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September 17, 2018

Aldi Waters Down Its Margarine… Literally

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

Aldi is an international chain of limited assortment supermarkets known for very low prices on most items. They carry very few national brands. Rather, store brands dominate their shelves.

In recent months, MrConsumer noticed price increases on various items there like cookies, peanut butter, pretzels, and more. One particular item, their 45-ounce tub of margarine, has had two price increases in recent months. It had been $1.79 for years, but jumped to $1.99 several months ago, and shortly thereafter went up again to $2.29.

Aldi margarine old

Last week, there was another change to this product. The margarine now comes in a rectangular tub:

Aldi margarine new

A closer examination of the package, however, revealed an additional change that was very unwelcome.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aldi 51%

VS.

Aldi 40%

They cut the amount of oil in the product by over 20 percent. So what replaced the oil? Water! In fact, the primary ingredient in this margarine is now water, whereas previously it was oil.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aldi margarine ingredients

We asked Aldi’s PR agency to explain why they literally watered down this product rather than raise the price, why they didn’t label the product as a new formulation, and whether they conducted any consumer taste tests to demonstrate that consumers preferred the new version. They declined to answer the questions.

Sadly, name brand tub “spreads” like Country Crock and Blue Bonnet are also only 39-40% oil these days. I don’t know about you, but MrConsumer just loves to spread emulsified water on his crisp English muffins.




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September 10, 2018

Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Goop” Made Unsubstantiated Health Claims

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:41 am

Last week, the Orange County California district attorney’s office and other DAs settled a consumer lawsuit against Goop – a lifestyle brand and website created by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The suit contended that Goop made health claims for various products but did not have substantiation to back up those claims.

For example, Goop touted “Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend” this way:

Inner Judge

You can either mix this stuff in water and drink it, or apply it externally to your body “over the liver.” It supposedly would help you get rid of guilt and shame, replacing those feelings with compassion and forgiveness, so as to prevent a spiral into depression. Oh please. What is this, a psychologist in a bottle?

For this crock of **** and unsubstantiated claims about two other products, Paltrow’s company agreed to pay $145,000 in settlement, without admitting any wrongdoing. So much for the company’s statement of values:

We test the waters so that you don’t have to. We will never recommend something that we don’t love, and think worthy of your time and your wallet. We value your trust above all things.

The case against Goop arose because our friends at TruthinAdvertising.com cited more than 50 unsubstantiated health claims made by Paltrow’s company, and sent them to some of the California DAs.

Here are some of the claims made for other flower essence products previously available on the Goop website. They include products to help “cure”: a broken heart such as from death of a loved one; emotional trauma from divorce, OCD, or bad dreams; infertility; auto-immune conditions; writer’s block; perfectionism, talking too much, etc.

Hertz

Scroll down the list.

For more about the case against Goop, here is an ABC Nightline story.




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September 3, 2018

Lowe’s Corrects Goof in Labor Day Promotion

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

Ever on the hunt for a good deal to promote as Consumer World’s “bargain of the week,” MrConsumer electronically thumbed through the Lowe’s Labor Day sale circular late last week. He found a sale on Bosch dishwashers, which usually have very good product reviews from shoppers, and tend to be rated very highly by Consumer Reports. Making the deal even better — almost unbelievable — was the fact that Lowe’s was advertising free installation via a rebate.

Here is part of their Labor Day print circular featuring five Bosch dishwashers as low as $449. And the free installation rebate is smack in the middle of all these models. All the asterisks and other symbols just below the green arrow concerning the rebate shed no light on the actual restrictions.

 

Lowe's circular

 

Taking a closer look at one of the cheapest Bosch models at $449, the Bosch SHE3AR72UC, which grabbed Consumer Reports’ highest rating of any dishwasher (though only lukewarm reviews by Consumer Reports readers), the Lowe’s website provided the following product listing, and noted the availability of two rebates on this model.

 

Bosch dishwasher listing

 

When clicking to get the details of the installation rebate, the shopper is presented with a surprising catch:

*MOUSE PRINT:

$799 restriction

It said that the rebate only applies to Bosch dishwashers $799 or higher! But the rebate form doesn’t say that. The newspaper circular doesn’t say that. And the big print description of the rebate on the website doesn’t say that.

So we wrote to the PR folks at Lowe’s to ask which was correct: that the rebate offer only applied to dishwasher models $799 or higher, or that it applied to all models listed in the circular, shown on the website, and listed on the rebate form.

Less than 24 hours later, an inconspicuous change was made to the website — they removed the $799 minimum purchase language!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Lowe's correction

A Lowe’s spokesperson confirmed to Mouse Print* that the promotion in question did not have a minimum purchase threshold and all references to it were removed from their website. The company said that the $799 minimum purchase requirement was never intended to apply to this sale.

Incidentally, in the Boston area, Lowe’s charges $239 for installation. So getting that free is seemingly quite a savings. But, before you run to Lowe’s to buy a Bosch dishwasher because of this great deal, understand that Lowe’s plays by the book in terms of obtaining a local plumbing permit if required by your city or town. In my town, for example, Lowe’s will add a charge of $170 for the permit!!! Since this seemed rather high, MrConsumer contacted the city’s inspectional services department and found out that the actual cost is only $60. Lowe’s is charging an additional $110 for the time it takes a third party contractor to wait in line at city hall, it appears. And Lowe’s says that homeowners CANNOT get the permit on their own to save money. The Lowe’s spokesperson could not get a formal response by publication time as to why the company has such an anti-consumer policy.

In addition, Lowe’s, like other appliance sellers, does not include in the advertised price of the dishwasher the drain pipe, necessary adapters, and the electrical cord. That’s another $50. And haul away is yet $20 more.

So, what started as a great bargain is turning out to be a very expensive proposition unless you do the installation yourself.




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August 20, 2018

Eye-Opening: Systane vs. Systane Ultra

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:04 am

Continuing our look at line extensions of popular over-the-counter products, we turn our gaze to Systane — a leading brand of eye drops.

Here are two of their lubricating eye drop products:

Systane

The product on the left is regular Systane “long lasting,” while the one on the right is Systane Ultra “high performance.” Based on its name and description, Systane Ultra seems to be a premium product offering “extended protection.”

A check of the active ingredients of both products, however, reveals a surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Systane ingredients

Both regular Systane and Systane Ultra have exactly the same active ingredients and seemingly in the same strength! So is this just another marketing gimmick like the one we spotlighted where regular Aleve and Aleve Back & Muscle have identical active ingredients?

We asked Alcon, the maker of Systane, what the actual difference is between these two products, and why they sell two different products with the exact same active ingredients.

A spokesperson for the company explained that the secret is primarily in the inactive ingredients which differ slightly between the two products. According to her that is why the “Ultra” product performs better.

“Compared to Systane, Systane Ultra has a unique mechanism of action due to the inclusion of sorbitol, which serves to optimize the viscosity of the drop to minimize blur by delaying the cross-linking of other inactive ingredients until the drop is actually in the eye. The way the inactive ingredients cross-link once Systane Ultra is dropped into the eye results in the creation of a viscoelastic protective layer over the ocular surface that reduces friction and is maintained between blinks for prolonged ocular comfort. Finally, the interaction of Systane Ultra with natural components of the tear film (e.g., calcium, zinc, and magnesium) strengthens the cross-linking of the protective layer and prolongs retention of the active ingredients on the ocular surface.” –Alcon spokesperson.

Got that?

Given that the “Ultra” product is nearly 50% more expensive, does it then last 50% longer than their regular one? The company didn’t answer that question.

Who would have suspected that two products with identical active ingredients would function differently because of the inactive ingredients? And that poses a problem for label readers who would not be able to glean that fact simply by examining a product’s contents.




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August 13, 2018

Tropicana Orange Juice Downsizes Again

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

Back in the good old days, one could buy half a gallon of Tropicana orange juice in a container. Then in 2010, the company (and the industry) downsized the traditional 64 ounce container to 59 ounces.

Tropicana 64-59
Tropicana 64-59 net contents

Then they introduced attractive carafes of orange juice in a shape not easily distinguishable as a particular size, but they were still 59 ounces.

Now in the summer of 2018, Tropicana, following the lead of Simply Orange, is in the process of downsizing again. This time to a mere 52 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana 59-52 ounces

The bottles look identical on store shelves. Same width, same height. So how did they reduce the contents by a full seven ounces so inconspicuously?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana bottles profile

The bottles aren’t as deep as they were… that’s how they accomplished this clever sleight-of-hand.

On the Tropicana website, they explain why they downsized the product:

Tropicana downsize explained

We consider this one of the sneakiest downsizes ever because of both the tiny net contents statement which is often hidden by the shelf rack edge in some supermarkets, and the appearance of the bottles which look identical head-on. What do you think? Add your comments below.

Thanks to eagle-eyed reader, Edward E., for catching the change.




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