mouseprint: fine print of advertising
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November 14, 2011

Retailers’ Ads Defy Webster’s Dictionary

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

These ads will make you do a doubletake because retailers have a funny way of defining commonly understood terms.

*MOUSE PRINT: Your idea of what’s “fresh” may differ from theirs:


*MOUSE PRINT: Your idea of a “one day” sale may differ from theirs:


*MOUSE PRINT: Your idea of a “solution” to the crime problem may differ from a Washington state car dealer who is offering this giveaway with every new pickup truck purchased:


[Thanks to JMG for the gun ad submission.]

• • •

November 7, 2011

Andy Rooney on Fine Print

Filed under: Business,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:18 am

As most of you know by now, CBS’ resident curmudgeon, Andy Rooney*, died last Friday. One of his classic pieces was on the nasty terms that companies hide in the fine print.

Here then, 17 years before Mouse Print* was born, is a few minutes with Andy Rooney*: [warning: CBS is embedding a commercial ahead of Andy’s piece.]

*MOUSE PRINT: *rest in peace.

Thanks to Donna H. for the idea.

• • •

October 31, 2011

Allstate’s Free Lifetime Membership in Roadside Assistance

Filed under: Autos — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

Wow, what a seemingly great offer from Allstate: call to get a quote on car insurance and you will get a free lifetime membership in their Roadside Assistance program. MrConsumer could stop spending over $50 a year for AAA membership!

Here is their TV commercial:

If you could not read the fine print disclaimer in the ad, a visit to Allstate’s website reveals the true nature of this auto club offer.


So what you really get for free on an ongoing basis is a phone number to call for a towing service.

Thanks, Allstate.

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October 24, 2011

Magazines Shorten Fixed-Length Subscriptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:48 am

When you are in the consumer business as long as MrConsumer has been, you think you’ve heard everything until something comes along that makes you shake your head in disbelief.

That happened a couple of weeks ago when Angela T. wrote complaining about a letter she received from the publishers of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine. It said, in essence, that their November issue was so fat with content they they were going to count it as two issues against your subscription (and thus shorten your subscription by one month).

They do say that if you call to complain, they will restore your original subscription length.

Fast forward about 10 days, and Mouse Print* received another complaint about a magazine subscription being shortened, but this time it was Family Handyman. Here is the letter that Brian F. received:

Same thing — we’re sending you a really big November issue, so we are going to count it as two issues against your subscription unless you file a complaint with us.

Is it a coincidence that two magazines are pulling the same stunt at the same time? Not at all. Both magazines are published by the same company — a subsidiary of Readers Digest.

It is interesting to note that the following fine print footnote appears on the current subscription sign up pages online for both magazines:


Each 1-year (11 issue) subscription includes a special issue, which counts as 2 in your subscription. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Does this mean that your “year” of the magazine is really 10 issues because one of the 11 is a double issue, or is it just an explanation of why there are 11 issues and not 12? More importantly, was such a disclosure made to old subscribers before they signed up, or did they believe they were signing up for 12 separate issues a year?

Mouse Print* asked the publisher of both magazines some very pointed questions about their letters and their seemingly unilateral decision to cut the number of magazines they would deliver to their subscribers.

Here, in part, is their reply:

“For any magazine in which we have provided special content so that the magazine issue counts as two, we have provided an explanation in a letter to every subscriber and polybagged it with the magazine. In the letter, we encouraged subscribers, if they were not completely satisfied, to contact us so we could address their concerns immediately by either extending their subscription expiration date or issuing them a refund for the balance of their subscription. We’re happy to report that, so far, most subscribers are happy with the bonus content.

Many magazines give notice in their solicitations that they may publish special issues in place of or in addition to regular issues of a magazine as part of someone‚Äôs subscription. The promotional materials for all of our publications, including Every Day with Rachael Ray and The Family Handyman, contain such notice provisions.”

The publisher ignored most questions posed to them, including whether old customers were actually told clearly in advance of signing up for a subscription that their subscriptions could be cut short when special issues were published. If they were, then the magazines would be within their rights to do so.

However, if that warning was not there, the publisher may be on weak ground. It generally takes at least parties two parties to form a contract (or modify one) after agreeing to all terms. In a number of states, the consumer’s silence does not constitute acceptance of a contract’s terms, as their letters would like to assume. (“If you don’t call to complain, we assume shortening the subscription is okay.”) If silence constituted acceptance of a contract, then car dealers, swimming pool installers, and everyone else in the world would be sending you letters that said, if we don’t hear from you by November 1, we are going to deliver a car to your front door, install a swimming pool in your backyard, and sign you up to receive these 100 magazines. And you have to pay for it all.

Hopefully, a sharp state Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission will open an inquiry into whether the publisher was within its rights to shorten readers’ subscriptions in the manner they did.

• • •

October 17, 2011

Save-a-Lot’s Deceptive Facebook Promotion

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:37 am

Save-a-Lot is a limited assortment supermarket with great prices compared to conventional supermarkets. In an effort to reach more people, it has been running a promotion whereby if you “like” them on Facebook, you will be given $5.

A corresponding promotion has also been sent via email to customers promising a $5 off coupon. After contacting their customer service department to find out if the offer had any strings attached (and not having received a response), MrConsumer decided to “like” them on Facebook anyway.

And here is what they give you and disclose ONLY AFTER you “LIKE” them:


The coupon requires a $25 minimum purchase in order to get the $5 off.

So the offer really is (1) “Like” us on Facebook, and (2) Spend $25 at our store, then we will give you $5 off. That is a far different offer from being promised a straight $5 off in exchange for giving them a Facebook “like”.

It is not like Save-a-Lot doesn’t know how to disclose the fact that their offer is contingent on making a $25 purchase. Here is how they promote the same $5 coupon BEFORE you join their shopper club (demonstrating that when they want to disclose the $25 purchase requirement in advance, they know how to do it):

Mouse Print* asked the company why they omitted the minimum purchase requirement in their advertising, whether they would fix their ads now that the issue has been brought to their attention, and whether they would give those who signed up already a real $5 off coupon.

Their media person replied:

“While we understand there may have been some miscommunication regarding the terms of the offer, it was never our intention to mislead our customers. In fact, the offer is in line with our other offers, and we have received an overwhelming positive response to the $5 off $25. However, we will do our best to correct the issue.”


Save-a-Lot just updated their Facebook promotion to tell it like it is UPFRONT — that the coupon the customer will receive requires a $25 purchase to redeem. Hats off to Save-a-Lot for correcting their ad, and doing the right thing.

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