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July 11, 2016

Amazon Finally Drops Deceptive List Price Comparisons

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

For two decades, Amazon.com has compared its current selling price to an often illusory “list price” — a price often set by the manufacturer that few if any retailers actually charge. This comparison made consumers believe they were getting a great deal and saving a bundle. We have shown you in the past how often grossly exaggerated list prices at Amazon made a bad problem worse.

More recently, on April 1 this year, Amazon advertised a memory module claiming a whopping 65% savings.

Amazon comparison


According to CamelCamelCamel which tracks Amazon’s prices, Amazon never charged that list price of the memory module. And it has been two years since prices for that item even approached the list price.

price history

The New York Times now reports that Amazon has finally had a change of heart, and is dropping list price comparison for as much as 70% of their inventory. Here for example is that same memory module as of last week, with no savings claims made.

Amazon's price today

Why is Amazon dropping list price comparisons? Many retailers have been the subject of recent class action lawsuits alleging that customers were deceived by these false price comparisons, and they have been awarded millions of dollars. The question is will Amazon’s sales be affected because there are no savings claims? Remember what happened to J.C. Penney when their new president decided to play it straight and drop phony sales? Their revenue plummeted.


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June 20, 2016

Lord & Taylor’s Missing Fine Print

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:14 am

Very often the worst type of fine print disclosure is the one that is missing, despite being required to be there. That is what retailer Lord & Taylor did (or failed to do) according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In early 2015, Lord & Taylor was coming out with a new line of clothing aimed at younger women. To help get their attention, the retail chain wisely enlisted the help of 50 “fashion influencers” — hip bloggers and fashion writers with a big following. They were given the same free dress, and paid between $1,000 and $4,000 to post a picture of themselves along with certain hashtags on Instagram.

Instagram dress


Under the FTC’s Testimonial and Endorsement Guidelines, these women failed to disclose the material connection they had to Lord & Taylor, that they received the product for free, and that they were paid to promote the dress and clothing line.

Lord & Taylor didn’t stop there. They paid an online fashion magazine, Nylon, to write an article about the new clothing line, and got to review and approve it before publication.

Nylon magazine


Besides violating the testimonial guidelines by not disclosing that the magazine was paid to write this story, the presentation of the story on Nylon’s website made the story appear just like any other article they publish. This is called “native advertising” when what really is an ad is deliberately made to look like independent editorial content of the publisher. Under the brand new Native Advertising Guidelines of the FTC, this content had to be clearly labeled as a “paid advertisement” or “sponsor paid content” or similar.

Why is the FTC making a big stink about this? First, consumers have a right to know whether what they are reading is an objective, real opinion of an authority on the subject, or just the opinion of the advertiser, to which they might assign less weight or credence. Secondly, disguised advertising works. In the Lord & Taylor case, the fashion influencers’ posts reached 11.4 million individual Instagram users over just two days, and the dress quickly sold out.

In its proposed consent order, the FTC says that going forward Lord & Taylor can’t falsely claim, expressly or by implication that an endorser is an independent user or ordinary consumer. If there is a material connection between the company and an endorser, Lord & Taylor must clearly disclose it in close proximity to the claim. And Lord & Taylor can’t suggest or imply that a paid ad is a statement or opinion from an independent or objective publisher or source.

No fine is being imposed.


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June 13, 2016

Thanks for Nothing #3

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Humor,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

We continue our series of offers, which upon closer scrutiny, offer less than expected.

Example 1:

Right in the heart of downtown Boston at Faneuil Hall, McCormick and Schmick’s has a great Friday deal:


At a place where fish and chips is about $18, getting a plate of fish tacos for just $5 on Fridays is a sensational offer. But wait… there’s more… or really less.


each taco

Tucked away at the bottom right corner of the sandwich board was the tiny disclosure “each taco.” Thanks for nothing, McCormick & Schmick’s… olé.

Example 2:

Larry S. from Texas sent us this “deal” he found at Staples.

Staples tape bonus pack
Click to Enlarge


The box with six rolls of tape is $10, while the package with the “free” bonus dispenser is $13.99. (And yes, they both contain the same size six rolls of tape.) Thanks for nothing, Staples.

If you find a great example of a “thanks for nothing” offer, take a picture or screenshot and send it along to edgar (at symbol) mouseprint.org .


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June 6, 2016

Breyers’ Ad Omits a Key Ingredient

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:22 am

A recent TV commercial from Breyers has some adorable kids discussing the company’s “Natural Vanilla” ice cream and its simple ingredients.

After emphasizing the vanilla beans in their Natural Vanilla ice cream, one little girl, as if reading from the label, declares “Breyers has fresh cream, sugar, and milk.”

We’ll have to give this girl an “F” in reading. Look at the product’s actual ingredients statement.


Tara gum

The first ingredient is milk and not cream, but they make it sound like cream is first and the predominant ingredient. Doing so could help sell more ice cream. And mysteriously, our little pitchwoman omitted “tara gum” in her recital.

Now turn back the clock about 20 years, when Breyers made fun of competing brands by asking kids to read their ingredients with unpronounceable additives:

This kid can read all the ingredients on the Breyers package and did so in the order of predominance.

So should have today’s kids.


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May 30, 2016

Kind Nutrition Bars — A “Healthy” Choice?

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

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Kind, LLC, a maker of supposedly “healthy” nutrition snack bars and similar foods.

The agency singled out four of their nutrition bars as making problematic claims not in compliance with FDA regulations: Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants.

KIND box

Take the above dark chocolate peanut butter bar, for example. They say this bar is “misbranded” because the product labels bear nutrient content claims, but the products do not meet the requirements to make such claims. Specifically, the label makes the claim “Healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome” in connection with statements such as: “good source of fiber,” “no trans fats,” and “7g protein.”

And their website says:

KIND Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein is a healthy & satisfying blend of peanuts and dark chocolate. Each bar contains 7 grams of protein, which promotes satiety and strengthens bones, muscles and skin.


The problem according to the FDA is that you can only use the term “healthy” as an implied nutrient content claim on the label or in the labeling of a food provided that the food, among other things, is “low saturated fat” [i.e., the food has a saturated fat content of 1 g or less per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) and no more than 15 percent of the calories are from saturated fat]. But according to their nutrition label, the product fails this test, with three and half times the saturated fat and four times the calories allowed from saturated fat.


The product also cannot be called “anti-oxidant rich” because it does not contain at least 20% of the daily requirement of nutrients recognized for their anti-oxidant qualities. It only contains 15% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin E and 0% of vitamin C and vitamin A.

In addition, there are technical problems with their “no trans fat” and “good source of fiber claims.”

Virtually all of these violations are not obvious to purchasers who probably see this product as some sort of health or nutrition bar. And one has to wonder whether if this is all about the marketing of candy bars cloaked with seeming health benefits.

Fast forward to May 2016: The FDA seems to have had a change of heart and has told Kind that it can return the word “healthy” to its bars. In the meantime, the agency says it is going to re-evaluate its two-decade-old regulations governing the word “healthy” and may come out with new rules. That is sure kind of the FDA.


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