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April 2, 2018

This Lifetime Warranty Enhanced with Levity

Filed under: Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

Just in time for April Fools’ Day, we discovered that The North Face tries to set consumer expectations high for its products but rather ambiguously and with a bit of humor in the terms of its lifetime warranty:


North Face warranty

What’s not so funny is the circular reasoning used for their lifetime warranty. It basically says that the product will last as long as the product lasts — whatever its life normally is. How ambiguous.

If you spot a bit of humor inconspicuously tucked into a company policy or contract, please submit it.


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March 26, 2018

Tropicana Kids: No Nutrition Sacrifice?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

Tropicana is known for its pure juices, many not made from concentrate. Now they are coming out with a new product line called Tropicana Kids, which was just announced via a press release.

Tropicana Kids

Looking at the front of the product label reveals that it is organic, which certainly implies to many that this is a healthy choice. And their senior vice president touts the product, saying:

“We’re thrilled to launch Tropicana Kids, offering an organic, premium fruit juice drink for busy parents who don’t want to sacrifice their kids’ nutrition, …”

Indeed, the words “real juice” appear on the front of the label, but it is hard to read the smaller type above it.


It says “Sweetened with real juice.”

Huh? That is an odd expression for what one might assume is a juice product to start with.


Tropicana Kids

There’s the answer! The first ingredient in this juice drink is water! And their press release announcing the product offers what might be a surprising explanation to many :

Tropicana Kids is an all-new line of certified USDA Organic premium fruit juice drinks offering delicious taste for kids with nutrition parents expect. Available in three flavors—Fruit Punch, Mixed Berry and Watermelon—Tropicana Kids is made with 45% real fruit juice and mixed with filtered water, with no added sweeteners, no artificial flavors and is an excellent source of vitamin C. Plus, the packaging features a clear panel so moms and dads can see the goodness inside, and feel good about serving Tropicana Kids to their children. [Emphasis added]

While it is a big plus that there is no added sugar or corn syrup, we’re not so sure that grossly diluted juice is a better nutritional choice for parents to make for their kids than 100% juice.

And certainly, the real nature of this product is not obvious from looking at the front of the package, peekaboo window or not, because parents can’t readily “see the goodness inside” just by visual inspection.


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March 12, 2018

Blurred Lines: Can Readers Distinguish Ads from Content?

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

Some websites, even very reputable ones, sometimes blur the distinction between editorial content and advertising. Of course, consumers have a right to know what they are reading is an advertisement when that is the case.

To that end, the Federal Trade Commission has created advertising guidelines for websites that use ads that look like the surrounding non-advertising content (“native advertising”). It encourages them to make clear disclosure to distinguish advertising content from regular new stories or natural search results. But are those disclosures really working? To find out, the FTC just published a study where Internet surfers were exposed to various webpages and asked to identify the advertising, if any, on those pages. The FTC also modified those real pages with simple changes it thought might better identify sections that really were advertisements.

Here is a sample Google Shopping results webpage when searching for computer tablets, and an FTC-modified version of it better highlighting the advertising on it:

Google Shopping FTC

Google only inconspicuously disclosed on the top right of the results page that the links listed have been paid for by the sellers (“Merchant links are sponsored.”) [Note: We’ve added the red arrows.]

The second image reflected a minor modification by the FTC putting the word “Ad” right before each link along with an information bubble explaining that.

The FTC found that few viewers even noticed Google’s disclosure in the upper right corner. In the modified version, the word “Ad” stood out much more clearly.

Here is another example of tweaks made to advertising that appeared at Time.com in their mobile version:

time.com FTC

In the original Time version, the two “Around the Web” stories are paid placements with poor disclosure (“sponsored content”) in small type. The FTC’s version made clear this was “paid content” by centering that disclosure above the two stories and adding the word “Ad” under the one on the left which was an advertisement.

Although the FTC study (“Blurred Lines: An Exploration of Consumers’ Advertising Recognition“) was limited, some generalizations can be drawn from the results:

Using some of the common sense disclosure techniques … can greatly increase the likelihood that consumers will recognize an ad as an ad. Minor modifications, including changes to disclosure language, position, text size and color, and to other visual cues such as the borders around or background shadings of ads or ad groupings, can in combination substantially increase the likelihood that a consumer recognizes an ad as an ad and reduce the potential for consumers to be misled as to the commercial nature of paid search and native ads.

Websites could easily make changes like these with minimal effort. The question is, will they?


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March 5, 2018

A Different Kind of Downsizing

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

Christian M. wrote to us recently about a different kind of downsizing. It seems he purchased a canister of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and noticed that it had been downsized.


Lysol wipes

Both canisters have 80 sheets, but the net weight dropped two full ounces from 19.7 oz. to 17.7 oz.

Did they make each sheet smaller? A consumer can’t tell because unlike a package of paper towels, the dimensions of each sheet aren’t disclosed on the label. Or, did they put less Lysol disinfectant in the package? Who can tell?

Our consumer took pictures of the old and new wipes.

lysol wipes side by side

The old sheet, on top, is made of solid material, while the new sheet, which is slightly larger, appears to have a waffle weave, with pockets that are almost see-through.

We wrote to the PR folks at RB (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser) asking what was reduced — the amount of disinfectant, the weight of the wipes when dry, or both. Their spokesperson replied in part:

…the total weight of our Lysol Disinfecting Wipes product has been reduced due to recent innovation with the wipes themselves, while still providing the same cleaning power and unbeatable disinfection, killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.

In 2017, Lysol launched a new non-woven substrate, scientifically redesigned in cooperation with consumers, highlighting a ‘peaks and valleys’ pattern. The ratio of liquid and non-woven have been optimized to guarantee sufficient wetness for a precise cleaning and disinfection, while providing the benefit of “trapping and lifting messes”.

So, maybe it was a combination of less liquid and thinner sheets, but who knows.

As an aside, it does seem odd that this product category has net weight statements seemingly based on solid weight (wipes plus liquid combined). RB says the way they declare the contents is consistent with federal rules which do not require sheet size for this type of product.


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February 26, 2018

RXBARs: Simple Ingredients, Simply Incomplete Ingredients List

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:23 am

Our friends at TruthinAdvertising.org discovered an interesting fine print issue that we want to share with you.

There are many “health” bars on the market that frankly look like glorified candy bars except they are made with healthier ingredients. On such product is called RXBAR:


They came up with a brilliant marketing gimmick to put a big and bold ingredients list on the front of each package to convey its contents. Their slogan is, “We tell you what’s on the inside on the outside.”

Shoppers may well grab this bar or one of the other varieties thinking that the four or five ingredients shown are the sum total of the contents.


The ingredients panel on the back of the package lists all the ingredients in the actual order of predominance:

Dates, Peanuts, Egg Whites, Natural Flavor, Sea Salt.

While the number of missing ingredients was minor for this flavor, the other bars that the company sells can have up to nine total ingredients while only four are shown on the front.

rxbar varieties

Even their television ad seems to acknowledge that prospective purchasers could be misled by the ingredients list on the face of the package because they inconspicuously make the following disclosure at the end of the commercial:



A company spokesperson told TruthinAdvertising:

“We do not claim that the front of the packaging represents all ingredients in the product.”

What do you think? Are the RXBAR packages potentially misleading?


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