Is It a Rebate or a Lottery?

Since January is a big month for beginning healthy new year’s resolutions, it should not be surprising that vitamin companies are running big promotions to get you to buy their brand.

Nature's Bounty 1

Among the offers being promoted heavily at various chain stores are ones that entice shoppers to buy $30 worth of vitamins to qualify for a $10 rebate. The rebate for Nature’s Bounty is running simultaneously with buy one, get one free (BOGO) sales at Walgreens, CVS, and other stores, and in fact are often promoted adjacent to one another.

So the question for bargain hunters is do they determine that you have met the $30 purchase requirement before or after cents-off coupons and free items are deducted? In other words, let’s say that vitamin X is $7.50 a bottle, and I buy four of them on a buy one, get one free sale, have I met the $30 threshold?

The initial answer from Nature’s Bounty may surprise you.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nature's Bounty disclaimer

Great. What a surprise. They are looking at the gross price of the vitamins before deductions for coupons or free items… or are they? Read on.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nature's Bounty disclosure 2

Oops. Now they say forget what we just said, you can’t use this offer if you buy the vitamins on a BOGO basis. Why not say that upfront? And why do stores like CVS and Walgreens advertise the BOGO sale and the $10 back offer virtually side-by-side and make no similar disclosure?

Believe it or not, it gets worse. Let’s say you were unlike most shoppers and you did read the fine print of the offer on the Nature’s Bounty promotional website. You would have found a most unusual restriction:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nature's Bounty 3

Say what? This promotion is being advertised this week nationally in millions of newspaper RetailMeNot coupon inserts as well as the weekly circulars of major pharmacy chains, and the company is only going to honor 7,500 submissions?

Since when has buying vitamins and submitting a rebate become a game of chance? Paying a price for the chance of receiving money back is the definition of a lottery.

(We’ve written to the company and if and when we get a response, we will update this story.)

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Thanks for Nothing – Year-End 2020

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Edgar Dworsky For 25 years, Consumer World, the creator of Mouse Print*, has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising nor corporate contributions) that keeps Mouse Print* and Consumer World available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.


In this series, we look at ads or products that just make you shake your head and maybe even chuckle.

Natrol 3 a.m. Melatonin

MrConsumer has a sleep disorder of sorts where he often wakes up in the middle of the night and has a hard time falling back to sleep. So when he saw this product called Natrol 3 a.m. Melatonin he got all excited. “For middle of the night wakeups” the package said.

Yeah, finally someone was making a product to keep me from waking up at 3 a.m. Presumably the product had some type of heavy-duty delay-release coating on it so it could deliver a big punch of melatonin in the middle of the night. I grabbed a coupon and was about to head out to Walmart, but then I read the instructions on the package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Natrol 3 a.m.

Oh, so I have to get out of bed at 3 a.m. to take this pill and then it will help me get back to sleep. Thanks for nothing, Natrol.


 

Amazon – Frequently Bought Together

Amazon and other sellers always like to encourage people to buy more things during their shopping trip. One way is to group things together, such as showing a particular toy along with the batteries that it requires. That can be very helpful. But this recent example from Amazon is a head-scratcher.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Bought together

Yes, I am sure that many people buy a bidet, washing machine cleaning tablets, and a cast iron skillet so they can be used together. Thanks for nothing, Amazon.


 

From the Installment Sales Department…

Has it really gotten to the point where people have to buy everyday products like underwear on the installment plan?

*MOUSE PRINT:

2xist installment payments

If anything had to be offered on installments it would be this Dyson hair dryer.

Dyson hair dryer

Good news… the price has now dropped to a mere $400.

Thanks for nothing, 2(x)ist and Dyson.

Microban 24: Kills Viruses and Bacteria for 24 Hours?

Everyone is very conscious these days of keeping surfaces that we touch as sanitary as possible. So what a perfect time to promote this product, Microban 24, that kills viruses and bacteria.

What is the impression you come away with after watching that commercial? They claim that Microban 24 kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, and you may believe they said it works for 24 hours. Watch the commercial again.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Microban fine print

They actually claim, combining their oral statements and fine print disclaimer that Microban 24 kills bacteria for 24 hours, but only kills viruses initially (upon spraying) and NOT for 24 hours. The company cleverly omits the word “viruses” when making its 24-hour claim.

So despite the product’s name, and a very carefully worded commercial where every word is literally true, a consumer could very easily come away with an incorrect impression of the efficacy of the product. And under FTC theory of the law, this could make the ad deceptive.

It is the net impression conveyed by a solicitation, “not its literal truth or falsity,” that determines whether it is deceptive. FTC v. Cyberspace.com, LLC, 453 F.3d 1196, 1200, 1201 (9 Cir. 2000).

We asked Procter & Gamble, the maker of the product, why they don’t clearly state orally that virus protection does not last 24 hours, and whether they would consider modifying their advertisements to more clearly disclose the limited nature of the virus protection. P&G did not respond to our inquiry.

UPDATE October 28: The EPA just granted approval to add Microban 24 to its list of products that can kill the coronavirus within 60 seconds. But, that does not change the fact that P&G’s product does not continue to kill viruses for 24 hours contrary to the impression created by their advertising.