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November 11, 2019

Celebrities Fight Back Against Fake Product Endorsements

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

For the past 10 years, we have warned readers about fake news sites with stories that tout pills and face creams supposedly endorsed by big celebrities or reporters. In reality, those celebrities never actually used or promoted those products. Now the stars are fighting back against the scammers (See New York Times story.) Also, see our 2019 story, 2016 story and one from 2009.

Last week, Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock filed a lawsuit against 100 unspecified defendants who over the years have set up websites selling beauty aids usually on a free trial offer basis using their likenesses and made-up endorsements without authorization.

Here are excerpts from two such websites with fake stories and testimonials about products they never used:

Ellen and Sandra Bullock

Ellen never said this

All these types of sites use celebrities’ testimonials to convince potential buyers of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the products they are pitching. The offers generally end with a free trial period (just pay $5 for shipping). Inconspicuous fine print disclosures ultimately hoodwink unsuspecting buyers into receiving monthly shipments of the products for $70-$90 a bottle or jar.

We asked Ellen’s lawyer why they filed this suit.

“People are being defrauded in this massive scam using Sandra’s and Ellen’s names and images. Like Whack-A-Mole, for each fake site exposed, another one pops up. The complaint exposes the scam and how it works so people can avoid getting trapped in it, and provides a way to identify those responsible and profiting from it so they can be stopped and held to account.” — Michael Weinsten, Attorney for Ellen DeGeneres.

The lawyers are seeking compensatory damages, disgorgement of profits, punitive damages, and an injunction against the use of their clients’ likeness and name in the future.

We say, go get’m.




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November 4, 2019

Beware This Disingenuous Discount

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

When a web store offers 20% off upon entering a promo code at checkout, who wouldn’t use it? We all would. But here is an example from the Bath and Body Works website that may make you rethink always using a coupon code.

Bath and Body 5.99

For this purchase of some hand sanitizer, they are charging $5.99 for shipping. There is, however, at the top of every page a 20% off offer if you enter a particular promo code when you check out.

20% off

If you enter that code, something surprising happens.

*MOUSE PRINT:

$9.99 shipping

While you indeed get a $2.20 discount on the hand sanitizer, the price of shipping mysteriously jumps up $4 from $5.99 to $9.99.

What’s going on here? The answer is contained in a fine print disclosure elsewhere on their website:

*MOUSE PRINT:

shipping policy

The 20% off coupon which was applied to this order reduced the merchandise total to under their $10 minimum and thus a $4 surcharge was imposed. Most people would never realize that using a discount coupon could actually cost them money.




• • •

October 28, 2019

CVS’ Surprisingly Generous Coupon Policy

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

The last place one might expect a retailer to be overly generous to customers is CVS Pharmacy. But their coupon acceptance policy has some unexpected benefits for shoppers.

Let’s say CVS has certain vitamins on sale “buy one, get one free” and you have two $1 manufacturer’s coupons. Most stores would say you can only use one of those coupons for the item you are paying for because the other one is free. Not CVS!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Can I use multiple coupons on sale items? Yes, for certain coupons and certain sale items.

Examples:
• Suave shampoo is on sale for $2.00 Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO) and the customer purchases two shampoos; the
customer may use two coupons for $1.00 each.

CVS actually allows you to apply one of these two coupons to the free item.

Another unexpected bit of generosity occurs in this example:

Suave shampoo is on sale for $2.00 BOGO and customer has a mfr. coupon for Suave BOGO. Customer will receive both
items for free but will need to pay any applicable tax.

In this case, you don’t even have to buy the first bottle of shampoo. Amazing.

While we’re on the subject of CVS coupons, recently MrConsumer used a bit of his own brand of coupon magic at CVS where he bought over $25 worth of merchandise and only paid… drumroll… $1.68.

CVS products - receipt

Each of the three items was over $8 regular price, but they were all on sale. The pills were buy one, get one free and I had both a single $5 off manufacturer’s coupon and a $2 off CVS coupon. The trail mix was on sale for $4.99 but I had a $3 CVS snack coupon, and $2 toward anything store coupon. The net result was a 93-percent savings (excluding sales tax).




• • •

October 21, 2019

Holy Sheets: Sparkle Paper Towels Get Upsized

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

In a world where grocery manufacturers are constantly downsizing their products, Georgia Pacific has been advertising that their Sparkle paper towel rolls are now larger:

Sparkle ad

They say they added 200 sheets per six-roll pack.

*MOUSE PRINT:


Sparkle old 90 sheets

 

Sparkle 126 sheets

In this case, they went from 90 sheets on a roll to 126. That is 36 sheets more per roll, and 216 sheets more per package. But that is not the whole story. You will notice that Georgia Pacific lopped of one-half an inch from the length of each sheet. A spokesperson for the company explained why they did this:

“We reduced our sheet size to a level consistent with the sheet size of the other national brands in the category. In fact, Sparkle® was the last brand on the shelf with the traditionally larger sheet size. Our research indicated that the half inch was not valued as much as getting more sheets per roll, despite the slightly smaller size. We put that half inch per sheet back into the product in the form of more sheets per roll.”

Despite the shortening of each sheet by one-half inch, the total number of square feet per package went from 268.1 to 346.5 square feet.

But, you need to look carefully in your favorite store when the new packages come in because they are not all as pictured above with 126 sheets per roll. Some only have 116.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sparkle new 116

The company said that some stores choose to carry the slightly smaller rolls. We’re guessing grocers make more money on this six pack than the one with slightly larger rolls.

When companies continually downsize their products, eventually some of them reintroduce the original larger versions, but at a much steeper price than they were originally. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Sparkle, however, because their spokesperson said the suggested retail price of the new larger packages is still the same as the old ones. Hard to believe, but that proved to be the case in MrConsumer’s local supermarket, where both the old and the new ones were $7.79 when not on sale. Most paper companies announced price increases this past winter and perhaps that increase went into effect prior to the current upsizing.




• • •

October 14, 2019

Both Cascade and Finish Claim They Are the #1 Recommended Dishwashing Detergent Brand

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

In the dishwasher detergent marketing wars, two major brands — Cascade and Finish — are each claiming they are the most recommended brand.

Cascade says it’s the #1 brand:

Cascade

*MOUSE PRINT:

The fine print qualifies the claim to say that Cascade is the #1 recommended brand in North America by more dishwasher brands. According to a current TV commercial, those brands are KitchenAid, Maytag, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Samsung, Electrolux, and Frigidaire.

Finish says it is the world’s #1 recommended brand:

Finish front panel

*MOUSE PRINT:

The detailed fine print, which only appears on the back of the package, says that “more dishwasher brands recommend Finish products worldwide than any other brand.” Presumably, Finish has more than seven international brands that recommend it.

Both brands qualify their claim even further with the following phrase:

*MOUSE PRINT:

co-marketing disclaimer

What exactly is this co-marketing agreement that both brands mention. It sure sounds like they each made a deal with dishwasher manufacturers to promote each others’ brands. We asked both P&G (Cascade’s maker) and Reckitt Benckiser (RB), Finish’s maker, to explain, and indicate if any money changed hands in return for the recommendations. RB did not respond, but a spokesperson for P&G declined to say if they pay for recommendations saying in part:

“Co-marketing agreements” are common throughout the industry, and acknowledge the relationship that is in place that allows us to collaborate, test and innovate in partnership with dishwasher manufacturers. … The typical basis for manufacturer recommendations is their testing of our products in their machines. The relationships we have with industry partners vary, and are largely based on mutual value creation, capability and technology – aimed at giving the consumer the best possible experience. Given the partnership and confidentiality agreements we have in place, we’re unable to share any specific terms of agreements.

Well, that clarifies it. Despite this, both Cascade ActionPacs (with Clorox or Oxi) and Finish Quantum and Powerballs all rank in the top six dishwasher detergents tested by Consumer Reports, with only a point or two difference in score. Kirkland Signature (pacs) from Costco ranks number one, at one-third the price of Cascade.




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