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April 6, 2020

Is This the Way to Give Workers a Bonus?

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

No doubt, many people are facing personal financial hardships because they have lost their job or are working reduced hours. But many companies are stepping up continuing to pay workers or even offering extra pay.

One such company is the closeout retail chain Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) with 139 stores throughout the Northeast. In an email to customers last week, their CEO told of hundreds of thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions of food and protective medical equipment their company has made.

He also noted a $2 an hour pay increase for workers, an additional bonus, and a more generous employee discount program.

There was one unusual disclosure in the letter, however.

*MOUSE PRINT:

OSJL- letter

The company is financing the bonus to employees by automatically tacking on a two-percent surcharge to every shopper’s bill at the checkout. While you can opt-out, how many people even realize that they are being surcharged in the first place? Many won’t see the signs nor have carefully read the email. And how awkward and embarrassing to have to say to the very person this money is intended to help that you don’t want to contribute.

While we applaud OSJL for its very generous contributions to hospitals and veterans organizations, in our view, the customer contribution for an employee bonus should be voluntary — opt-in — just like this chain does for the other causes it asks customers to support during the year.

Contrast their surcharge approach with the voluntary method being taken by the Daily Table in Boston. Their nonprofit mini-supermarkets, created by the former CEO of Trader Joe’s, buy soon-to-expire food from manufacturers and stores. They cook some of it and prepare single-portion meals for the lower-income shoppers that frequent their stores. Last week, the Daily Table sent out an urgent email plea to customers asking them to help pay their employees an emergency aid bonus of $2 an hour which was not in their budget. MrConsumer was happy to contribute.

So what do you think? Should stores be able to automatically tack on a surcharge to their customers’ bills to help finance an employee bonus, or should they simply just ask shoppers to support their employees through voluntary contributions?




• • •

March 30, 2020

Purell Maker Sued for Unsubstantiated Claims

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

Purell labelJust at the time when consumers nationwide are clearing the store shelves of Purell comes word that the Food and Drug Administration and several private lawsuits are charging the company with making unsubstantiated health claims for its products.

In January, the FDA sent a warning letter to GOJO Industries alleging that as marketed and advertised PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are unapproved new drugs because of claims like:

  • “Kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA & VRE”

  • “In a recent study, student absenteeism was reduced by 51% when PURELL hand hygiene products were used in conjunction with a curriculum to teach kids about good hand hygiene[] . . . 10% Less Teacher Absenteeism”

  • “Even though norovirus is highly contagious, there are ways you can reduce the risk of its spread. … Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing . . .”

  • “Is PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer Effective Against Ebola? … [WHO and the CDC] are recommending the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a preventive measure during this outbreak . . .”
  • The FDA goes on to say that claims like these suggest that Purell is intended to prevent or reduce disease from Ebola, norovirus, and the flu, but the agency is not aware of any studies that correlate killing bacteria or viruses on the skin with a corresponding reduction of those diseases. As such, because Purell is intended for the “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention” of disease and thus by definition that makes it is a drug. And an unapproved new one at that. New drugs need to be FDA-approved before being sold.

    The maker of Purell posted a response to the FDA on its website, saying in part:

    It is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with all requirements of FDA regulations and federal law, and we take that responsibility very seriously. To that end, we have begun updating relevant website and other digital content as directed by the FDA and are taking steps to prevent a recurrence.

    At least three consumer class action lawsuits (most recent one here) have been filed against GOJO claiming consumers were misled because the company made 99.99% effectiveness claims without having reliable substantiation.




    • • •

    March 23, 2020

    Sometimes No Disclosure Is Better

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

    Who would think that Mouse Print* would ever say that less disclosure can sometimes be better than more disclosure? There aren’t too many cases where this is true, but here is one of them.

    In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day two weeks ago, MrConsumer checked out the bargains on corned beef at various local supermarkets. Point cut corned beef was on sale for between $1.47 and $1.69 a pound at the low end. As we have shown before, the name of the game when buying cheap corned beef is to check how much water (“solution”) is injected into the beef.

    Here are a couple of brands that have 35% water. In other words, you are paying $1.49 a pound for packages that are one-third water and only two-thirds beef.

    corned beef

    corned beef

    MrConsumer did not want to be burned again by those brands, so he hightailed it over to another store offering corned beef for $1.69 a pound. When he looked to see how much water was injected into the brands they carried, the information was conspicuously missing.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    corned beef packages

    Where was the percentage disclosure like the other brands had? It was nowhere on these packages. I asked the meat man if he knew (he didn’t) and whether he could check the carton. There was no disclosure there either. So, what would you do? Buy one of the unmarked packages and take a chance or take a pass? I left the store corned beef-less.

    Since one of the brands was made in Massachusetts, I called headquarters to ask the million dollar question. After about 10 minutes of the receptionist presumably trying to find someone who knew the answer, she finally came back on the line and said “20-percent.”

    Why didn’t the company put this on the label? It is a big selling point compared to the competition.

    The answer is they don’t have to when the product complies with the federal standard of identity for corned beef which allows, by definition, for there to be up to 20% water in raw corned beef.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    § 319.101 Corned beef brisket.
    In preparing “Corned Beef Brisket,” the application of curing solution to the beef brisket shall not result in an increase in the weight of the finished cured product of more than 20 percent over the weight of the fresh uncured brisket.

    Only if a product like corned beef does not meet the standard of identity (20% or less of water) does there have to be a clear disclosure on the principal display panel as part of the name stating the percentage of water/solution in the product, as the top group of products shows. [See 9 CFR § 317.2 (e)(2)(i)]

    So there you have it. Because the two unlabeled brands above did not exceed the amount of water allowed, they didn’t have to tell consumers how much was actually in it (although it really would have been smart to do so). In this case then, buying raw corned beef with no disclosure is a smarter move than purchasing the ones that tell you how much water has been injected.




    • • •

    March 9, 2020

    Here We Downsize Again – Winter 2020

    Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:59 am

    We start the new decade with an old trick — inconspicuously reducing the package size of products as a sneaky way to raise prices. You pay the same price but get less for your money. Here are our latest discoveries. (If you find a product that has been downsized, please take a clear picture of both the old and new size packages and submit it here. )

     

    Charmin

    The folks at P&G are doing it again on supermarket shelves right now. Newly designed packages of Charmin toilet tissue are sitting next to the current version.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Charmin

    The difference is that each “mega” roll now has 20 fewer sheets. And just a reminder… the Charmin of 50 years ago in the Mr. Whipple days had 600-650 single-ply sheets per roll. Thanks to our ace downsizing detective Richard Ginn for spotting this change.

     

    Powerade

    Another item right in the midst of being downsized now is Powerade. The Coca-Cola Company is reducing the size of its 32-ounce bottles of this sports drink to just 28 ounces. Thanks to consumer reporter John Matarese of WCPO-TV for this tip.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Powerade

     

    Puffs

    Paper products continue to be downsized regularly. The makers of Puffs tissues reduced the size of its cube-shaped boxes from 56 tissues to 48.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Puffs

    Thanks to Liz B. for pointing out how this product changed.

     

    Hershey’s Kisses

    One of the nasty tricks that some product makers do sometimes when downsizing an item is to make the package size bigger than the old one, but now contain less. In this case, a number of Hershey’s chocolate products sold in large bags lost two ounces last fall. Here, even though it is still called “family size,” these bags of Hershey’s kisses went down from 18 ounces to 16. 1. And their 12-ounce “classic size” bags went from 12 ounces to just 10. But that size got renamed “share size.”

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Hershey's Kisses

     

    Angel Soft Toilet Tissue

    Finally, the downsizing angels pulled a double-whammy on your fanny.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Angel Soft

    Not only did they trim 30 sheets off of each roll of their toilet paper, Angel Soft made each sheet more narrow. The four-inch square tissues are now only 3.8-inches wide. Thanks to Richard Ginn for finding this change last fall.




    • • •

    March 2, 2020

    Do These Products Really Give You 40-50% More?

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

    Grocery product manufacturers love to hide when they are giving you less for your money, but proclaim loudly when they are giving you more even if they really are providing nothing extra.

    Example 1:

    Clorox Clean-up spray bottles are adorned with a new claim that the product “cleans 40% more per spray*.”

    Clorox 40% more

    It took a while to find where that asterisked claim was explained, but there it was in tiny print on the back of the bottle.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Clorox fine print

    Well that explains everything… NOT. What in the world does that claim mean? Has the product been reformulated so it is 40% stronger than before and thus cleans 40% better?

    We asked the company’s PR folks multiple times for an explanation, but they did not respond. Our guess is that the spray nozzle and feeder tube have been redesigned and now 40% more cleaner comes out with every spritz. That’s sort of like making the hole bigger on the toothpaste tube so you’ll use more.

    Examples 2 and 3:

    The most common type of “percent more” claim is designed to catch your eye and make you think you are getting a bonus — some extra amount free — because you picked up this particular promotional package.

    French's Mustard - Mrs. Butterworth's

    When you look more closely at these two bottles, they are not giving you anything extra free. They are merely providing a mathematics lesson.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    mustard and syrup disclosures

    Both products are just larger size bottles than smaller ones. A 20-ounce bottle is (approx.) 40% more than a 14-ounce bottle, and a 36-ounce is 50% more than 24-ounces. Nothing more. Nothing free.




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