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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.

• • •

June 23, 2014

Corn Oil Lowers Cholesterol More Than Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

  A full page ad from Mazola Oil in a recent Sunday coupon insert, made an astounding claim:

Mazola

What? Corn oil is better for you than olive oil? There is a block of almost unreadable fine print at the bottom of the page. It reads in part:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“…Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 tbsp (16 grams) of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in corn oil. FDA concludes there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim. To achieve this possible benefit, corn oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

How limited was the test? According to a summary of the results, the theory was only tested on 54 people.

Two other points:

  • Mazola seems to be claiming that eating just one tablespoon of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. Yet, the test they conducted required subjects to eat FOUR tablespoons a day.
  • Mazola shared the cost of this study, and it does not appear to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    The question becomes whether it is fair to tout this health claim in big headlines with such a limited test? We asked the makers of Mazola to comment on this and the discrepancy in the amount of oil needed to achieve the claimed benefits, but they failed to respond.

  • • • •

    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.

    • • •
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