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August 20, 2018

Eye-Opening: Systane vs. Systane Ultra

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:04 am

Continuing our look at line extensions of popular over-the-counter products, we turn our gaze to Systane — a leading brand of eye drops.

Here are two of their lubricating eye drop products:

Systane

The product on the left is regular Systane “long lasting,” while the one on the right is Systane Ultra “high performance.” Based on its name and description, Systane Ultra seems to be a premium product offering “extended protection.”

A check of the active ingredients of both products, however, reveals a surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Systane ingredients

Both regular Systane and Systane Ultra have exactly the same active ingredients and seemingly in the same strength! So is this just another marketing gimmick like the one we spotlighted where regular Aleve and Aleve Back & Muscle have identical active ingredients?

We asked Alcon, the maker of Systane, what the actual difference is between these two products, and why they sell two different products with the exact same active ingredients.

A spokesperson for the company explained that the secret is primarily in the inactive ingredients which differ slightly between the two products. According to her that is why the “Ultra” product performs better.

“Compared to Systane, Systane Ultra has a unique mechanism of action due to the inclusion of sorbitol, which serves to optimize the viscosity of the drop to minimize blur by delaying the cross-linking of other inactive ingredients until the drop is actually in the eye. The way the inactive ingredients cross-link once Systane Ultra is dropped into the eye results in the creation of a viscoelastic protective layer over the ocular surface that reduces friction and is maintained between blinks for prolonged ocular comfort. Finally, the interaction of Systane Ultra with natural components of the tear film (e.g., calcium, zinc, and magnesium) strengthens the cross-linking of the protective layer and prolongs retention of the active ingredients on the ocular surface.” –Alcon spokesperson.

Got that?

Given that the “Ultra” product is nearly 50% more expensive, does it then last 50% longer than their regular one? The company didn’t answer that question.

Who would have suspected that two products with identical active ingredients would function differently? And that poses a problem for label readers who would not be able to glean that fact simply by examining a product’s contents.

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August 13, 2018

Tropicana Orange Juice Downsizes Again

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

Back in the good old days, one could buy half a gallon of Tropicana orange juice in a container. Then in 2010, the company (and the industry) downsized the traditional 64 ounce container to 59 ounces.

Tropicana 64-59
Tropicana 64-59 net contents

Then they introduced attractive carafes of orange juice in a shape not easily distinguishable as a particular size, but they were still 59 ounces.

Now in the summer of 2018, Tropicana, following the lead of Simply Orange, is in the process of downsizing again. This time to a mere 52 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana 59-52 ounces

The bottles look identical on store shelves. Same width, same height. So how did they reduce the contents by a full seven ounces so inconspicuously?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana bottles profile

The bottles aren’t as deep as they were… that’s how they accomplished this clever sleight-of-hand.

On the Tropicana website, they explain why they downsized the product:

Tropicana downsize explained

We consider this one of the sneakiest downsizes ever because of both the tiny net contents statement which is often hidden by the shelf rack edge in some supermarkets, and the appearance of the bottles which look identical head-on. What do you think? Add your comments below.

Thanks to eagle-eyed reader, Edward E., for catching the change.

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August 6, 2018

Aleve Back & Muscle – A Miracle of Modern Medicine Marketing

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:33 am

Many people like Aleve because its pain relief is supposed to last for 12 hours. Now they have a new product — Aleve Back & Muscle Pain — and a new commercial to help launch it.

We were curious about the new product and wanted to see what additional ingredients they added. So we checked the back of the regular package and compared it to the new one.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aleve comparison

They are exactly the same. The only difference is the box.

We asked Bayer why they came out with a “new” product that really was just the same as the old one. A spokesperson replied:

Aleve Back & Muscle Pain offers the same long-lasting pain relief from Aleve. This product is meant to help consumers understand the various pains Aleve can relieve.

We say, the answer is: marketing and taking up shelf space!

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July 30, 2018

The Doctor??? Will See You Now

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:34 am

We received an email from John S. of Massachusetts last week inquiring about an urgent care center that he goes to and that he has heard advertised on the radio. It is called American Family Care.

The consumer says that while he has gotten good care from a physician’s assistant there, their radio ads tout their great doctors.

Indeed a review of their website reveals repeated claims that they are staffed by physicians (and other medical professionals).

staffed by physicians

——
AFC Physicians

There’s no need to make an appointment, you can just walk right in to see a doctor.

The company’s website also claimed that all its doctors are board-certified.


ORIGINAL WEBPAGE
AFC Board Cert

MOUSE PRINT* CHECKS THE CLAIMS

We called 10 Boston area American Family Care locations last week and asked if they always had a doctor on duty. In nine out of 10 locations, they said “no” — not every day, maybe three days a week, it depends on the week, it’s the luck of the draw, today it’s a nurse practitioner, not on Wednesday, etc.

But a funny thing happened just a day after we started asking the company’s chief marketing officer questions about its claims about locations being staffed by board-certified doctors. The webpage where the company talked about its board-certified doctors was changed to read that it had board-certified doctors at “many” of its locations. And it also removed claims that all its doctors were board-certified and that they periodically check to make sure the board-certification is still in effect.


REVISED WEBPAGE
revised webpage

We asked the company to explain why it was representing that patients could see a doctor without an appointment when, at least in the Boston area for the locations checked, it was a hit or miss affair at the time. (Staffing levels may differ in other parts of the country.) We also wanted to listen to or get a transcript of the radio commercial the company was running to see what they were claiming about their doctors. The company never answered our questions nor provided the commercial despite three requests.

One last thing. Not every patient and not every medical issue requires the attention of a doctor. Other health professionals are well-equipped to handle many routine medical problems. The point, however, is that if a company tries to distinguish itself as being staffed with doctors, that is whom patients should reasonably be able to see if they so choose when they visit.

Do you know who’s treating you when you go to an urgent care center? Is it a doctor, a physician’s assistant, a nurse, or some other type of clinician? You have a right to know. Ask!

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July 23, 2018

Even Our Readers Get Tripped Up by the Fine Print

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Mouse Print* readers are a savvy bunch, but even the best of them may get caught by surprise by the fine print they find after making a purchase.

Tom B., who is a professional landscape contractor, recently was looking for a good quality garden hose nozzle for a commercial customer. He thought he found the perfect product — a Gilmour professional nozzle, with a lifetime warranty and tested to a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch:

Gilmour nozzle

Our landscaper became disenchanted after trying it, and discovering the fine print on the back of the package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Gilmour nozzle warning

Although the nozzle is tested to withstand pressures of up to 250 PSI, the company warns users not to subject it to pressures over 60 PSI.



About six months ago, Tony P. bought a MacBook Air from Micro Center and was convinced to buy an extended warranty for $79, being told it would “cover everything” for a year.

Sure enough, a couple of keys came loose from the keyboard last month and he couldn’t re-attach them. So, Tony went back to the store, expecting a quick fix. Instead he was told that Apple requires them to replace the entire keyboard. What really upset him was that the cost of the repair — $280 — would be deducted from the total dollar amount of repairs he is entitled to under his contract. Huh? This is the first time Tony is told there is limit on repairs, and he was never given a copy of the actual extended warranty when he bought the laptop.

Sure enough, in the terms and conditions statement of his service contract, there is language to limit the issuer’s liability to the price of the computer purchased:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Administrator may elect, at Administrator option, to buyout the Service Contract during the coverage term for the lesser of (I) current market value of a Covered Product with equivalent specifications or (II) purchase price of Your Covered Product minus sales tax and claims paid.

Who would ever suspect there was a clause allowing the provider to get out of all future liability when they have paid for repairs equal to the purchase price? (If this were challenged in court, it is unclear if a judge would even enforce this clause.)

Our consumer was advised to buy the missing two keys online for about $15 and save the benefits of his plan for a more serious repair.


If you come across a nasty bit of fine print in an advertisement, product label, or contract, please let us know.

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