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June 16, 2014

Drinkable Sunscreen?

Filed under: Health,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:59 am

Harmonized Water  Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to slather oily sunscreen all of your body when you go to the beach?

Sensing a business opportunity, a company called Osmosis Skincare and its founder Dr. Ben Johnson, created “Harmonized Water.” You are directed to add 2 ml. of this specially infused water to two ounces of regular water, and drink it an hour before going out in the sun.

The makers claim:

“Achieve UV protection before the sun even hits you with our innovative new technology that isolates the precise frequencies needed to neutralize UVA and UVB.”

“Allows for increased sun exposure (30x more than normal)”

How exactly does this work?

“It helps to balance tissue disharmonies by delivering beneficial radio frequencies to the cells using water as a carrier. The frequencies we use have been determined by a proprietary math formula that allows us to reverse engineer most substances to determine their actual vibrational rate. We then imprint these frequencies on water molecules by forming standing waves (waves that pulse from rest). We can communicate to the cell with a language that is better recognized and more specific than the frequencies of commonly used remedies.”

Did you follow all that mumbo-jumbo?

According to scores of testimonials on the company’s website, the product really works (surprise)! However, the American Academy of Dermatology felt compelled to issue a public warning about this product last month:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Recently, there has been media coverage about “drinkable sunscreen” that claims to provide sun protection through the ingestion of water that allegedly has been infused with electromagnetic waves.

The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) wants to alert consumers that this drink should not be used as a replacement for sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. There is currently no scientific evidence that this “drinkable sunscreen” product provides any protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

Sunscreen is the only form of sun protection that is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 has been scientifically proven to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun. The Academy continues to recommends that you still seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing and wide-brimmed hat, and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. For more sun protection tips, visit www.SpotSkinCancer.org.

So, save your $30 for three ounces of this suntan miracle.

• • •

June 9, 2014

To Increase Profits, Product Makers Just Add Water!

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

  We all know that product downsizing occurs when some amount of the product has been removed from the package inconspicuously, but the price remains the same.

A close relative to product downsizing is what we call “product dilution.” The product is formulated or reformulated in such a manner as to make it less expensive to manufacture.

Exhibit A:

A classic example is Tropicana’s “Trop50” drink that boasts 50% less sugar and calories. How did they accomplish this? It only has 42% juice and the rest is water and flavoring.

Exhibit B:

And if you have poked around the meat counter lately, some whole chickens and boneless chicken breasts have been plumped up with up to 15% of “broth” (aka water). [Note how "fifteen percent" is spelled out to make it less obvious at a glance.]

*MOUSE PRINT:

chicken broth

Exhibit C:

Procter & Gamble recently has been “diluting” some of their products to come out with a new “value” line. Witness the introduction of Charmin Basic and Bounty Basic, a cheaper single-ply product compared to regular two-ply rolls. And then there is the new Tide detergent in the yellow bottle. Priced less expensively than traditional Tide and presumably with a less effective formulation, it is designed to complete with other bargain detergents.

Exhibit D:

*MOUSE PRINT:

DawnAnd P&G’s newest product, Dawn “Simply Clean” is just beginning to hit store shelves. It caught regular Mouse Print* reader Tim B. unaware, who bought a bottle of the new stuff thinking it was regular Dawn Ultra.

“I didn’t notice the label until I went to use the soap. Very watery and very runny. As expected, it does not perform as well as the Ultra so I have to use more. My problem when I shop, is I expect things to remain the same. And these companies continue to get me. Gwaltney bacon, I purchased a pack of that only to discover I got 12 ounces instead of 16. Anitfreeze that was “pre-diluted” which means I bought a half gallon of water and half gallon of anti-freeze. Packaged meat with “water added”. And now “Non-Concentrated ” Dawn, AKA more water added. I thought the “Simply Clean” was just a new slogan.

Sad part is years ago, companies would improve their product to get you to buy it. Now it seems everything is going the other direction, to make cheaper products.”

Our intrepid consumer is a technician by trade, so he decided to test both old and new Dawn to try to determine how much the new non-concentrated Dawn had been watered down. The old one was thick and gloppy, while the new one was much thinner. In fact, he says the new product only has one-third the “solids” as the old one.

So how do you feel about “product dilution?” Sound off in the comments.

• • •

June 2, 2014

For Once, The Small Print Giveth

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Humor — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:37 am

  We have lamented for years that “the big print giveth, and the small print taketh away.” For once recently, the opposite was true.

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a college food delivery service issued this coupon offering students 10% off:

cindodemayo15

In a twist, however, it included some very unusual and unexpected fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“So you’re one of those people who have [sic] to read all the rules and stipulations. You know what we think about that? We think that’s awesome. On the other hand, we think you should probably relax. … we think you deserve an even bigger discount for listening to us ramble. Try “TIMETORELAX” for 15% off any order today.”

So, as a reward for reading the fine print, this service was upping the discount to 15%.

How many people actually read the fine print and got the bigger discount? According to Business Insider, only 12%.

• • •

May 26, 2014

Barclaycard Ring: A Transparent (?) Social Credit Card

Filed under: Finance,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

barclaycard ring  From the lost archive of unpublished Mouse Print* stories…

To appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, Barclays Bank introduced a new credit card in 2012 called the Barclaycard Ring. They said it was “the first social credit card to be designed and built through the power of community crowdsourcing.” In other words, cardholders will have input into the features, benefits, and pricing of the card.

A bank official put it this way: “Through simple and transparent terms [emphasis added], we want to pull back the curtain that has traditionally separated banks from their customers and give our community a say in weighing economic tradeoffs that can create a better cardholder experience.”

Their website went on to say: “Being candid starts with using straightforward language without the confusing legalese. But we’re taking it a step further. For the first time ever, we’re going to give you a look at our profit and loss statement, [emphasis added] which shows you how we make money from Barclaycard Ring. And with Giveback™, you’ll even get to keep some of the profits for yourself.”

This credit card sounds like something created by hippies (oops, MrConsumer is dating himself) rather than a stodgy, money-grubbing bank, doesn’t it?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The terms and conditions statement for the card, which indeed has been simplified, explains how cardholders will (or won’t) be able to see the bank’s profit and loss statement:

This profit sharing feature is not based on the actual profits of the program. Instead, the Giveback™ program contains a transparent calculation that is used to determine what will be shared with the community members and which may or may not approximate actual profits. The Giveback™ program and the profit sharing features are offered at our sole discretion. We may discontinue the program at anytime.

Oh, so you really don’t get to look at the profit and loss statement, and the bank can decide on its own to stop the profit sharing plan. Nice.

2014 Update: Checking the bank’s first annual report, and the quarterly ones through March 2014, it appears the card has not returned any money under their profit sharing Giveback program. (They have given a small amount to charity, however.) It appears that they require their annual return to exceed 3% before they rebate money to cardholders.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The bank makes a big deal about offering a low 8% variable APR, as well they should. When you look at the fine print, however, how that rate is calculated gets a little murky.

The APRs on your account will be determined each billing cycle by adding a margin to the Prime Rate (which will be the highest rate published in the Money Rates column of The Wall Street Journal on the last business day of each month). See your Cardmember Agreement for more detail.

Excuse me, I thought this bank was supposed to believe in transparency. Exactly how much above the prime rate is the bank going to charge? It would be nice to disclose it in advance.

2014 Update: The bank now discloses on the homepage and in its terms and conditions that a margin of 4.75% will be added to the prime rate in order to come up with the actual finance charge that will be assessed.

Lastly, the bank maintains a message forum for cardholders where a recent topic of concern was whether the bank was going to raise its 8% rate. A product manager for the credit card addressed that issue in a blog post, saying in part:

The last thing we want to do is change the APR that the community likes so much. My legal team will never let me say never, but our intention is to never change the 8% variable APR.

Hello? (to both the product manager and cardholders.) This is a VARIABLE rate card, which by definition does not have a fixed rate, but one that changes monthly, according to the prime rate and the terms and conditions.

Barclays has come up with a very clever marketing scheme which will no doubt attract a certain type of user. For his part, MrConsumer will just stick with his 2% back card from Fidelity/Bank of America, and let them keep the rest of the profit, if any.

• • •

May 19, 2014

Those Devilish Keebler Elves Downsize Some Cookies

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

 Welcome ABC World News viewers!

Leave it to the Keebler elves to come up with a devilishly clever way to downsize their chocolate chip cookies so that it might go unnoticed by shoppers.

Exhibit A:

Keebler

The above picture was the traditional package of Chips Deluxe cookies until last fall. Then the company decided to refresh the look of their entire line and came out with new yellow packaging.

Exhibit B:

keebler2m

Savvy shoppers know when they see “new and improved” or “new look” on a package that could be a clue that the product has been downsized. In this case, however, Keebler kept the net weight of Chips Deluxe cookies the same — 13.3 ounces.

Then, not long thereafter, the company decided to downsize a few of their cookie varieties as inconspicuously as possible.

Exhibit C:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Keebler

Those clever elves took out two to three cookies from each package, reducing the contents from 13.3 ounces to 11.6 ounces, but retaining the same “New Look” packaging. Even the savviest of shoppers who checked the package when they first introduced the “New Look” packaging would ever think to check again the next time they bought the item to see if it had been subsequently downsized.

Mouse Print* asked Kellogg’s, the maker of Keebler cookies, some very pointed questions about why they downsized, and whether they realized that maintaining the banner “New Look, Same Great Taste” after they downsized the product could easily mislead consumers into believing that only the packaging changed.

The company responded:

“As commodity prices and other costs increase, Kellogg occasionally adjusts package sizes and wholesale prices, and we offer a range of product sizes to meet differing consumer preferences.” –Keebler Media Hotline

Inconspicuously downsizing a product continues to be a sneaky way to pass on a price increase in the hopes that most shoppers won’t notice.

• • •
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