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May 11, 2015

Keurig Partially Reverses Course

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

  Last week we told you about Keurig’s new 2.0 coffeemakers that no longer work with old Keurig K-cups and will now only accept their own brand or licensed K-cups with special markings on the top.

Well, it seems the company has had a little change of heart. What prompted them to come to their senses? Their first quarter financial results came in last week and showed that sales of brewers and accessories dropped 23 percent compared to a year ago. During a conference call with investment people last week, their CEO said this:

“We were wrong. We missed — we didn’t — we underestimated it, it’s the easiest way to say it. We underestimated the passion the consumer had for this,” Brian Kelley said. “We heard loud and clear from consumers who really wanted the ‘My K-Cup’ back. We want consumers to be able to bring any brand and bringing the My K-cup back allows that.”

What Mr. Kelley is referring to is a refillable and washable plastic K-cup the company sold that allowed consumers to buy a pound of whatever brand of coffee they wanted, and then just scoop a spoonful into it.

Fine, but that is only one part of the types of cups the company disabled. What about all the other brands of K-cups that don’t have that magic mark on the lid, and all the old K-cups consumers may have in stock?

Their PR manager declined to address those issues when we asked last Friday:

“Plans are still in progress, so I’m not able to provide any additional details at this time.”

The company’s stock is near a 52-week low.

• • •

May 4, 2015

Keurig 2.0 Coffeemakers Have a Built-in Detective

Filed under: Electronics,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:04 am

  KeurigThe maker of Keurig coffee machines, the ones that use those little (and expensive) K-Cups to brew a single cup of coffee, must have a clever bunch of engineers in their employ. They have created a new machine, the Keurig 2.0, that will only accept their own officially licensed cups that typically cost between 75 and 80 cents each (for about a dime’s worth of coffee). It is also designed to accept different size K-cups to brew either a single cup of coffee or four cups.

Hmmm. Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, inkjet printers. A few years ago, printer manufacturers who got tired of seeing consumers refill their own ink cartridges or buy cheap no-name ones, got the brilliant idea to affix a computer chip to each cartridge refill. That way, the printer could check if an official cartridge was installed or not. If not, the printer would stop working.

Similarly, Keurig presumably didn’t like all the cheaper knockoff little K-Cups on the market, or the reusable and washable cups that one can just add a scoop of grounds to whenever coffee was desired. So, they came up with a machine that would only turn on when a legitimate K-Cup was popped in.

How does Keurig disclose this limitation of their new coffeemakers?

*MOUSE PRINT*: From a footnote in the product description:

Keurig compatibility

What do they mean they can’t guarantee that non-Keurig-2.0 cups will work? They deliberately designed the machine not to work with them.

*MOUSE PRINT*: From their FAQs:

The Keurig® 2.0 brewer will only function with Keurig® brand pods. That means the Keurig® 2.0 brewer will brew both K-Cup® and Vue® pods and the new K-Carafe™ pods. Keurig® brand pods have been specially designed to work with the Keurig 2.0 Brewing Technology® in the Keurig® 2.0 system, which guarantees a perfect brew every time. Look for the Keurig Brewed® seal on your favorite K-Cup® pod and K-Carafe™ pod varieties to ensure a delicious cup every time. Keurig cannot guarantee that pods without the Keurig Brewed logo will work in the Keurig 2.0 brewer.

How exactly does the Keurig 2.0 work? No, they didn’t put a computer chip in every cup. The stories vary, however, of what the actual technology is, depending on whom you ask. Customer service folks at the company say the new coffeemakers have a laser that reads a serial number on the top of the new K-Cups. A company executive says that an infrared light is shined on the foil cover of each K-Cup, and the wavelength of the reflected light is measured to see if it matches a set standard.

What happens if you try to put an unlicensed little cup of grounds in the new machines? You get an error message on a little computer screen, the machine fails to start, and the coffee cops are notified.

*MOUSE PRINT:

oops

Not long after the new system came on the market, hackers went to work to defeat it, and came up with three primary ways to continue using whatever coffee containers you want. The first is removing one wire :

The other ways involved putting a legitimately licensed cap or portion of one over a rogue cup.

It may be obvious, but MrConsumer sees Keurig’s move as anti-competitive and anti-consumer. If the spy inside the machine is really only needed to distinguish between the old one-cup canisters and the new four-cup ones, I’ll forgo the wizardry and happily press a size button.

• • •

April 13, 2015

Cape Cod Potato Chips: 40% Reduced Fat?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:55 am

  When you are choosing which potato chips to eat, do you have an angel on one shoulder nagging you to take the low fat bag, and a devil on the other urging you to grab the regular chips?

MrConsumer experienced such a tug, and decided to be virtuous and try the ones with 40% less fat.

cape cod chips

They were not quite as greasy as the regular Cape Cod chips, which, of course, is why the regular ones taste so heavenly.

Upon reading and comparing the nutrition label of the 40% reduced fat chips versus the regular Cape Cod chips, MrConsumer got a shock.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cape Cod nutrition

He sacrificed that once-in-a-blue-moon treat of full-fat Cape Cod chips for a lousy 20 calories less? Yes, the 40% reduced fat chips were 200 calories and the regular ones were 220 — only 10% more calories. How could that be? Where’s the 40% savings?

First, a closer look at the fat reduction banner reveals that the comparison is not between regular Cape Cod and fat-reduced Cape Cod… but against the “leading brand” — presumably Lay’s. The actual fat difference between the two Cape Cod products is only a 25% reduction.

And then there is the incorrect assumption that a 40% reduction in fat translates into a 40% reduction in calories. It doesn’t. The potato itself counts for half the calories in the regular chips.

Next time MrConsumer has a chip choice, for the 20 extra calories, he may just splurge.

P.S. The Cape Cod reduced fat chips do indeed contain 40% less fat on a per ounce basis compared to Lay’s regular chips.

• • •

March 23, 2015

Products Get Downsized in Canada Too

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

  MrConsumer was invited to Canada a couple of weeks ago to talk about product downsizing on CBC’s national consumer TV show called Marketplace. Surprisingly, or maybe not, many of the categories of products that have been downsized in the United States have also shrunk in Canada.



On to the products!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn

Ultra Dawn is undergoing a size reduction right now in both Canada and the U.S., from 709 ml (24 oz.) to 638 ml (21.6 oz). Curiously, the old bottle claimed to clean 50% more greasy dishes than the non-concentrated Dawn, but the new bottle claims it can clean twice the number.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn 2X

There are no claims of “new improved formula” so one has to wonder how the cleaning efficiency magically improved so much. We asked P&G what their basis was for the new claim… and surprise, they didn’t respond.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Head and Shoulders

Head and Shoulders shampoo was also in the process of being downsized, with both these products on the shelf at the same time. The old and new bottles are identical, but with 20 ml less shampoo in the new one. This change is also going on right now in the U.S.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Frosted Flakes

Just as happened in the U.S. with various cereal brands, Kellogg’s applied the shrink ray to Frosted Flakes in Canada reducing packages from 445 grams to 425 grams.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ivory

The Ivory body wash used the old “new and improved” trick to draw your attention away from the net weight statement, showing a drop from 24 ounces to 21 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Huggies

And Huggies Pull-ups are now short two poops.

• • •

February 9, 2015

McDonald’s Pay with Lovin’ Promotion

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail,Sweepstakes — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:40 am

  McDonald’s unveiled a new promotion at the Super Bowl whereby random customers entering each of their restaurants will be selected to have their meal on the house if they demonstrate a bit of “lovin'” such as by hugging their kids, calling their mother to say I love you, doing a dance, etc.

McDonald's

The official rules state exactly how the promotion works. Each day at the predetermined time, the first customer to enter through a designated door, will be an unofficial winner. After they place their order, they will be approached by a manager who will tell them their order is free if they perform a particular lovin’ act.

As with any sweepstakes where money might change hands, the first rule is always “no purchase necessary.” This is because most sweepstakes are played in the context of a purchase (such getting a Monopoly game piece affixed to drink cups at McDonald’s). So game promoters are required to tell customers how to play the game free such as just by asking for a game piece, or by submitting a request for one by mail.

Paying a price for the chance of a prize is the definition of a lottery, which only the state and charitable organizations are allowed to operate. So how does McDonald’s present the “no purchase necessary” entry rules for this promotion?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The unofficial winner will be notified by the Lovin’ Lead that they are an unofficial winner after placing an order at the counter [emphasis added] or if the unofficial winner begins to leave the restaurant without placing an order at the counter. Participants do not need to make a McDonald’s purchase of any kind to be deemed an unofficial or official winner.

That is certainly a little bit awkward for the person not intending to make a purchase. So to play without paying, you have to go up to the counter, and loiter a little, or place a really big order (since it will be free if you win) but then tell the cashier you were just kidding, and begin to walk out?

From a practical standpoint what non-purchaser is going to go through this ridiculous charade for a chance at a prize? No, not even MrConsumer.

This is a fun and imaginative promotion. And it certainly is understandable why they don’t want to tell a customer when they first walk in that they have won for fear the customer will place an order for dozens of free meals. But McDonald’s really should be offering a more practical no purchase necessary method for playing the game.

Oh, incidentally, just by walking into the store, you have pre-agreed to resolve any disputes by arbitration. What, you didn’t go online before ordering your Big Mac to learn this? And some would (rightfully) say that this part of the rules is more troublesome and surprising than the no purchase necessary part.

• • •
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