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August 21, 2017

Pret a Manger Accused of Deceptive Sandwich Packaging

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

MrConsumer had occasion to eat at what he considers an expensive regional European sandwich shop last March called Pret a Manger. He discovered something sneaky about how they packaged their sandwich wraps.

Pret Bang Bang Chicken

Upon opening the package, one gets an unexpected surprise.


Pret revealed

What looked like a long wrap sandwich, potentially worth the $7.49 price, turns out to be two small halves that come nowhere close to filling the package. The “Lovingly Made” cardboard surrounding the middle of the sandwich hides the dirty little secret of the empty space between the two halves. I thought to myself — great — I have a good Mouse Print* story.

As we have discussed in the past, deceptive packaging can be illegal, particularly when there is nonfunctional empty space in the package. That’s called slack fill, and it tends to give consumers a misimpression about the actual contents of the package. It makes the consumer think there is more product inside than there really is.

Fast forward to this summer when a New York consumer purchased a different wrap at Pret and got snookered too. He thought to himself — great — and he filed a class action lawsuit a few weeks ago against the company claiming millions of dollars of losses suffered by purchasers of these kinds of wraps. His lawsuit claims that depending on the sandwich there can be up to two-and-a-half inches of empty space between the two halves. (See story in Gothamist.)

So we asked Pret about their reaction to the lawsuit and why they package their wraps in this deceptive manner. They did not respond.


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August 7, 2017

Here We Downsize Again – 2017 (Part 2)

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

Like death and taxes, you can count on manufacturers to continue to shrink their products.

Mouse Print* reader Jack B. recently caught a change in Trident chewing gum.



Each package lost four sticks of gum, but each of the new sticks is slightly larger. The old sticks are 1.7 grams and the new ones are 1.9 grams:

stick size

However, with a product like chewing gum, it is the number of servings that matters, and each package now has four fewer servings.

Wishbone salad dressing recently came out with a new bottle, nearly identical to the old one.


Wishbone dressing

As reader Jim H. wrote, apparently people were weary of hauling around the old, heavier bottles that had a full 16 ounces in them.

Remember when the standard size for a container of yogurt was eight ounces? That is long gone, with those dairy cups going down to six ounces years and years ago. But it has not stopped there. More recently, major brands have downsized again — this time to 5.3 ounces.



Three or four spoonfuls and you’re done. No wonder you’re still hungry.

Faithful reader and contributor Richard G. tipped us off about Febreze air and fabric freshener recently being downsized.


Their spray bottles lost almost a full ounce. But I guess even if we make a big stink about, Febreze will just cover it up.

And in the never ending saga of the incredible shrinking toilet paper roll, Charmin is once again lopping off more sheets from each roll.



This time the double rolls went from 154 sheets down to only 142 sheets — or the equivalent of just 71 sheets on a regular roll. Just as a reminder, the original Charmin 40+ years ago had 600 or 650 single-ply sheets on a regular roll. Mr. Whipple is turning over in his grave.

Thanks to Richard G. for the tip, and we welcome you to submit your finds as well to Edgar(at symbol)ConsumerWorld.org .


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July 3, 2017

Toilet Paper Roll Claims Roil

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:10 am

Have you made a trip down the toilet paper aisle recently? MrConsumer did last week at Target. There were 11 different size packages of just one variety of Charmin (Ultra Soft) on display.

Charmin Ultra Soft

The big bold numbers on them made little sense. One said “12 = 27” but another said “12 = 54.” One said “18 = 72” but another nearby package proclaimed that “18 = 82.” One package declared that “8 = 36” but at Stop & Shop “9 = 36.” It must be the new math.

Toilet paper numbers


Of course, when you check the fine print on the label you discover a little more about the basis of comparison. All dozen packages compare the number of rolls in that particular package to how many “regular” rolls it is the equivalent of. Regular rolls? Do regular rolls even exist any more? They’re hard to find, and the package looks like a toy. But here it is — a package of four regular rolls of Charmin (before two additional downsizings brought the number of sheets per roll down to a meager 71). The package is only slightly taller than a dollar bill.

Charmin regular rolls

Why does P&G compare each package to a virtually non-existent product that people are no longer familiar with? It makes no sense, except to make you think you are getting more than you really are.

While that second number in the comparison always relates to “regular” rolls, the first number does not relate to the same size roll. Sometimes it means double rolls, double rolls “plus,” mega rolls, or mega rolls “plus.” Does anyone have the sizes of these memorized so that the comparison is meaningful? These are all made up names with an ever-changing number of sheets on each roll. And during a period of downsizing of Charmin, which we are in the midst of, it is even more confusing. There are two “12 = 54” packages noted above. One has 352 sheets per roll, and the other only 326, yet they are both called “double plus” rolls.

How confusing can you get? These comparisons are meaningless to most shoppers, yet the major makers of paper products like toilet paper and paper towels continue to play this game and emphasize these confusing numbers in ever bigger and bigger print.

Here’s a novel idea: just tell us how many rolls are in the package and how many sheets are on each roll. And put that in big print.


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April 10, 2017

Here We Downsize Again – 2017 (Part 1)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

In the ever-shrinking world of groceries and toiletries, some big manufacturers continue to think that smaller is better (at least for their bottom line). Herewith, then, are some of the latest products to have been downsized.

Example 1:

Wayne L. was shocked recently when he checked out the display of Crest Pro-Health at his local store and found that P&G had again shrunk the size of their tubes.


Crest Pro-Health

Unbelievably, over the past couple of years, the tubes have gone from a full six ounces to 5.1 ounces last year, and now a measly 4.6 ounces. At this rate, they will be travel-size before you know it.

We asked P&G why the product was being downsized again.

Our first priority is to provide our trusted, quality products for you at good value. In these times where everyday costs are rising, the cost of the raw materials that go into our toothpaste has also risen. Although we have tried wherever possible to absorb and manage these, in some instances, we have had to reflect this in our cost-pricing to retailers. — P&G spokesperson

Example 2:

A Massachusetts consumer, Rosemarie L., was incensed that Coke 8-packs had become Coke 6-packs at her local supermarket and were selling for the same price as before. We contacted Coca-Cola to find out what was going on, and whether these Coke mini-cans had really been downsized but the price kept the same.



“We are in the process of phasing out mini cans in eight packs. We are shifting to six packs and 10 packs. … The suggested retail price of six packs is less than the suggested retail price of eight packs.” — Coca-Cola spokesperson

So, this may be a little more about Coke changing its product mix than downsizing in the conventional sense. While this consumer’s store chose to keep the price the same for both sizes, a check at Target revealed the 8-pack selling for $3.69 but the new 6-pack was only $2.99.

Example 3:

When the chips are down, that means the ever-changing cans of Pringles are probably down too (after being upsized a while back).



Mike K., who kindly submitted this picture to Mouse Print*, says he “noticed that the Pringles shelf looked like a topographical map with all of the different new and old cans.” Each can lost about half an ounce of chips, going from 5.96 to 5.5 ounces.

Example 4:

Finally this round, one of the original products to ever be downsized — coffee — is at it again. This time, it is Maxwell House’s turn, following a similar move by Folgers a couple of years ago.


Maxwell House

The old 28-ounce size is now 24.5 ounces. This amounts to a loss of 30 cups of coffee per can with the total going from 240 cups down to just 210 cups. It is noteworthy to mention that five years ago when Maxwell House last downsized, each can of a similar variety produced 270 cups of coffee from a can weighing over two pounds. (See picture.)


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March 6, 2017

Movie Candy — More Box Than Candy

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

Have you seen the price of movie candy lately? In Boston, AMC Theatres charges $3.99 to $4.49 for a box with just 3.5 to 5.5 ounces of candy inside. Yikes.

These boxes have come under scrutiny lately because of several class action lawsuits against major manufacturers. Shoppers allege they were misled by the packaging which makes it look like there is a lot of candy in the box, but in reality, most are only about half full.

Here is a story about it by Jeff Rossen, NBC’s investigative reporter on the Today Show (with MrConsumer at the end).

Rossen Reports Movie Candy
Click to watch video

When manufacturers over-package a product creating empty space inside that has no function other than to make consumers think they are getting more for their money than they really are, that is called slack fill, and it’s illegal under federal law (and the law of some states). It is not illegal if the empty space is needed because of settling of the product, or because the machinery to fill the package requires it, or the space is needed to protect the product (such as the cushioning pillow created by large potato chips bags).

Here’s another example not part of a lawsuit. This is a huge box of Bazooka bubble gum — maybe six or seven inches long and over an inch thick. Sure looks like it has a lot of gum inside.


But when you stack up the contents, you get much less than meets the eye given the size of the box.


Bazooka contents

Although the net weight is on the package, and fine print on the back says there are “about 19” pieces inside (there were 18 in this box), the FDA and courts have ruled that having the net weight on the package is an independent requirement separate from the requirement not to use deceptive packaging.


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