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July 6, 2020

Midas Hides a Lot of Stuff in the Fine Print

Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:20 am

MrConsumer had his oil changed recently at Midas using a prepaid Groupon making it quite a deal at $13.60 all-inclusive. As part of the check-in process there, the clerk provides a standard printout showing the price of the oil change but that my total would be zero because of the Groupon. I signed the form.

When arriving home, I looked at my copy of the receipt and was astonished to discover that those clever guys opted me into receiving promotional text messages. Or more accurately, I unwittingly opted into their advertising and service messages because of the following statement printed on that work order.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Midas consent

Under federal law, a business cannot send unsolicited text messages even to existing customers. They have to first obtain “express written consent.” Did this qualify? The words were not buried because they were at the top of the list in a type size the same as all the other information. But do most customers realize that Midas tucked this unexpected language on a car repair order rather than on a separate consent form. My guess is not.

But MrConsumer had the last laugh because he provided them with his landline phone number.

For customers who were not lucky enough to get the Groupon price, there was a simultaneous Fourth of July promotion for only $17.76.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Midas fine print

Goodness only knows how much these poor people wound up paying when you add on taxes, disposal fee, and a shop fee “not to exceed $35.”

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June 29, 2020

Haagen-Dazs Allegedly Cuts Corners With Milk Chocolate

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

Haagen-Dazs is one of the premier brands of ice cream, so it is surprising to hear of a lawsuit alleging that the company is cutting corners on the milk chocolate it uses to coat its ice cream bars.

Haagen-Dazs bars

According to the complaint, the company mixes in coconut oil to the milk chocolate.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Haagen-Dazs ingredients

And under federal regulations, if milk chocolate has an optional ingredient in it like vegetable oil, then it must be labeled as “milk chocolate and vegetable fat coating” or “milk chocolate and ___ oil coating.”

The problem is that Haagen-Dazs doesn’t do that on the principal display panel, but only in the fine print ingredients statement.

As such, the lawsuit contends that consumers are misled, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the product, or would not have purchased it all.

For its part, Froneri, US Inc., the maker of these chocolate bars, said “The labels on our Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar products accurately describe the products, comply with FDA regulations, and provide consumers with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.”

Companies have to use an emulsifying agent like coconut oil to more easily coat the ice cream in a hard chocolate layer.

We’ll let you know how the case turns out.

Hat tip to Truth in Advertising for the case.

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June 22, 2020

Gov’t Video on Mask Decontamination Disclaims Its Own Advice

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:37 am

With the shortage of PPE continuing in some areas, the Department of Homeland Security just released an instructional video on how to decontaminate N95 masks at home so they can be reused.

They want you to cook them in a paper bag over simmering water in an Instant Pot (a Crock-Pot-like slow cooker). MrConsumer is not making this up.

Before the instructional part of the video begins, however, Uncle Sam tries to socially distance himself from you if their method backfires.

*MOUSE PRINT:

N95 decontamination disclaimer

It basically says that the federal government doesn’t guarantee this system will work, and if it fails or you screw up, don’t blame us because you have assumed all the risk.

I wonder where they got the idea to have people waive their rights if they get sick?

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June 15, 2020

PayPal Sending Out Unsolicited Debit Cards

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

MrConsumer got quite a surprise in a letter from PayPal recently. It announced that the company was going to send him a business debit Mastercard to accompany his PayPal account. Say what?

PayPal letter

*MOUSE PRINT:

“If you don’t want this card, log in to PayPal at PayPal.com/nothanks… and we won’t ship it.”

So, one has to opt-out to stop them from sending the debit card.

But isn’t sending an unsolicited card illegal, you ask?

Federal law bans the sending of an unsolicited credit card to a consumer. But this was a debit card being sent for a business account.

Under federal law, an unactivated debit card can even be sent to a consumer unsolicited.

As a side note, remember, federal law does not generally extend the same credit card or debit card protections to business cards… therefore you have more rights with consumer cards.

So PayPal did nothing wrong legally. However, we think it is a better business practice to ask if customers want a card rather than automatically sending it out to them.

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June 8, 2020

Where’s the Honey in Honey Bunches of Oats?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:43 am

Honey Bunches of OatsFor years, we’ve all seen the commercials for Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal where the female assembly line worker waxes poetic about her crispy crunchy bunches.

Last year, a health-conscious California consumer bought a box of this cereal thinking that honey would be a more healthy sweetener to have rather than sugar or corn syrup. Soon thereafter he learned (probably from a class action lawyer rather than a nutritionist) that the product in fact had almost no honey.

A check of the ingredients statement on the side of the package revealed the not-so-sweet truth.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Honey Bunches of Oats Ingredients

There are three other sweeteners in the product — sugar, corn syrup and molasses — all of which are in greater amounts than any honey. In fact, there was more salt in the cereal than honey. (Barley malt extract is also a sweetener, incidentally.)

So our consumer sued Post claiming false advertising and misrepresentation. He believed the packaging conveyed the impression that honey was either the only sweetener or certainly a significant one in the product.

Post argued among other things that no reasonable consumer would understand that the cereal’s packaging was making a claim about the amount of honey in the product. MrConsumer always loves when a company tries to assert that only stupid consumers would believe the baloney the manufacturer shows and tells them right on the package.

The company asked the judge to dismiss the case, but she sided with the consumer in her procedural decision.

In applying the reasonable consumer standard, however, the packaging must be considered in context. That is, the image of a radiating sun, the words “HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS,” and the honey dipper dripping honey occupy about two-thirds of the front of the packaging. Although the package does not make any objective representations about the amount of honey in the cereal, a reasonable consumer could see the prominent honey-related words and imagery and be deceived into thinking the cereal contained relatively less refined sugar and more honey. If so misled, the reasonable consumer is not expected to pick up the product and examine the fine print of the ingredient list. –Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, U.S. District Court

And so the case moves forward. We’ll keep you “Posted,” so to speak.

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