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July 13, 2015

With New LED Light Bulbs, Be Careful Watt You Buy

Filed under: Electronics,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:13 am

  Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are poised to become the bulb of choice for many shoppers. With a recent price drop announced by GE, it is predicted that LED light bulbs might in coming years make compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) obsolete.

But not all LED bulbs are created equal.

Here is a conventional incandescent 60-watt bulb and its CFL equivalent:

60-watt incandescent     cfl

The conventional 60-watt bulb has a life of about 1000 hours, and is rated at 870 lumens (the brightness or amount of light it gives off). But the CFL uses only one-quarter of the electricity (15 watts), lasts eight times longer, and produces slightly more light — 900 lumens — at least initially. That CFL cost a dollar or less.

The new GE bulb, called the GE LED Bright Stik, comes in packs of three at Home Depot for $9.97.

GE Bright Stik

*MOUSE PRINT:

While it uses one-sixth of the electricity of an incandescent, and a third less than the CFL, it only provides 760 lumens of light versus 870-900 lumens for the other two. It also provides a paltry 15,000 hours of life — short for an LED.

It appears that GE has sacrificed longevity and light output for a lower price. Compare the specs of some of its competitors:

*MOUSE PRINT:


60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulb Comparison
chart
“Conventional” refers to bulb shape

As you can see, prices and specs vary widely. The point of this comparison is to show that you shouldn’t assume that all LED bulbs of a certain wattage equivalent provide the same amount of brightness or have the longest possible life.

• • •

June 22, 2015

Here We Downsize Again – 2015 (part two)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

  The parade of products being downsized continues. It is rare that a downsized product makes headlines, but this one did.

*MOUSE PRINT:

McCormick pepper

Besides dropping one-quarter of the contents, what is irksome here is the old and new containers are identical. Here is a side view with the old on the left and the new one the right:

McCormick side view

As reported in Consumer World last week, a competitor is suing McCormick for unfair practices, saying in part that the new package has been slack-filled. That means there is nonfunctional empty space inside which is illegal under federal law, and possibly some state laws.

Other competitors have noticed, and instead of fighting McCormick’s move, they are joining it.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pepper competitor


Toilet paper continues to be subject to the shrink ray. The latest, Cottonelle, has had each sheet downsized in both width and length.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cottonelle

The good news — there are still 208 sheets on a roll — albeit each sheet is just a little closer to resembling a postage stamp than before. Thanks to Richard G. for this tip.


Lastly, we have bar soap. Many brands of “bath size” soap were originally five ounces. Then they became 4.5 ounces, then 4.25 ounces, and finally four ounces. Sometime, probably last year, Olay reduced the size of its soap from 4.25 ounces to four ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Olay 4.25 oz

Olay 4 oz.

But, every so often after a product is downsized, companies will come out with a “bonus pack” giving you back what they took out. They make you think it is your lucky day.

Olay 5 oz.

Of course, this just puts bath size soap bars right back where they started at — five ounces — but not at the old price.

• • •

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.

• • •
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