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February 27, 2012

Free Hugs*

Filed under: Humor,Retail,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:59 am

Special thanks to Bruce from Tennessee and his son for finding this fine print chuckle.

[Reprinted with permission from J.L. Westover and www.mrlovenstein.com]


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December 19, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho, DC-Style

Filed under: Humor,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

NOTE: The next new Mouse Print* will be on January 2.

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, MrConsumer was drawn to the fine print on the back of a one-way street sign.

On the reverse side of the sign was a tiny disclaimer that one would normally see in a product warranty:


Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from Mouse Print*.


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October 24, 2011

Magazines Shorten Fixed-Length Subscriptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:48 am

When you are in the consumer business as long as MrConsumer has been, you think you’ve heard everything until something comes along that makes you shake your head in disbelief.

That happened a couple of weeks ago when Angela T. wrote complaining about a letter she received from the publishers of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine. It said, in essence, that their November issue was so fat with content they they were going to count it as two issues against your subscription (and thus shorten your subscription by one month).

They do say that if you call to complain, they will restore your original subscription length.

Fast forward about 10 days, and Mouse Print* received another complaint about a magazine subscription being shortened, but this time it was Family Handyman. Here is the letter that Brian F. received:

Same thing — we’re sending you a really big November issue, so we are going to count it as two issues against your subscription unless you file a complaint with us.

Is it a coincidence that two magazines are pulling the same stunt at the same time? Not at all. Both magazines are published by the same company — a subsidiary of Readers Digest.

It is interesting to note that the following fine print footnote appears on the current subscription sign up pages online for both magazines:


Each 1-year (11 issue) subscription includes a special issue, which counts as 2 in your subscription. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Does this mean that your “year” of the magazine is really 10 issues because one of the 11 is a double issue, or is it just an explanation of why there are 11 issues and not 12? More importantly, was such a disclosure made to old subscribers before they signed up, or did they believe they were signing up for 12 separate issues a year?

Mouse Print* asked the publisher of both magazines some very pointed questions about their letters and their seemingly unilateral decision to cut the number of magazines they would deliver to their subscribers.

Here, in part, is their reply:

“For any magazine in which we have provided special content so that the magazine issue counts as two, we have provided an explanation in a letter to every subscriber and polybagged it with the magazine. In the letter, we encouraged subscribers, if they were not completely satisfied, to contact us so we could address their concerns immediately by either extending their subscription expiration date or issuing them a refund for the balance of their subscription. We’re happy to report that, so far, most subscribers are happy with the bonus content.

Many magazines give notice in their solicitations that they may publish special issues in place of or in addition to regular issues of a magazine as part of someone’s subscription. The promotional materials for all of our publications, including Every Day with Rachael Ray and The Family Handyman, contain such notice provisions.”

The publisher ignored most questions posed to them, including whether old customers were actually told clearly in advance of signing up for a subscription that their subscriptions could be cut short when special issues were published. If they were, then the magazines would be within their rights to do so.

However, if that warning was not there, the publisher may be on weak ground. It generally takes at least parties two parties to form a contract (or modify one) after agreeing to all terms. In a number of states, the consumer’s silence does not constitute acceptance of a contract’s terms, as their letters would like to assume. (“If you don’t call to complain, we assume shortening the subscription is okay.”) If silence constituted acceptance of a contract, then car dealers, swimming pool installers, and everyone else in the world would be sending you letters that said, if we don’t hear from you by November 1, we are going to deliver a car to your front door, install a swimming pool in your backyard, and sign you up to receive these 100 magazines. And you have to pay for it all.

Hopefully, a sharp state Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission will open an inquiry into whether the publisher was within its rights to shorten readers’ subscriptions in the manner they did.


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January 19, 2009

Dishing on the Obama Victory Plate

Filed under: Internet,Retail,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:47 am

obamaplate1With one of the most historic inaugurations upon us, it is no surprise that Obama souvenir peddlers are coming out of the woodwork. Take the Obama “Victory Plate”, for example.

In a current TV commercial, the announcer is exhorting us to “own a piece of history”, “priceless work of art”, “first issue collector’s plate”, “this issue has been strictly limited to 65 firing days; after that, the die will be destroyed forever”, “this special treasure will be cherished as a prized family heirloom”, and “the certificate of authenticity from the American Historic Society promises you will own a collectible of the highest quality and integrity”.

Well, if the American Historic Society has endorsed this “collectible”, maybe it could worth money someday. Not.

*MOUSE PRINT: Not disclosed either in the commercial or on their website is the fact that the American Historic Society is not related to the American Historical Society — the  organization incorporated by Congress in 1889.  The latter nonprofit has neither commissioned the manufacture and sale of this plate, nor endorsed it.

The American Historic Society appears to be merely a marketing company engaged in the sale of commemorative coins and memorabilia.

And like so many other made-for-tv “collectibles”, the Obama plate is most likely destined to join that velvet picture of Elvis in your garage.


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December 22, 2008

That Unreadable Jibberish in TV Show Credits

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:36 am

For this holiday week, a change of pace to a lighter subject. Most people don’t read the credits at the end of television programs. Even fewer folks have probably noticed what appears to be a screen full of boilerplate language at the end of the CBS programs “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”  The microtype fills the screen and only appears for two seconds.  No one can read it, even if they wanted to, unless you can freeze frame that moment on the screen.

While the casual observer may have assumed this was some type of elaborate copyright notice, in fact, the screens of tiny white letters on a black background are called “vanity cards” authored by the show’s executive producer, Chuck Lorre.  And they change every week.

Here is the very first one he wrote in 1997 when he produced the show Dharma and Greg:


Chuck Lorre

Mr. Lorre has now authored over 200 of these vanity cards, that range from Seinfeldian rants about nothing, to chiding the brass at CBS for some slight, and everything in between.

Even the Wall Street Journal noticed his two-second treatises and wrote a story about them.  For a slide show of a few vanity cards, click here. His entire collection of vanity cards is immortalized on Chuck Lorre’s own website.  Enjoy.


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