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August 11, 2014

What Major Appliance Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:12 am

 When you read a manufacturer’s description of a major appliance’s features, everything sounds rosy. But when you read reviews of that very same appliance by consumers who have owned it for a while, used it, and learned its quirks, you sometimes get a totally different picture. Sometimes, they are horrifying, and they make you question the quality of major appliances today.

In 2012, we presented some excerpts of customer reviews of two expensive refrigerators, and the tales of woe and terrible problems described would make anyone afraid to buy any new frigerator. So, in advance of Halloween, we’d like to scare you again, this time by looking at some washing machine horror stories.

Here are edited excerpts of reviews written by (un)happy customers about a few front loading washers and one laundry center. (Obviously, we have taken note of the worst reviews. Often, some consumers will give the very same model five stars, which just adds to the confusion.)

*MOUSE PRINT:

washer “I could wash my clothes in a river and they would come out cleaner than when I wash them using the supposed sanitary cycle. Nothing ever rinses out of the clothes first wash, nothing ever washes off the clothing material, and it takes 4 or 5 washes for the items to be reasonably clean.”

Samsung Model #WF45H6300AW, $949, reviewed at HomeDepot.com. NOTE: At BestBuy.com this model has an average rating of 4.5 stars and is generally well-regarded. Sometimes a lemon gets by factory inspectors.

Frigidaire“I have the washer and dryer that are under a year old. The washer pauses its self around 5 times per cycle, it takes 12 hours to do a load of laundry and it comes out soaking wet. Problem started 6 months in.”

“This model is plagued by electronics issues. The first one we bought had a defective motherboard. It died right after the 1 year warranty ended. Since it cost almost as much to repair as to buy a new one, we bought a second of the same model. It just broke as well, this time the door switch burnt out.”

“We just got it delivered and installed and it won’t work. We put the first load of laundry in and pressed start. The lights flashed briefly, and then it turned off. It does this every time. Really disappointing.”

“Apparently, the washer eats socks which then fouls up the mechanics of the machine resulting in an expensive repair. This morning, for no reason at all the machine just began turning on.”

Frigidaire Model # FAFW3801LW, $699, reviewed at HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, Lowes (46 one-star reviews).

Kenmore“I am currently on my 2nd laundry center since Dec 2012. First one broke in under 90 days. This second one is now being repaired for the 3rd time since March of 2013. The cost of parts alone is almost the cost of the machine. Do not even consider this machine.”

“Stay away from this center! We had the unit replaced after the first was a lemon within 6mos of purchasing. The second is also a dud. … The washer, where to start… the technician is now on my Christmas list. This washer has been rebuilt 5 times. The seal at the base of the tub constantly detached and spilled gallons of water onto my wooden floors and into our subflooring. I now have not have a working unit since [two months ago].”

“I give it one star because I don’t believe the system will allow me to give it zero. Not only does the dryer rip buttons off my dress shirts with regularity (even on delicate setting), I’ve already had to put in two trouble calls for it. The second repair call came after the main, internal drain hose for the washer disconnected (apparently due to an inherent design flaw), spilling multiple gallons of water on our floor. The resulting flood ruined the carpet in two rooms, and forced us to have a number of oriental rugs professionally cleaned. Worse yet, both times we put in repair calls under our warranty service, it took almost two weeks for a technician to arrive.”

Sears Kenmore Laundry Center (made by GE), Model # 61532, $1052.

The lesson in all this is that the manufacturer is not going to tell you about all the problems that people report to them — the undisclosed mouse print, if you will. Why haven’t major appliance makers improved their products year after year much like the car industry? Instead, they seem to be producing more lemons than Sunkist, and some of the problems seem to be engineering and design flaws.

To protect yourself, you are going to have to search out reviews from real owners of these major appliances. Weigh the bad reviews against the good reviews and keep your fingers crossed.

• • •

August 4, 2014

Boy, Do They Have (Beach) Balls

Filed under: Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

 John S. wrote to Mouse Print* about a beach ball he just purchased at Dollar General.

It was in a package that in big type indicated it was a 16-inch beach ball.

Upon closer examination of the fine print, however, John got an unexpected surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

beach ball

The ball is really only about a 10-inch ball when inflated.

Who in their right mind measures a ball in its uninflated state to come up a product description? (A manufacturer who wants to make you think you are buying a bigger ball than your really are, apparently.)

• • •

July 14, 2014

Here We Downsize Again — Part 1

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:27 am

 Since last fall, manufacturers have been hard at work shrinking the products you buy everyday in an effort to make a price increase be less obvious.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ball Park Franks

Ball Park Franks recently decreased their package size by one ounce, so their one pound packages are now just 15 ounces.


*MOUSE PRINT:

Chobani

Chobani decreased the size of their yogurt containers to 5.3 ounces saying they were just matching what competitors had done. Remember the days when the standard yogurt container was eight ounces? Thanks to SW and Richard G. for the tip on Chobani.


*MOUSE PRINT:

Super Scoop

Arm and Hammer took out almost two pounds of kitty litter from Super Scoop but kept the boxes the same size. How many people noticed that we have to wonder? Thanks to WAE for the tip on Super Scoop.

• • •

July 7, 2014

When Good Rebates Go Bad

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

 Newegg offered an amazing price a few weeks ago on a refurbished 32-inch Samsung HDTV — only $159.99 after a $30 mail-in rebate. And if you used a particular American Express card offer, you saved another $15.

As with most rebates, to get the $30 back you had to mail in the UPC code from the box. Unlike regular TV boxes printed with a picture of the TV, etc., the carton the Samsung TV was shipped in was plain brown. And there was no UPC barcode to be found. There was only the UPS shipping label, and an internal Newegg item number barcode (not the manufacturer’s).

ups label

Upon closer scrutiny, it appears that Newegg’s shipping department placed the large UPS label over the UPC code label. Have you ever tried to remove one of those large labels from cardboard? Of course this could have been a freak occurrence but for the fact that another consumer complained about the same shipping department mishap.

If by some chance the purchaser was able to remove the UPS label through careful surgery, this is what they would find:

*MOUSE PRINT:

UPC

What a relief! Not so fast. The joy is about to end. A quick check of the rebate form reveals the next problem.

*MOUSE PRINT:

rebate form

The UPC code number required for the rebate to be submitted does not match the UPC code number actually on the box!

A representative at the fulfillment house that processes rebates for Newegg fully understood the issue, but said there was nothing they could do about it. Consumers would have to submit whatever they could as proof of purchase, get denied, and then take up the battle with Newegg directly to (hopefully) get their $30 back.

The consumer who complained to Consumer World said he got the same answer when calling customer service at Newegg directly. Each individual purchaser would have to fight their own battle.

Imagining that hundreds of these TVs were sold during two sales in May and June where the erroneous UPC code was printed on two separate rebate offers, MrConsumer contacted executives at Newegg in an attempt to find a global solution for these customers.

In short order, Newegg’s Senior PR Manager had good news. They were going to find a solution. And a few days later, they sent out this email to purchasers of that Samsung HDTV:

newegg apology

Unfortunately, the company didn’t address the problem of obstructed UPCs in this notification. But, at least most purchasers of this TV won’t have to fight an individual battle to get their $30 back.

• • •

June 30, 2014

Don’t Assume the Store Brand is Comparable

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

 Many savvy shoppers automatically grab the store brand even when it comes to health products.

In fact, the store brand often says that it is comparable to XYZ name brand right on the package. For example, this package of CVS “Advanced Eye Health” sits right next to Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision AREDS 2 Formula on store shelves and says in large letters “comparable to ongoing study formula in AREDS 2.”

PreserVision vs. CVS

PreserVision AREDS 2 formula contains all the ingredients from the second of two studies that were shown to be effective in slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a very serious eye condition leading to partial blindness. This particular combination of vitamins and minerals resulted from years of testing sponsored by the federal government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “AREDS 2″ refers to this second and the most recent completed five-year study reported on in May 2013. So, it is very important for any product that is promoted to be a comparable product to mirror the list of ingredients that has proven successful in these tests.

A review of the two ingredients panels reveals some big surprises:

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients comparison

Keep in mind that the Bausch + Lomb product on the left has the exact ingredients that were found to be the most effective in the most recent study. The formula is patented.

The CVS product on the right has only two of the six ingredients that were judged most effective in the most recent study, plus omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids were in fact tested in the AREDS 2 study, but deemed not to improve the efficacy of the product. Bausch + Lomb removed the omega-3 from the current formula because the study found that “Omega-3 fatty acids … clearly do not reduce the risk of progression to advanced AMD.” CVS did not remove it.

So one really has to wonder with only two of the six ingredients that were found to have any effect, what value is there in taking the CVS product? Consumers are likely grabbing this product to save money based on the label claim, and not realizing the formulation is different. In so doing, they are likely under the mistaken belief that it will help slow the progression of macular degeneration.

We asked CVS to comment on the stark differences between PreserVision and the CVS brand. We wanted to know how they could call it “comparable” to the AREDS 2 formulation, since it only had two of the six ingredients found to work.

The packaging of our CVS/pharmacy Advanced Eye Health states that it is comparable to the “ongoing study formula in AREDS2.” No comparison is made to the national brand product.

When this product was launched in July 2012, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) was ongoing. CVS/pharmacy Advanced Eye Health dietary supplement was formulated with the same nutrients as used in one of the study arms. The “comparable to” claim was designed to invite consumers to compare the product to the study arm while noting the ongoing nature of the clinical trial. The packaging also notes that there were other formulations being studied.

We are in the process of removing this statement from the product packaging now that the results of the AREDS2 study have been released. — CVS Director of Public Relations

CVS is correct that they don’t compare their product to PreserVision directly and their claim refers to the “ongoing” tests. But the tests referred to are long over. And, the Bausch + Lomb product is the final AREDS 2 formulation as found in the AREDS 2 study. It says “AREDS 2″ on the label, and it sits right next to the CVS version on store shelves. Given that, consumers will inevitably make the comparison to PreserVision and assume the CVS version is the same. They are not likely to go off and do medical research to read the full study to understand what was being tested and how it compared to the CVS product.

CVS, however, appears to be incorrect when it says that the ingredients in its product are “the same nutrients as used in one of the study arms.” The study was very complex, but basically it took the original AREDS formulation of vitamins and minerals and tested ADDING things to it. In one part of the test, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3s were added to the basic AREDS formula. The CVS product however, ONLY has those three added ingredients and none of the original proven AREDS ingredients. To analogize, imagine if CVS was coming out with a new detergent plus bleach product. It added bleach to the detergent bottle, but did not put in the main ingredient, the actual detergent.

Lastly, while it is good that CVS has agreed to remove the comparability claim from its packaging, they should have done that a year ago when the AREDS 2 study was finished and released. And they probably should remove the current product from store shelves pending the revision of the packaging claims.

Should CVS continue to market this product with its current formulation either expressly or impliedly as being comparable to either the AREDS 2 formula or to Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision, you have to understand that it has not been proven to slow the progression of a disease that could rob you of your vision.

If you purchased CVS Advanced Eye Health, please post a comment indicating what your experience was, what you believed you were buying, and how you feel about the revelation that it is not the equivalent of the AREDS 2 formula.

• • •
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