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June 24, 2019

This Advertised $9.99 Oil Change Actually Costs 70% More

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

MrConsumer loves a bargain and to find an offer for a $9.99 oil change these days is unheard of. But that’s what Monro, an East coast auto service chain, advertised. They also run nine other auto service chains in the Eastern half of the country and in California. They are Mr. Tire, Tread Quarters, Ken Towery’s, TireChoice, AutoTire, Tire Warehouse, Tire Barn, TiresNow, and CarX.

Monro $9.99 oil changeEnlarged for better readability

*MOUSE PRINT:

That unreadable fine print says there is an additional charge (where permitted) of $2.90 for an oil “filter and/or waste recycling fee and a 9.99% service charge which represent shop supply and equipment costs and profits.”

So already, the $9.99 price is out the window. The $2.90 waste disposal fee is not required by the state, and retailers are required to take back up to two gallons of used oil sold by them per day per person at no charge. A service shop like Monro is not considered a “retailer” according to the state. And then there is that 9.99% shop fee.

But is it really only 9.99% for this oil change?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here is a condensed version of an estimate from a Monro location using the above $9.99 coupon:

monro estimate

In this case, the 9.99% shop fee charge totals $3.29! Where did that come from? Shouldn’t it be about a dollar on a $9.99 oil change? What Monro does is charge the customer 9.99% on the regular price of the oil change. In this case, that is $25 plus $4.99 for the oil filter plus the $2.90 disposal fee, totaling $32.89. Ten percent of that is $3.29. This is similar to a misguided retailer trying to charge sales tax on the regular price of an item rather than on the discounted price when it is on sale.

We contacted Monro’s chief marketing officer trying to determine if this was a computer programming error or a deliberate and misleading way to calculate the 9.99% shop fee. Her response sidestepped the question:

“We disclose the inclusion of a disposal fee and a service charge fee based on the retail price in all marketing materials.”

We also questioned whether the sales tax was being calculated correctly by basing it on not only the oil change, but also on the environmental/disposal fee and the shop fee. The company expressed confidence in its calculation. However, Massachusetts law only provides for assessment of the 6.25 percent sales tax on tangible goods, and therefore not on services, shop and recycling fees, and service plans, particularly when they are itemized separately on the bill. While Monro did only charge tax on the net price of the oil change excluding the $2 labor charge, they did tax the recycling fee and the inflated shop fee.

It is misleading to customers to advertise what looks like a complete price when in fact the company has additional required fees in order to purchase the advertised service, particularly when clear disclosure of those charges is not made.




 

 

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June 17, 2019

Barilla Settles Class Action on Underfilled Boxes

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Back in 2016, four Italian consumers sued Barilla, the largest pasta maker in world for misleading packaging. They alleged that the company sells specialty pastas like gluten-free, whole grain, “ProteinPlus,” etc. in the same size cardboard boxes as their traditional pastas. There is only one problem — the specialty boxes are the same size as the regular boxes but typically contain 25-percent less pasta, 12 ounces instead of the usual 16 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Barilla 12oz vs 16oz

In this case, the boxes head-on appear identical, and they are equal depth front to back. But there is more empty space inside that the shopper is not able to detect until purchasing the product. This is known as “slack fill” — non-functional empty space — and it is illegal under federal law and some state laws. (Pictures of the gluten-free and whole grain boxes are shown in the lawsuit above.)

Late last year, the company decided to settle without admitting any guilt and the case is now closed. Purchasers of Barilla will get nothing other than satisfaction that the company has agreed to make a disclosure on the box and also include a “fill line.”

It should be pointed out that Barilla is not alone in selling partially filled pasta boxes. For example, Prince engages in the same practice as demonstrated by these two spaghetti boxes that are both the same size but one has 25-percent less product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Prince spaghetti

Notably, Stop & Shop and Giant’s store brand has taken appropriate steps to put some of their 12-ounce pastas in thinner boxes than the one-pound size.

*MOUSE PRINT:

SS rotini front
SS rotini top




 

 

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June 10, 2019

Did Those Clever Keebler Elves Try to Pull a Fast One?

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

While shopping recently, MrConsumer spotted this bonus pack of Keebler Chip Deluxe cookies.

Keebler Chips Deluxe bonus pack

The package proclaims “Now 20% More Cookies FREE.” Great, who doesn’t like a free bonus? The package weighed 15.8 ounces.

A couple of rows over, however, MrConsumer saw some regular (non-bonus) packages of those same cookies.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Keebler Chips Deluxe regular

That package doesn’t claim to contain a bonus, and it also weighs the exact same 15.8 ounces. The “old” package just above appears to have been manufactured only FOUR DAYS before the bonus package based on their “sell by” dates being only four days apart (July 31, 2019 for the old one, and August 4, 2019 for the new bonus one).

So what did those clever little elves do? According to the label, both packages had 30 cookies? Is this the new math?

We asked Kellogg’s, the manufacturer of Keebler cookies, for an explanation. Unfortunately they sidestepped the issue, only saying:

We increased the weight (ounces) of each of our Keebler Chips Deluxe retail packages by 20% without an increase in price as a way to offer more value to our consumers. Each package now has up to six more cookies.

The availability of the new packages varies, as they flowed through over time. We started production of the new packages at the end of last year.

Because we have covered the downsizing of Keebler cookies in the past, we know the packages had gone down to the 11-12 ounce range about five years ago. The packages are clearly larger today.

The best we can tell, checking hundreds of Keebler Chips Deluxe pictures in Google image search, the most prevalent previous size was 12.6 ounces. The package contained about 24 cookies. The current 15.8 ounce packages contain about 30 cookies according to the label. Mathematically, that’s 25-percent more cookies, not 20-percent.

But that still does not explain how the 15.8 ounce bonus package above can be identical in weight and number of cookies (30) as the non-bonus package that immediately preceded it, being produced seemingly just four days earlier. We may never know.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if manufacturers who downsize their products called shoppers’ attention to it in as a bold a way as when they upsize them?

Keebler Fewer Chips package




 

 

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June 3, 2019

This Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Right?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

One of our readers, Mark H., was shopping for olive oil in his local supermarket and came upon this product:

Fiero evoo blend

It looks like extra virgin olive oil. On closer inspection, under those words in smaller type it says “original blend.” What does that mean? Is it mix of various extra virgin olive oils, or some of it is extra virgin and some of it is something else?

The back of the bottle at least partially answers the question.

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients

The ingredients statement, which is required to list the contents in the order of predominance, indicates the product is mostly canola oil, followed by vegetable oil, and lastly extra virgin olive oil. A call to the company’s sales department revealed that the actual amount of olive oil in the product is “up to 15 percent.”

That revelation would probably come as a surprise to most shoppers because of how the product is labeled on the front of the bottle.

The Food and Drug Administration has regulations with relevant labeling requirements:

21 CFR 102.37

The common or usual name of a mixture of edible fats and oils containing less than 100 percent and more than 0 percent olive oil shall be as follows:

(a) A descriptive name for the product meeting the requirements of 102.5(a), e.g., “cottonseed oil and olive oil” or another descriptive phrase, and

(b) When the label bears any representation, other than in the ingredient listing, of the presence of olive oil in the mixture, the descriptive name shall be followed by a statement of the percentage of olive oil contained in the product in the manner set forth in 102.5(b)(2).

21 CFR 102.5

(b) The common or usual name of a food shall include the percentage(s) of any characterizing ingredient(s) or component(s) when the proportion of such ingredient(s) or component(s) in the food has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance or when the labeling or the appearance of the food may otherwise create an erroneous impression that such ingredient(s) or component(s) is present in an amount greater than is actually the case…

In short, the rules seem to say the name of the product should not be misleading as to the amount of olive oil in the product, and the percentage has to be stated when it is a blend.

We asked the company, Terra Mia, some pointed question. Their President responded saying they are changing the label of this product this coming August when supplies of the old ones run out. We also requested a copy of the new one, but never received it.

In our view, since consumers rely on product labeling and this one so crosses the line, we filed a formal complaint about it with the FDA.




 

 

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May 20, 2019

This Smartphone is Waterproof, Right?

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

To tease the introduction of its new smartphone, OnePlus is running this new commercial touting how waterproof they are:



Rather than go through an expensive internationally recognized test to determine the degree to which its phones resist water and dust penetration (an “IP rating”), the company just drops its phones in a bucket of water.

There’s just one problem with their cheap method to convey that their phones are waterproof or water-resistant. It’s in the fine print that you probably can’t read in the commercial.

*MOUSE PRINT:

OnePlus fine print

With a disclaimer that small, and only on the screen for three seconds, no wonder you can’t read it. It says:

Products not IP certified. Water resistant under optimal test conditions. OnePlus makes no guarantees regarding water/liquid resistance. Water/liquid damage not covered under product warranty.

Then why the heck, OnePlus, are you representing visually that your phones can be safely dunked in water? (The company never replied to our inquiry.)




 

 

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