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February 11, 2019

Is Canada Dry Ginger Ale Made With “Real Ginger”?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

Multiple lawsuits recently alleged that Canada Dry ginger ale was not the real thing because it did not contain “real ginger” as the label proclaimed.

Canada dry

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients

The ingredients statement says that it contains “natural flavor” but tests done by the plaintiffs indicate that the soda did not contain key components one would normally find in ginger root. Further analysis concluded that it only contained two parts per million of ginger extract.

In the settlements agreed to last month, Canada Dry is still allowed to say “made with real ginger” but only if that statement is modified with words like “flavor” or “extract.”

Examples of permissible label claims: “real ginger taste,” “made with real ginger extract,” “real ginger flavor,” “flavor from real ginger extract,” and “natural ginger flavor.” The Permanent Injunction shall also include court-approved use of “ginger extract,” “natural ginger flavor extract,” “natural ginger extract,” “natural ginger flavor,” or “ginger flavor” in the label ingredient line.

Would you catch those nuances?

Consumers who purchased Canada Dry ginger ale are entitled to modest compensation. Without proof of purchase, you can get 40 cents a can/bottle, up to $5.40. With sales receipts, you can get reimbursed at the same rate for up to 100 units.

After the settlement becomes final, you can file a claim here.

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February 4, 2019

Hey, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover, Where’s the Chocolate?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

Six California district attorneys filed a complaint last month alleging that Ghirardelli and Russell Stover marketed some boxes and packages of chocolate that were “predominately empty” or that had large empty spaces or false sidewalls.

Readers of Mouse Print* know that this is called “slack fill” — nonfunctional empty space in an opaque product package. Manufacturers understand that consumers purchase products with their eyes. So if they can make the package look bigger, consumers will wrongly assume they are getting more product and thus more value for their money.

In the court case, the DAs alleged that some chocolate boxes had false bottoms, making the package look more filled than it really was.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Whitman's Sampler
Whitman’s Sampler Box with False Bottom

Another example is a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares that is full of air and not much chocolate:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ghirardelli

The bag is seven inches high, but there is five inches of dead space inside.

The owner of both companies quickly entered into a settlement with the DAs and agreed to pay $750,000 in penalties and costs, and change some of their packaging practices.

Hats off to the California DAs who continue to publicly pursue weights and meassures violations for the benefit of everyone. More agencies around the country should step up and do the same.

And they can start with this one…

Lindt

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January 28, 2019

Is Supermarket Zone Pricing Ripping You Off?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

As a reader of Consumer World and Mouse Print*, you are probably a savvier shopper than most. But did you know that some supermarket chains “zone price?” That means the shelf prices and advertised sale prices at its stores can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, or region to region.

While many factors go into pricing decisions by supermarkets like rent and labor costs, the presence or absence of competition nearby is often the key to whether a particular store location has lower prices or not. The more competitive the area, the lower the prices, typically.

One exception, at least in my area just north of Boston, is Aldi. Aldi is a limited assortment supermarket, a fraction of the size of a conventional grocery store. They carry mostly store brands and are priced roughly at about 25% less than conventional supermarket store brands. If you’ve never shopped at Aldi or Lidl (a similar type store), give them a try.

But the Aldi near MrConsumer has significantly higher advertised prices for some items compared to other Aldi stores farther North. This is despite having a Stop & Shop (our largest conventional supermarket) in the same shopping plaza, as well as a Wegmans and two warehouse clubs (BJ’s and Costco) within half a mile, and two deep discount Market Baskets just a bit beyond that.

Here is a portion of this week’s circular for Massachusetts Aldi stores :

Aldi MA chips

But just 24 miles away, in Salem, New Hampshire, those very same items from their Aldi circular are much cheaper:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aldi NH chips

These New Hampshire prices are half to almost two-thirds less than the Medford, Massachusetts store. While most of the other advertised items are identically priced, these stark price differences can make local shoppers here feel like they are getting ripped off royally.

When MrConsumer raised the zone pricing issue with a top Aldi executive, he offered little hope that anything was about to change here, saying:

“We are always reviewing our prices to ensure we offer our shoppers the lowest prices possible. While ALDI prices do sometimes vary from city to city, we pride ourselves on having the lowest prices in town.”

Well, Aldi, you are not offering us YOUR lowest prices. What do we have to do here in Massachusetts, get a team in the Super Bowl in order to get a good deal on chips?

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January 21, 2019

Chevy Pulls Misleading “More Reliable” Commercials

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

In a surprise move late last week, General Motors abruptly pulled its national television advertising campaign in which it claimed that “Chevy is more reliable than Toyota, Honda, and Ford” and 23 other car brands.



Hidden in the fine print was a disclaimer that said their reliability claims were based on data for 2015 vehicles. The problem was that Chevy was advertising their redesigned 2019 cars and trying to convince viewers that current models were equally superior in reliability based on four-year-old data.

We did a national press release on January 10th calling on the company to yank their misleading ad campaign. Of course, up against a big powerful consumer organization like Consumer World, a company like General Motors didn’t have much choice. So it pulled the national ad. Or maybe, just maybe, it might have been the threat from Toyota’s lawyer that tipped the scales.

Not surprisingly, in a bit of all-too-common corporate posturing, Chevrolet denied any wrongdoing. In a statement to Consumer World, their spokesperson said:

“Chevrolet stands by the reliability claim and the ad remains in the brand’s toolbox but we have decided to take it out of the regular rotation at this time to launch new Silverado creative. We have not altered our marketing campaign because of any concerns with the accuracy of our ad content.”

NOTE: The regional version of the ads (they have a financial incentive at the end) will take longer for GM to stop.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing for once for a company to take responsibility for trying to mislead customers?

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January 10, 2019

Is Chevy More Reliable Than Toyota, Honda, Ford, and 23 Other Brands???

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:58 am

When you think of car brands that are the most reliable, you would probably name Lexus, Toyota, perhaps Honda, and a few others. But a new commercial from Chevrolet says you better think again. It claims that Chevrolet is more reliable than Toyota, Honda, Ford, and 23 other brands.



The commercial shows real owners of other car brands being surprised when the spokesperson reveals that “Based on a recent survey, Chevy is more reliable than Toyota, Honda, and Ford.” At the end of the ad, four 2019 Chevrolet vehicles are unveiled and the claim is repeated and expanded to include 23 other car brands.

In case you missed it, there was a little fine print disclaimer on the screen for about three seconds.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Chevy disclaimer

This informs the viewer of something very important. They are relying on the results of a study of 2015 cars to make a broad claim about Chevy’s reliability today. Really?

The 2018 study indicates that close to 50,000 car owners returned surveys indicating whether their 2015 vehicle needed repairs in the prior 12 months. In essence, this is getting feedback on repairs needed in the third year of ownership.

To check how legitimate Chevy’s reliability claim is, we reviewed the dependability studies of two prominent and well-respected sources — J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.

J.D. Power questioned about 37,000 owners of 2015 vehicles in late 2017 for their 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. Here are their results:

JD Power vehicle dependability study

This study is most like the one done by Chevy because it focuses on 2015 vehicles and asks about problems that needed fixing in the third year of ownership. It supports Chevy’s overall conclusions about the reliability of their 2015 cars compared to the competition.

Consumer Reports, however, does its reliability studies differently, aggregating survey data from about half a million of their readers for 2000 to 2018 vehicles combined. It asks about problems that car owners have experienced in the past 12 months, as well as other issues. This is a much larger universe and provides a broader prospective on predicted reliability using a span of model years, not just one.

Consumer Reports Reliability Rank
(2000-2018 Vehicles)

Consumer Reports Reliability Rank

The magazine paints an entirely different picture of Chevy reliability, ranking it in the bottom quarter of car brands, and below the brands it said it beat in the commercial.

It seems to us that Chevy is inappropriately using its good reliability ratings for the 2015 model year to imply that its current 2019 vehicles are equally dependable.

We asked General Motors to justify that leap, explain the details of its survey, and whether it will modify or pull the advertisement. The company explained the methodology, that it used standard survey techniques by a noted market research company, that the results were reviewed by independent statisticians, and that their definitions of reliability came from professional organizations.

The Chevy spokesperson did not respond to our question asking if it had any survey results for 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019 vehicles that would confirm that it continued to beat Toyota, Honda, Ford and 23 other companies for those model years too. But the company attempted to justify why it was using the reliability of 2015 cars with this explanation:

“You need some time to develop a measure of actual reliability so you have to look back at previous MY [model year] vehicles.” — Chevy spokesperson

While it is certainly true that car companies can’t instantly provide reliability data for vehicles new to the market, they can be careful not to make broad, unqualified claims for new models using historic data. And clearly explaining the nature of that historic data rather than burying it in a fine print disclosure would go a long way toward creating transparency. As such, we call upon General Motors to pull its current series of misleading commercials.

Thanks to David B. for bringing this commercial to our attention.

Note: An update to this story will be posted on Monday morning.

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