $10For several years now, supermarkets have tried to get you to buy more with offers like “10 for $10.” Savvy shoppers know when you see offers like that, you are not required to buy 10 units to get the $1 each price. You can buy as few as you want and only pay the mathematical equivalent of that number.

Drug stores like Walgreens and Rite Aid have gotten a bit more clever by advertising “2-fer” or “3-fer” offers like 2 for $10 or 3 for $2, but then in small print indicate if you only want one, you will pay more, sometimes significantly more.


3 for $2

In this case, if you just want one pack of gum it is 99 cents — 50% more than the sale price.

Not wanting to be left out of being able to charge more if you just want one sale item, supermarkets are beginning to mimic drug store pricing policies on some items. Here are some examples of supermarkets requiring the purchase of multiple items in order to take advantage of the sale price:


buy 2 key food

3 for $9

buy 3 shoprite

Sometimes it is clearly stated that you must buy the advertised quantity to get the advertised price. Other times, the disclosure is not conspicuous, and they don’t always tell you how much one will cost you if that is all you want.

Stores may be counting on the fact that most shoppers don’t scrutinize ads or their sales receipts with many items on it, and won’t catch the higher price if they only buy one of the advertised items.


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