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December 19, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho, DC-Style

Filed under: Humor,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

NOTE: The next new Mouse Print* will be on January 2.

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, MrConsumer was drawn to the fine print on the back of a one-way street sign.

On the reverse side of the sign was a tiny disclaimer that one would normally see in a product warranty:


Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from Mouse Print*.

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December 12, 2011

More Products Downsized

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

A new wave of downsizing has been hitting supermarket shelves over the past several months with everything from cookies to detergent packages shrinking in size. Here are the latest examples:


This reduction of close to an ounce and half means you get two fewer cookies in each package. When MrConsumer saw a Nabisco representative in a supermarket and pointed out the downsizing, she cleverly responded, “Look at it this way, you are saving calories!”


You now get over 10% less in each bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid.


There are now ten fewer tissues in each Kleenex box. This is on top of their 2009 downsizing when each tissue shrank by a fraction of an inch.


In this case, almost two ounces has been lopped off the Vienna Fingers package. And they did something fairly common when a product gets downsized, they printed a banner in the upper right hand corner of the package proclaiming “New Look”, which certainly can distract shoppers from checking the net weight statement.

As always, these examples of downsizing point out the clever ways that manufacturers can pass on a sneaky price increase with many shoppers not even noticing.

• • •

December 5, 2011

Sears Engaged in Option Packing Until Caught

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

Sears recently reported the 19th straight quarter of declining sales. Maybe these declines explain why the company had taken to engaging in a practice more common at new car dealers: option packing.

As reported in Consumer World this week, was found adding expensive five-year service contracts automatically to customers’ shopping carts as soon as the customer added a major appliance to it.

Here is a little closer look at what MrConsumer discovered. [See MrConsumer on KOMO News.]

As an example of what was going on at, here is a relatively inexpensive conventional refrigerator:

When you click the “Add to Cart” button, it shows the refrigerator has been added to your cart (click picture to enlarge):

But, until last Friday, you would also see this:

You seem to be given an option to add a service plan to your purchase, but it has been pre-checked with the most expensive one — one for over $200. And, a quick look to the right, shows that Sears has, on its own, already added that five-year service plan and a water hose to your order automatically, raising the total price you pay by nearly 50%.


On a $400 refrigerator purchase it is easy to notice the big bump up in total price and easy to remove the protection plan. But on a more expensive appliance, or on an order with multiple items, customers may easily have overlooked the fact that Sears added on expensive service contracts on its own to your bill.

To their credit, abandoned this nasty practice one day after we made a stink about it:

“Since this complaint was brought to our attention, we have had a chance to review our complaint records. In the time period it’s been in effect, we received very little negative customer feedback. Nonetheless, now that it’s been pointed out as an item of concern, we’ve made a decision to provide customers with the default choice of declining the protection agreement. This change will take effect tomorrow.” — Sears PR Director for Hardlines

What do you think? Should a company be allowed to just add extras to one’s shopping cart without being requested to do so even when they are easy to remove? Would you have caught the addition of a service contract to your order? Do you want to be forced to scrutinize every online order you make to ensure the retailer hasn’t pulled a fast one on you? Enter your thoughts in the comments.

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November 28, 2011

Get $3 off, $5 off, Free Food … It’s Not that Simple

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:50 am

ssmeat1Advertisers are fond of promoting an offer, seemingly simple in terms, that promises the customer a genuine bargain. What is annoying is that they sometimes tend to leave out a key qualification or catch in the original ad.

Here are three examples.

Advertisement #1

This ad is from the large supermarket chain in the northeast, Stop & Shop.

The lucky reader is being given a chance to get $3 off on any fresh meat. Even when one clicksthrough [see excerpted webpage below], the offer still seems to be as advertised — $3 off, period.


Only when you go to print the coupon does the truth emerge.



It certainly is a bit of bait and switch to promote getting three dollars off without in each instance stating clearly that the true offer is three dollars off a $15 purchase of meat.

Advertisement #2

Email ads tend to take a few too many liberties when they use deceptive subject lines, or the content of the email itself promotes the offer in a misleading way.

Pizzeria Uno recently sent out an email saying if you became a “fan” of theirs on Facebook, you would get a $5 off coupon:

Seems like a no-strings attached offer, right? Only after you become a fan of Uno on Facebook, do you see a small disclosure:


Where did the $15 minimum purchase come from? There was no mention of it all in the email. Isn’t this offer really, “Become a fan of Uno on Facebook, and you will get a coupon for $5 off a $15 purchase”?

Advertisement #3

In an email from a small mexican restaurant chain in New England comes this offer:

Great, a free appetizer. I’ll head right over. Trouble is when you go to print the coupon, you learn the truth:


You need a $10 minimum purchase in order to get your freebie. Isn’t the offer really, “Spend $10 at Margarita’s, and get your choice of a free appetizer or dessert”? And, shouldn’t it be advertised that way?

Failure to disclose a material fact in advertising is considered an unfair or deceptive practice under state consumer laws around the country. It is high time that advertisers played straight about these “free” offers. It is just as important to state the requirement, as it is the free bonus.

Incidentally, after Mouse Print* pointed out the problem with their email offer, Margarita’s changed the way they email such offers to include the qualifier “with a $10 purchase.”

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November 21, 2011

Filene’s Basement Going Out of Business Sale Shenanigans

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:36 am

It is with a note of sadness that we say goodbye to Filene’s Basement — a Boston bargain institution since 1909. It was most famous for its automatic markdown policy whereby prices were reduced by 25%, then 50%, then 75% for each week the goods remained on the floor after the first couple. Eventually, any leftovers were given to charity.

Syms bought the chain after it filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and now Syms itself, along with Filene’s Basement are in bankruptcy again. This time, it will be a total liquidation of the two chains. And that means a huge going out of business sale, just in time for Black Friday and the Christmas selling season.

Here is their first going out of business ad:

What you can’t see too well is that fine print line at the bottom of the ad that says:


“Additional non-Filene’s Basement merchandise, of like kind and quality, has been procured and added to the sale.”

Historically, when stores go out of business, a liquidator comes in and conducts the sale. Amongst the anti-consumer practices of some liquidators is the adding of “outside goods” to the stock of merchandise that belonged to the company going under. In essence, the liquidator was using the lure of the magic words “going out of business” to sell goods OTHER THAN THOSE that were in distress. Some states, like Massachusetts, forbid the adding of outside goods to such sales because of the inherent deceptive nature of so doing. (Most consumers would not be able to tell which goods came from the bankrupt seller, and which had been added. Often the quality of the added goods might be different from what the store was known for, and those goods were affixed with price tags showing regular prices that were never charged.)

Several states’ Attorneys General (bless you) objected to the liquidators’ plan to bring in outside goods and to their request to have state going out of business laws set aside, and explained it to the court this way:

“The States have a general concern that GOB Sales have increasingly become a means by which liquidators rent the façades of distressed companies to sell their own goods, rather than merely serving as agents to liquidate the debtors’ goods. Bankruptcy is about distributing the debtor’s estate, not facilitating an ordinary course of selling liquidators’ merchandise peddled from sale to sale.”

To make a long story short, all the parties came to an agreement, and the judge ordered that all advertising contain a disclaimer like the one above, and that the outside goods be identified as not really from Filene’s Basement.

None of this complies with some of the states’ going out of business laws, and the judge approved loosey goosey language that leaves in question whether those tougher laws will prevail.

So, the closing of Filene’s Basement really is a lose, lose, lose situation for consumers, employees, and competitors, but not for the liquidators.

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