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November 24, 2008

The Mouse Print in Black Friday Sale Ads

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:12 am

The best bargain shopping day of the year is Friday after Thanksgiving, and retailers are going to try to entice you to shop at their store with doorbusters that they hope will make you drool.

What they hope you don’t notice is the fine print in their Black Friday ads.

Circuit City has this advisory:


limit one

Minimum one?  I guess when you are in bankruptcy you can’t count on suppliers to fulfill orders for advertised items when the retailer already owes them a ton of money. While it is typical that quantities are limited on Black Friday items, a minimum of one is a rarity.

The lesson here for shoppers: you better be there before the doors open if you want one of Circuit City’s doorbusters (or for that matter, anyone’s doorbusters).

Not to be outdone, Best Buy has their own little bit of bad news tucked away in a footnote.


no price matching

So, if you thought you were smart and bought a Black Friday sale item in advance at a higher price thinking you could go back on Friday to get the difference under their price guarantee, forget it.  Nor can you sleep late, and think you can just prance into Best Buy with a competitor’s ad and get them to match the price.

Lastly, Wal-mart has a pseudo-apology in their fine print:


“We apologize for, but will not be bound by, any errors in our advertisements.”

If Wal-mart is not responsible for their errors, who is?  The customer?

For all Black Friday shopping, avoid disappointment, maybe, by checking the websites of various etailers on Thanksgiving Day and early morning on Friday, to see if the deal you want is orderable online.  That way, you may be able to get the item you want and avoid the crowds.

• • •

November 17, 2008

P&G’s One Coupon Equals One Meal Deal Revealed

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:49 am

Give a MealProcter & Gamble is advertising a “one coupon = one meal” promotion whereby the company will donate money to Feeding America for every coupon redeemed by shoppers from its November coupon insert.

Feeding America is the new name for America’s Second Harvest — a network of food banks around the country.

Checking P&G’s website, one learns the company has a “goal of donating up to 20 million meals this holiday season.”  Even if P&G was only donating $2 per meal, that would be a commitment of $40 million.  Certainly, a very generous donation to a very worthy cause.

Inside the coupon insert is a further explanation that “for every brandSaver coupon redeemed, P&G will help Feeding America provide one meal to a person in need.”  A simple graphic confirms the message:

That little spot to the right of “one meal” is an asterisk, that leads to an almost unreadable disclosure on the bottom of the page.


” *Coupon value to Feeding America equals $0.0625″

Huh? Six and a quarter cents for each coupon redeemed is what they are donating? How in the world could six and a quarter cents pay for a meal?  And what does this meal consist of — half a cup of rice?

Ross Fraser, the media relations manager for Feeding America explained. The vast majority (85%) of food that they distribute (two billion pounds a year) is donated, while they purchase fill-in items that are not usually contributed.  They have figured out (through somewhat convoluted math) when they divide the number of pounds of food they distribute by their costs of operation, it works out that they are able to donate 16 meals for every dollar they receive.

And, when you do some further math, you see that that equals 6-1/4 cents per meal — the amount that P&G is donating per coupon. Whewww.

So, if enough coupons are redeemed, the maximum contribution that P&G will be making is $1.25 million — not the tens of millions dollars you might have assumed from their advertising.

One and a quarter million dollars is still a generous contribution, and Feeding America is certainly a worthy cause. It just would have been more straight forward to say that they would donate up to $1.25 million to cover the administrative costs of delivering 20 million meals.  A P&G spokesperson said the company preferred to characterize the donation in terms of meals given rather than six and a quarter cents.  Gee, I wonder why? They also said that their contribution was not supposed to be used for overhead.  The spokesperson did not put her comments in writing despite a request to do so by Mouse Print*.

Other companies, like the makers of Duncan Hines, promote their donation to Feeding America in a more straight-forward manner, saying how much money is being given per coupon redeemed, and how much the maximum donation will be (click banner):

Duncan Hines

• • •

November 10, 2008

Costco Encourages Rebate Honesty

Filed under: Business,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:16 am

Costco Wholesale has long been known for its ultra liberal return policy — return anything at anytime. It did, however, tighten the policy for certain electronics a year ago limiting returns to 90 days. With such a long policy in place, it occurred to someone at the company to ask the question of what happens if a consumer receives a rebate on an item and then the item is returned.

As a result, tucked away on its website, they address the issue:


How to reimburse the manufacturer for the rebate?  Yep. When have you ever seen instructions for doing that before? 

If you “click here“, they tell you how to do it:


If you received a Mail-in Rebate check and since have returned the item and would like to reimburse the vendor,  you may either:

  • Forward your rebate check (DO NOT void rebate check) to Costco Wholesale
  • Forward a check made payable to Costco Wholesale for the rebate amount

Of course, Costco is absolutely right suggesting that such a rebate is unearned and should be returned to the party who paid it. How many consumers, though honest in most respects, would actually do this is the real question?

• • •

November 3, 2008

Where’s the Beef Pork?

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:40 am

It has been years since Clara Peller famously questioned one of Wendy’s fast food competitors in a TV commercial about the skimpy size of their hamburgers.  She shouted “Where’s the beef?” Well, we may have to call Ms. Peller back into action (from the hereafter), but this time the issue is pork.

We don’t usually think of fresh pork, such as pork chops, being sold under a brand name, but in some supermarkets you can actually find some packages with a Swift Premium label.


While it might seem advantageous to be able to buy a brand name of pork, the fine print suggests otherwise.


“with up to 10% of a solution of water, salt, and sodium phosphate”

Why has the company added up to 10% water to the pork chops besides the fact that selling a package that is 90% pork and 10% water is probably more profitable than selling one that is 100% pork?

The company replied:

“The hogs we use are bred and fed to be much leaner today, and are trimmed so there is very little external fat. We add a little extra moisture to our pork, so that consumers can be assured of the juicy tender and flavorful product.

The supermarket selling it replied:

“The product is enhanced with a solution of water, salt/spices.  This ensures a uniform flavor and moisture level, while providing a consistent eating experience for the consumer.   The practice of selling enhanced product is in accordance with USDA guidelines, and the font of the print is governed by USDA as well.” 

I don’t want to pay $2.99 a pound for water.  For one, if I want water with my pork, I’ll grab a glass and get it from the tap.

• • •

October 27, 2008

Kmart $5 Off Coupons: The Hidden Strings

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

KmartWhen visiting either Kmart’s website or if you have a Sears card, you might see a promotion to get two free $5 coupons when you sign up for their email list.

Sounds like a pretty fair deal.

When you actually visit the Kmart site, you are asked to fill out the form with your name and address.

What might escape your view is a fine print disclosure on the bottom:


**Receive a $5 off $50 coupon to use in-store, and a $5 off $50 coupon code to use online. Some exclusions apply. New email addresses only.

Thanks for nothing, Kmart. Coupons like these are available periodically in their circulars and elsewhere. You might have assumed that these were merely $5 off your purchase coupons, rather than tied to a $50 minimum purchase (one online and one off). Funny how the $50 required purchase appeared nowhere in the original promotion of the offer.

Retailers: there is a big difference between offering a “$5 off coupon” and a “$5 off a $50 purchase coupon”. If you mean the latter, say the latter.

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