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May 16, 2016

Here We Downsize Again — 2016 (part 2)

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

Thanks to the eagle eyes of regular Mouse Print* reader Richard G., we have another round of products that manufacturers have taken the shrink ray to.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cottonelle

Toilet paper is one of the categories of items that has been downsized for decades. Cottonelle continues to shrink in size, this time going from 418 sheets on a mega roll to 380 sheets. Double rolls have also downsized from 209 sheets per roll to 190.

Deceptively, in the upper right corner of the new smaller package, the company claims that you are getting 20% more sheets.

Cottonelle 20%

Huh? Only in marketing can getting less per roll mean you’re getting more. The *MOUSE PRINT finishes the claim: “compared to Charmin Ultra Strong mega rolls.”

Incidentally, it was just about a year ago that this same brand sliced off fractions of a inch from both the length of width of each sheet, as we reported.


*MOUSE PRINT:

Colgate

Colgate is just in the process now of reducing the size of its largest tube of regular toothpaste from 8.2 ounces to 8.0 ounces. And just like the makers of Cottonelle, they are trying to create a false impression that the new box is giving you more. How in the world are you getting 33% more?

*MOUSE PRINT:

vs. 6 oz size

Thanks for the mathematics lesson tucked on the back of the box, Colgate.


Lastly, Scott K.’s co-workers in Canada couldn’t understand why their instant coffee was running out much faster than usual.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nescafe

The reason: there is 15% less coffee in each jar of Nescafe now.




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May 2, 2016

Man Beats Kmart in Court Over Fridge, But Should He Have Won?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

Kenmore refrigeratorAs reported in the Asbury Park Press, a 79-year old New Jersey man had a problem with a Kenmore refrigerator he had bought a year earlier. Around Christmas, the gentleman noticed that food in his freezer was getting mushy.

When he contacted Kmart, they told him that he was using the refrigerator improperly because he placed it in his unheated garage, contrary to the instructions in the owner’s manual.

*MOUSE PRINT:

kenmore55

Apparently, you are not supposed to put the refrigerator in a garage where the temperature can fall below 55 degrees. Kmart refused to give the man a refund because of his misuse of the product, but offered him a $75 gift card for the lost food in the freezer, and a 20% discount on a new refrigerator.

That was not satisfactory to the consumer, so he sued Kmart in small claims court for $535.59. The judge asked him a few questions like whether he was told of this limitation in the store before he bought the appliance. The consumer said no.

With that, the judge ruled in consumer’s favor. Incidentally, Kmart did not show up for the hearing. It is a general court rule that if the defendant does not appear for the trial, the plaintiff wins by default.

The question becomes, had Kmart shown up in court, would the consumer have still won?

Here’s MrConsumer’s take: If the consumer had asked for a refrigerator that could be used in a cold environment like a garage, and if Kmart directed him to this particular model, then Kmart would be responsible if in fact the refrigerator was not suited for that purpose. (This is the Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.) If however the consumer never made known his intentions to use the refrigerator in a manner that most people do not, he was negligent by not following the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings… and should not have won.

A salesperson cannot be expected to read the consumer’s mind and recite all the do’s and don’ts listed in the product manual.

What do you think? Should this consumer have won his case? Add your opinion in the comments section.




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April 4, 2016

Starbucks Accused of Underfilling Lattes

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

Starbucks cupA few weeks ago, two consumers sued Starbucks alleging that the company routinely and deliberately underfills their cups of latte.

The lawyers contend that in 2009 the company adopted a money-saving move that would force Starbucks’ baristas to make lattes in a uniform way. They were required to use a pitcher that contained “fill to” lines like those on detergent bottle caps so they would know how much milk to add. They then had to add a certain number of one-ounce shots of espresso, a certain number of pumps of flavored syrup, and 1/4-inch of foam on top, leaving 1/4-inch of space.

Starbucks recipe

The lawyers say that based on this recipe plus the actual physical capacity of Starbucks’ cups, their lattes can’t possibly be the full size they claim.

What are Starbucks’ size claims?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Starbucks menu

Starbucks represents that their hot lattes are 12, 16, and 20 fluid ounces in tiny letters right on their menu boards. When the lawyers tested the capacity of their cups, they found that only when filling them all the way to the brim did they hold the claimed capacity. But since they interpret the official instructions as requiring that 1/4-inch of space be left at the top, right off the bat all their lattes are short-weighted, they contend. Note: a test by Mouse Print* of a 16-ounce Starbucks cup reveals that it actually holds about 17 ounces when filled to the brim.

Even if the cups are only one-ounce short when served, multiply that by millions of cups sold a week, and that means huge savings for the company and a huge loss in the aggregate for customers. But the lawyers offer more proof based on actual store inspections. They say they “purchased and measured Starbucks Lattes at different stores, in different states, in different sizes, and in different flavors. However, each Latte was underfilled by approximately 25%.”

On the face of it, that is a rather shocking allegation.

Yet, in the very next paragraph of the complaint, the lawyers present conflicting evidence when they recount what happened when they followed the company recipe using one of the Starbucks pitchers that they had obtained.

*MOUSE PRINT:

For a [16-oz] Grande beverage, the “fill to” line comprises less than 12 fluid ounces of milk. After adding 2 shots of espresso (2 fluid ounces), the resulting beverage measures less than 14 fluid ounces at most. This falls far short of Starbucks’ “16 fl. oz.” representation.

Haven’t they just contradicted their claim that drinks were all underfilled by about 25% in their tests? In this example, for a 16-oz drink to be 25% short, it would have to be 12 ounces, not the almost 14 ounces they found. And did they really follow the recipe? Where’s the four pumps of flavored syrup? Where’s the foam? If these ingredients were added, what would be the total number of ounces in the cup?

And if cups were all 25% short, wouldn’t consumers across the country have been yelling bloody murder about the practice for years? Well, maybe not, since Starbucks puts an opaque cover on hot lattes and you drink it through a hole on the cover.

Mouse Print* emailed two of the lawyers raising some of these very issues, but we have not yet received a response.

Starbucks has been relatively circumspect in their response to the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the plaintiffs’ claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. We are proud to serve our customers high-quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations.”

We have a sneaking suspicion this case may turn on two points. The first is what is the proper way to measure foam (and maybe the aerated milk) — do you just measure its height/volume and count that as part of the total fluid ounces, or do you have to wait until it settles to see how much liquid is actually contained in the foam? According to Handbook 133 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you have to dissipate the foam, and then you measure the quantity of liquid in the cup.

Secondly, there is an issue related to the syrup, which we won’t detail here. But, according to weights and measures rules, since both flavored and unflavored lattes are represented on the menu board to be a certain number of ounces, they must in fact meet that standard –and not by adding a whole bunch of extra foam to fill the cup.

Look for MrConsumer on the Today Show commenting on Starbucks’ practices:

Starbucks Today Show
Click picture to view video




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March 21, 2016

Outback’s “Biggest” 12-Ounce Steak?

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:46 am

Sometimes advertisers seem to make ludicrous claims.

Here’s exhibit #1:

Outback largest 12 ounce steak

The biggest 12-ounce steak? Isn’t a big 12-ounce steak the same size as a small 12-ounce steak?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Perusing Outback’s website actually provides a shocking additional fact about their largest 12-ounce steak claim.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Outback 12 oz can be 11 oz

What? Outback’s 12-ounce steak can actually be 11 ounces? Apparently so. At some locations, the largest sirloin steak that Outback carries is only 11 ounces.

I guess this is almost like Subway’s foot-long sandwiches being only 11 inches occasionally.

Eleven must be the new 12 in the restaurant industry.




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March 14, 2016

Blue Bunny Ice Cream Downsizes

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Blue Bunny has been the white knight of the ice cream industry. When other brands downsized to 56 ounces, they stayed at half a gallon. Subsequently when the industry moved to a 48 ounce container, Blue Bunny touted that their now 56 ounce container gave you two extra scoops.

2 more scoops

Now, eagle-eyed Mouse Print* reader Richard G., the king of finding products that have undergone the shrink ray, reports that Blue Bunny has finally succumbed and downsized its ice cream and yogurt products, cutting out a cup or more of the sweet treat.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Blue Bunny 56 oz. Blue Bunny 48 oz.

In fact, some varieties are now 46 ounces, not even 48 ounces.

The company explains that it has changed its packaging to see-through plastic, and in answer to the question of why they shrunk containers, they say:

While ice cream is fun it is also a very competitive landscape! Over the last several years consumers have seen brands respond to the competitiveness with various changes to their products, from changing size of container to electing to stray from the true definition of ice cream and deliver frozen dairy dessert. While our packaging size has changed with our makeover, the quality of our ice cream has not been ignored, in fact our ice cream is better than ever! Most importantly, consumers can be confident Blue Bunny is committed to delivering an incredible ice cream experience with the best quality in all aspects – from the first opening to digging out the last scoop in the container! We are dedicated every day to ensure that we are delivering on the commitment to provide high quality ice cream products at a reasonable price for our fans to enjoy.

So, parsing all that flowery language… they are doing just what competitors did a long time ago.

They have also tinkered with the nutrition label, such as the one for the frozen yogurt above. The serving size is now 70 grams instead of the old 86 grams.

Just don’t expect Blue Bunny to proclaim these changes with a big banner like this:

Blue Bunny Two Fewer




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