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June 29, 2020

Haagen-Dazs Allegedly Cuts Corners With Milk Chocolate

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

Haagen-Dazs is one of the premier brands of ice cream, so it is surprising to hear of a lawsuit alleging that the company is cutting corners on the milk chocolate it uses to coat its ice cream bars.

Haagen-Dazs bars

According to the complaint, the company mixes in coconut oil to the milk chocolate.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Haagen-Dazs ingredients

And under federal regulations, if milk chocolate has an optional ingredient in it like vegetable oil, then it must be labeled as “milk chocolate and vegetable fat coating” or “milk chocolate and ___ oil coating.”

The problem is that Haagen-Dazs doesn’t do that on the principal display panel, but only in the fine print ingredients statement.

As such, the lawsuit contends that consumers are misled, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the product, or would not have purchased it all.

For its part, Froneri, US Inc., the maker of these chocolate bars, said “The labels on our Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar products accurately describe the products, comply with FDA regulations, and provide consumers with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.”

Companies have to use an emulsifying agent like coconut oil to more easily coat the ice cream in a hard chocolate layer.

We’ll let you know how the case turns out.

Hat tip to Truth in Advertising for the case.




• • •

June 8, 2020

Where’s the Honey in Honey Bunches of Oats?

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

Honey Bunches of OatsFor years, we’ve all seen the commercials for Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal where the female assembly line worker waxes poetic about her crispy crunchy bunches.

Last year, a health-conscious California consumer bought a box of this cereal thinking that honey would be a more healthy sweetener to have rather than sugar or corn syrup. Soon thereafter he learned (probably from a class action lawyer rather than a nutritionist) that the product in fact had almost no honey.

A check of the ingredients statement on the side of the package revealed the not-so-sweet truth.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Honey Bunches of Oats Ingredients

There are three other sweeteners in the product — sugar, corn syrup and molasses — all of which are in greater amounts than any honey. In fact, there was more salt in the cereal than honey. (Barley malt extract is also a sweetener, incidentally.)

So our consumer sued Post claiming false advertising and misrepresentation. He believed the packaging conveyed the impression that honey was either the only sweetener or certainly a significant one in the product.

Post argued among other things that no reasonable consumer would understand that the cereal’s packaging was making a claim about the amount of honey in the product. MrConsumer always loves when a company tries to assert that only stupid consumers would believe the baloney the manufacturer shows and tells them right on the package.

The company asked the judge to dismiss the case, but she sided with the consumer in her procedural decision.

In applying the reasonable consumer standard, however, the packaging must be considered in context. That is, the image of a radiating sun, the words “HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS,” and the honey dipper dripping honey occupy about two-thirds of the front of the packaging. Although the package does not make any objective representations about the amount of honey in the cereal, a reasonable consumer could see the prominent honey-related words and imagery and be deceived into thinking the cereal contained relatively less refined sugar and more honey. If so misled, the reasonable consumer is not expected to pick up the product and examine the fine print of the ingredient list. –Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, U.S. District Court

And so the case moves forward. We’ll keep you “Posted,” so to speak.




• • •

June 1, 2020

Holy Sheet: Is This How They Sell Magazines Now?

Filed under: Business,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

John G. wrote to Mouse Print* last week after buying a queen set of Better Homes and Gardens sheets at Walmart, which came with an unexpected surprise.

BHG Sheets

 

The package says that by buying this set of sheets you also get a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. That’s a nice bonus. And this was inside the package:

Better Homes and Gardens offer card

The card explained that a one-year magazine subscription was included as a “thank you” for the purchase. So far, so good. But our consumer became disenchanted when he read the details shown in tiny print above:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“If you do not wish to receive a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens (valued at $6) as part of your qualifying purchase, fill out the card, write “refund” and mail to BHG Refund…”

So while it first appeared to him that he was getting the magazine as a free bonus in this specially marked package, he says “reading the fine print on the enclosed postcard makes it clear that I’ve ALREADY PAID for the subscription!”

And that is our opinion too. By definition, you are only offered a refund for something you have already paid for. So, it seems the cost of the magazine was embedded in the purchase price of the sheets.

We contacted the magazine’s publisher, Meredith Corp., and their vice president of corporate and brand communications provided the company’s position:

The subscription is a gift included with purchase with a stated value of $6.00. The cost of the sheets is independent of the fact that there is a gift subscription that comes with the purchase. The consumer does not pay $6.00 for the subscription (BH&G licensed products at Walmart are not marked-up to cover the subscription value of $6.00).

The company spokesperson went on to say that this promotion has been in use for over 10 years, it was approved by the entity best known for certifying that a publication’s circulation claims are accurate, and no consumer has ever complained.

Whether the cost of the magazine was rolled into the purchase price or not, we can only guess that very few sheet buyers even know they are entitled to $6 back because of the inconspicuous way the refund option is disclosed. When we gave the company spokesperson two opportunities to reply that they would consider making the refund offer more conspicuous in the future, she did not say that they would.




• • •

May 25, 2020

Get an Extra Year Warranty on Refurbished Items Free

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:33 am

One of the great bargains that shoppers can get is when an electronic item is refurbished. Sometimes these are even brand new products but sold in plain brown boxes so as not to compete with the manufacturer’s own regular line.

The downside of buying a refurb is that it typically only comes with a 90-day warranty. And to add insult to injury, most credit cards with an extended warranty benefit (that doubles the manufacturer’s warranty) excludes refurbished items. Grrrr.

*MOUSE PRINT:

No refurbs

However, while perusing the fine print of the recently published credit card benefits booklet for the Chase Freedom Visa card, MrConsumer discovered a terrific change. While the standard language excluding used and pre-owned items is still there, Chase made an exception and is now covering refurbished goods that come with a warranty.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Refurbs allowed

And as an added bonus, unlike most policies that merely double the manufacturer’s warranty, which on a 90-day warranty only would add three months, the one from Chase Freedom adds a full year extra.

Thanks, Chase.




• • •

May 4, 2020

How Unscrupulous Sellers Mislead on Shipping, Country of Origin

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

In his quest to find protective masks after Amazon and eBay removed most of their listings on account of price gouging, MrConsumer turned to AliExpress — the eBay/Amazon of China.

While masks there were likely double or triple their pre-pandemic prices, some third-party sellers on the site offered fast four to seven day delivery from sources in the United States (at a higher price than the same masks if shipped from China).

AliExpress Mask Ad

So MrConsumer ordered these masks on April 11. The package was shipped two days later with a USPS tracking number from New Jersey and should certainly arrive in Massachusetts in just a matter of a day or two, or so I thought.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Shipping confirmation

While the USPS tracking number was issued on April 13, two days after ordering, as of May 4 – three weeks later – the post office still had not received the package from the company.

The tracking information screen showed that the item was being shipped from one United States location to another, however, a hidden tracking number indicated the real origin was China. See that inconspicuous link at the bottom that says “Data Provided by CAINIAO?” That takes you to a Chinese shipping company with the real tracking information.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Chinese tracking

The package was actually shipped from Shenzhen, China on April 21 — 10 days after the order was placed, and three days after it should have already been received.

What is going on here? It appears that this company and others that play this game on AliExpress, eBay, and perhaps Amazon Marketplace, make customers believe their shipment originates domestically when in fact it is coming from overseas. A USPS shipping and tracking number is issued at the outset to further mislead customers about the shipping timing and origin. At some point, either in China or when the package arrives in the US at the transfer point, the USPS label is slapped on the package indicating the final leg of its journey to the customer.

MrConsumer used the AliExpress dispute process because the goods had not been received during the buyer protection period. The company authorized a full refund on May 2.




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