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February 25, 2019

Magellan’s GPS Takes a Shortcut on Lifetime Benefits

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:29 am

When Donald K. went to update his Magellan GPS with the latest map, he got a nasty surprise. Despite being advertised as coming with “FREE lifetime map updates,” he was informed that his unit did not qualify.

Magellan GPS

Seems pretty unambiguous, right? “Free lifetime map updates.” “Never worry about out-of-date maps again.”

However, farther down the page on Magellan’s website is an inconspicuous disclosure.


Lifetime = 3 years

Magellan astonishingly defines “lifetime” as just “three years” from the date of manufacture. That is certainly not how the average consumer would define lifetime. Nor how the Federal Trade Commission wants its definition disclosed:

§ 239.4 “Lifetime” and similar representations.
If an advertisement uses “lifetime,” “life,” or similar representations to describe the duration of a warranty or guarantee, then the advertisement should disclose, with such clarity and prominence as will be noticed and understood by prospective purchasers, the life to which the representation refers.

And the FTC also bans the deceptive advertising of guarantees.

Clearly, the disclosure that Magellan makes is not conspicuous, nor in close proximity to their “lifetime” claims. Further, their warranty is really a specified term of years — three — and not an unlimited warranty time-wise as the term “lifetime” implies.

Making the lifetime to which the warranty applies to the device’s own lifetime is circular reasoning. In essence that says the device will last only as long as it will last and then you’re out of luck. And in Magellan’s case, they are even cutting that short.

We asked a spokesperson for the company why they continue to use the misleading term “lifetime” to describe their three-year warranty, and whether they will grant access to map updates to purchasers who feel they were deceived. Here is their response:

We sincerely apologize for any confusion we may have caused to consumers about “lifetime maps” on our Magellan GPS devices. Typically with electronics, “lifetime” refers to the useful lifetime of the device, and for most GPS devices the useful life is about 3 years. Magellan honors customer requests for lifetime map updates as long as the device is still capable of being updated. For support, please visit https://service.magellangps.com/ [and fill out the “contact us” form].

One can only wonder what she meant by saying the device has to be “still capable of being updated” rather than simply saying that as long as the device was still functional they will provide map updates.

Thanks to John Matarese of WCPO-TV for the original story idea.


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February 18, 2019

When It Comes to Yogurt, Size and Ingredients Matter

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

Have you read any good yogurt labels lately? You may be in for a surprise.

Here is the 6-oz. container of Yoplait Original strawberry banana yogurt:

Yoplait 6-oz

It is made with real strawberries and bananas, just as the front label depicts.

Thrifty shoppers, however, may find it more economical to buy the quart size container of Yoplait Original strawberry banana. But, they will get less than they bargained for.


Yoplait 32 oz

Checking the ingredients, all the real strawberries and bananas disappeared! While it does say “smooth style” on the front of the label, one might have reasonably assumed that they merely blenderized the fruit into the yogurt to create a uniform, smooth texture.

Nope. And the fine print of the front of the label doesn’t help much either. It says, “flavored with other natural flavor,” which might to the average shopper merely convey that other flavors are also mixed in.

Not to be outdone by this bit of yogurt trickery, once upon a time, Yoplait made a line of Yoplait Whips for the Girl Scouts evoking the flavors of some of their bestselling cookies.

Here is Yoplait’s Girl Scouts “peanut butter chocolate” Whips… but something is missing.


Yoplait peanut butter

According to the ingredients, there is no peanut butter in Yoplait’s peanut butter chocolate yogurt.

We asked General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, about the labeling of these two products. In particular, why different sizes of seemingly the same product did not have the same contents, and why they don’t more accurately describe the product on the front of the container. The company did not respond.

FDA regulations unfortunately allow manufacturers to play games with how product flavors are labeled, even to the point of permitting none of the depicted ingredient to actually be present in the product.

(i) If the food is one that is commonly expected to contain a characterizing food ingredient, e.g., strawberries in “strawberry shortcake”, and the food contains natural flavor derived from such ingredient and an amount of characterizing ingredient insufficient to independently characterize the food, or the food contains no such ingredient, the name of the characterizing flavor may be immediately preceded by the word “natural” and shall be immediately followed by the word “flavored” in letters not less than one-half the height of the letters in the name of the characterizing flavor, e.g., “natural strawberry flavored shortcake,” or “strawberry flavored shortcake”.

This is called consumer protection?


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February 11, 2019

Is Canada Dry Ginger Ale Made With “Real Ginger”?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

Multiple lawsuits recently alleged that Canada Dry ginger ale was not the real thing because it did not contain “real ginger” as the label proclaimed.

Canada dry



The ingredients statement says that it contains “natural flavor” but tests done by the plaintiffs indicate that the soda did not contain key components one would normally find in ginger root. Further analysis concluded that it only contained two parts per million of ginger extract.

In the settlements agreed to last month, Canada Dry is still allowed to say “made with real ginger” but only if that statement is modified with words like “flavor” or “extract.”

Examples of permissible label claims: “real ginger taste,” “made with real ginger extract,” “real ginger flavor,” “flavor from real ginger extract,” and “natural ginger flavor.” The Permanent Injunction shall also include court-approved use of “ginger extract,” “natural ginger flavor extract,” “natural ginger extract,” “natural ginger flavor,” or “ginger flavor” in the label ingredient line.

Would you catch those nuances?

Consumers who purchased Canada Dry ginger ale are entitled to modest compensation. Without proof of purchase, you can get 40 cents a can/bottle, up to $5.40. With sales receipts, you can get reimbursed at the same rate for up to 100 units.

After the settlement becomes final, you can file a claim here.


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February 4, 2019

Hey, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover, Where’s the Chocolate?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

Six California district attorneys filed a complaint last month alleging that Ghirardelli and Russell Stover marketed some boxes and packages of chocolate that were “predominately empty” or that had large empty spaces or false sidewalls.

Readers of Mouse Print* know that this is called “slack fill” — nonfunctional empty space in an opaque product package. Manufacturers understand that consumers purchase products with their eyes. So if they can make the package look bigger, consumers will wrongly assume they are getting more product and thus more value for their money.

In the court case, the DAs alleged that some chocolate boxes had false bottoms, making the package look more filled than it really was.


Whitman's Sampler
Whitman’s Sampler Box with False Bottom

Another example is a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares that is full of air and not much chocolate:



The bag is seven inches high, but there is five inches of dead space inside.

The owner of both companies quickly entered into a settlement with the DAs and agreed to pay $750,000 in penalties and costs, and change some of their packaging practices.

Hats off to the California DAs who continue to publicly pursue weights and meassures violations for the benefit of everyone. More agencies around the country should step up and do the same.

And they can start with this one…



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January 28, 2019

Is Supermarket Zone Pricing Ripping You Off?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

As a reader of Consumer World and Mouse Print*, you are probably a savvier shopper than most. But did you know that some supermarket chains “zone price?” That means the shelf prices and advertised sale prices at its stores can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, or region to region.

While many factors go into pricing decisions by supermarkets like rent and labor costs, the presence or absence of competition nearby is often the key to whether a particular store location has lower prices or not. The more competitive the area, the lower the prices, typically.

One exception, at least in my area just north of Boston, is Aldi. Aldi is a limited assortment supermarket, a fraction of the size of a conventional grocery store. They carry mostly store brands and are priced roughly at about 25% less than conventional supermarket store brands. If you’ve never shopped at Aldi or Lidl (a similar type store), give them a try.

But the Aldi near MrConsumer has significantly higher advertised prices for some items compared to other Aldi stores farther North. This is despite having a Stop & Shop (our largest conventional supermarket) in the same shopping plaza, as well as a Wegmans and two warehouse clubs (BJ’s and Costco) within half a mile, and two deep discount Market Baskets just a bit beyond that.

Here is a portion of this week’s circular for Massachusetts Aldi stores :

Aldi MA chips

But just 24 miles away, in Salem, New Hampshire, those very same items from their Aldi circular are much cheaper:


Aldi NH chips

These New Hampshire prices are half to almost two-thirds less than the Medford, Massachusetts store. While most of the other advertised items are identically priced, these stark price differences can make local shoppers here feel like they are getting ripped off royally.

When MrConsumer raised the zone pricing issue with a top Aldi executive, he offered little hope that anything was about to change here, saying:

“We are always reviewing our prices to ensure we offer our shoppers the lowest prices possible. While ALDI prices do sometimes vary from city to city, we pride ourselves on having the lowest prices in town.”

Well, Aldi, you are not offering us YOUR lowest prices. What do we have to do here in Massachusetts, get a team in the Super Bowl in order to get a good deal on chips?


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