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October 19, 2020

Walgreens Shortchanges Customers on Some Coupons

Filed under: Computers,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

MrConsumer became a victim of a sneaky practice by Walgreens a few weeks ago. He spotted a great deal on Crest 3D White toothpaste, and even promoted it to readers as a “Bargain of the Week” in Consumer World.

Walgreens Crest offer

In this offer, if you bought four tubes of Crest, one of them would be free, plus there was an additional $1 electronic coupon and also an $8 one. Conceivably you could snare all four tubes for only $1.77. It was unclear if one of these coupons was a store coupon and one a manufacturers coupon, so I e-clipped both. I thought if the $1 coupon could not be used in combination with the $8 coupon, obviously I would just use the $8 one.

At the store, the cashier scanned my loyalty card and the four tubes. The total on the screen said $9.77 (before tax) rather than the $1.77 or $2.77 that I expected. This happened because it only took off the $1 coupon. I told her something was wrong because I had also e-clipped an $8 coupon. What she said next floored me.


“The system only takes off the LOWEST value coupon.”

Say what? She said that she could not manually remove the $1 coupon, that I would have to do it in my e-wallet, and then the system would accept the $8 one. I showed the cashier that I didn’t see any apparent way to remove a coupon at the Walgreens website on my cellphone. She said that can only be done in the Walgreens app, which I did not have.

So I left the four tubes at the checkout and headed home to install the Walgreens app and try to remove the $1 coupon. That part of this saga was successful, so I drove back to the store. A different cashier found my four tubes of Crest behind the counter and rang up the order. This time the system took off the $8 coupon properly, which I pointed out to the cashier. She too reiterated that Walgreens’ checkouts only deduct the lowest value coupon applicable to the order.

I couldn’t believe that any company would deliberately create a system to deny customers the use of a legitimate high-value coupon that was properly clipped particularly since the company was getting reimbursed in full for it by the manufacturer.

So we asked Walgreens why they had such an anti-consumer policy. A PR spokesperson for the company replied:

“Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Our current POS [point-of-sale] system is not able to logically determine the best offer at the customer transaction level. Our system applies digital coupons based on the order that the customer activated them along with corresponding expiration dates. We are working with our CPG partners as well as our digital coupon provider to develop remedies outside of our POS. In addition, we are developing a capability for our team members at POS to be able to add and remove coupons at the time of checkout on behalf of the customer. We will follow-up with you as we have more information to share.”

A number of shoppers have posted complaints online including saying that the Walgreens policy noted just above was changed toward the end of 2019 to a lowest value first one.

While we are pleased to have prompted Walgreens to work on a variety of solutions, this never should have happened. A simple highest value first policy would benefit shoppers the most, just like the one used by supermarket chain Hy-Vee:


“If more than one digital coupon is loaded for the same product, the best value will be redeemed at checkout.”

• • •

October 12, 2020

Is It a News Story or a Sales Pitch on Major News Sites?

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

We turn to news sites like CNBC, USA Today, CNN and many others for news stories written by seasoned reporters independent of the advertising sales side of these businesses. So, we can generally expect the stories we see on those sites not to be advertising in disguise, or somehow tempered by the writer’s knowledge that the subject of the story advertises on that site, right?

More and more, however, big name news sites are blurring the line between conventional news stories written by the site’s journalists, and what is called “commerce content.” The whole purpose of commerce content is to publish what look like news or feature stories but whose purpose is really to sell stuff to readers thereby allowing the site to earn a commission. All this is done under the aura of the well-known and trusted name of the news site on which these articles appear.

Here is an advertisement for CNN Underscored which reviews various products:

If you go to CNN Underscored directly, or from a search result, you will find a long list of stories such as ones about buying the best laptop, or finding the best cash back credit card.

CNN Underscored story

At the top of the site, however, there is a fine print disclaimer:


CNN Underscored is your guide to the everyday products and services that help you live a smarter, simpler and more fulfilling life. The content is created by CNN Underscored. CNN News staff is not involved. When you make a purchase, we receive revenue. [color added for emphasis]

That’s right. CNN (and the other sites mentioned below) typically use other writers and reporters to write these stories to help lead you to make a purchase and thus compensate the website’s publisher.

Interestingly, in its “About Us” section, CNN says that the Underscored staff doesn’t always test the products themselves but rather reads others’ reviews or other organizations’ test results as part of its research process.

Below is a Who’s Who of news media with either whole sections devoted to these sales pitches dressed up to look like regular consumer stories, or who intermingle commerce content or sponsored stories with legitimate news stories. Some do a better job than others in researching the subject matter of the story and thus provide a valuable service. Most of them do a relatively poor job in disclosing that they make money if you make a purchase from the links in their articles.

  • CNBC Select
  • USA Today Reviewed
  • New York Times Wirecutter
  • Forbes shopping
  • Yahoo! Life [certain stories]
  • Huffington Post Shopping Finds
  • Business Insider
  • BuzzFeed Shopping
  • Washington Post Brand Studio [sponsored content]
  • NBC News Brand Studio [sponsored content]
  • NBC News Shop Today
  • Tribune Publishing/BestReviews (Chicago Tribune, NY Daily News, Baltimore Sun, etc.)
  • MSN Travel/Points Guy

    So many news sites are now promoting links from which they can get paid that the Wall Street Journal has put a disclaimer at the end of some of its stories saying that it is NOT receiving any such compensation:


    WSJ not being paid

    The trouble with these types of stories on many of the news websites is that they often are listed in Google News or Bing News when doing searches of news stories. So you have to look carefully at ANY news story to see if it is a regular news feature or a story designed to get you to buy a product or service.

  • • • •

    October 5, 2020

    Tide Purclean — Not Quite So Pure

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:24 am

    Many people are attracted to products that are environmentally-friendly, and that may have motivated P&G to come out with Tide Purclean — the first plant-based laundry detergent.

    Tide Purclean - old

    Seventh Generation, the maker of various natural products including its own brand of “powered by plants” detergent, brought a challenge against P&G’s claims to the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. It argued that the combination of the unmodified plant-based claim, leaf design, and some language on the back of the bottle might give consumers the false impression that the product was 100% plant-based. It also complained this commercial did not clearly enough disclose that the product is only 75% plant-based.

    NAD in its decision agreed, recommending that when the term “plant-based” is used the advertiser should clearly and conspicuously disclose the limitations of the claim, namely, that the product is “75% plant-based” and avoid the implication that the product is 100% plant-based when in fact some ingredients are petroleum-based.

    This is a newer version of the bottle label introduced before NAD’s decision was handed down.


    Tide Purclean - new

    While improved over the old label, most shoppers will miss the fact that the product is only 75% plant-based. By comparison, the plant-based variety of Seventh Generation is 97% plant-based. But according to Consumer Reports, both Tide Purclean and a non-plant-based version of Seventh Generation are tied with lousy scores — 54 out of 100.

    • • •

    September 28, 2020

    That Computer Tablet From China May Not Be Up to Spec

    Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:18 am

    This is the story of a guy who bought a couple of computer tablets on eBay from China and got less than he bargained for.

    Phil S. wasn’t a stranger to buying on eBay, and had purchased many computer items from sellers in the USA, China, and other countries around the globe. Phil was also a “power user” and adept at resolving just about any problem that he came across since he used to run a computer store.

    Last month, he saw a tablet being offered by a highly-rated seller with excellent specifications like Android 9, a ten-core very fast processor, and tons of ram and storage. So, he bought two of them.

    Phil ad pic

    The tablets arrived from China a few weeks after ordering them. A quick double-check of the specs according to the “about” section of settings revealed he got exactly what he paid for, an even got an Android upgrade to version 10.

    Phil tablet fake specs

    However, when he started using the tablet, he noticed problems immediately. There was something off. The specs claimed that the unit was running Android 10, but the screen had the exact appearance of Android 4.4. The units seemed slow. After running a few tests, he found that they were old units hacked to appear like new, high capacity fast tablets. In other words, the seller or his henchmen went into the “about” page on the tablet (shown above in the black picture) and actually changed the wording that it displayed.

    Using some sophisticated sniffing tools, Phil found some of the real specs of his tablets.

    *Mouse Print:

    phil actual specs

    The fraud pervaded every specification that the seller had listed, speed, resolution, capacity, processor, and software version. For example, the resolution was not the 2560 x 1600 promised, but only 1280 x 720; and the processor only had four cores and not 10.

    When Phil complained to eBay, they refunded his money. But he wanted to warn others about this scam. If you see ads online for no name computers with great specs but at ridiculously low prices (Phil’s tablets were only $69), you might want to think twice before hitting the buy button.

    • • •

    September 21, 2020

    Black Forest Products: Real Juicy?

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

    MrConsumer saw this commercial for a new product under the brand name Black Forest last week:

    It certainly conveys a warm, woodsy, natural feeling to viewers. And the products seem like they are healthy because the announcer says they are “made from real fruit juice and colors from natural sources… Black Forest — real juicy, real good.”

    What caught MrConsumer’s eye, however, was the faint footnote:



    Say what? Only 7.9 percent juice? What’s the rest of it? You guessed it — primarily sugar.


    Nutrition facts

    While apple juice concentrate is the third ingredient, the other fruits pictured on the “Juicy Burst” box are the last three ingredients. In fact, there is more wax in the product than those juices. And a number of other fruits and vegetables are only used as coloring. The nutritional value of this juicy fruit snack is pretty much limited to the vitamin C that the company adds.

    So while this product is portrayed as a seemingly healthy snack, we’d call it candy. And no wonder, the Black Forest brand is owned by the Ferrara Candy Company which makes Brach’s, Nerds, SweeTarts, Chuckles, RedHots, and classic candy corn.

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