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September 11, 2017

Brush Your Teeth and Get Vitamins Too?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:16 am

For years, product manufacturers have added vitamins to their products as a marketing tool to boost health conscious consumers’ interest in them. Now comes a new product called Vitaminpaste®. You guessed it — a toothpaste with vitamins (and curiously, no fluoride).

Vitaminpaste

Here’s how it is advertised:

vitaminpastead

The company claims that you “Get extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants every time you brush.” The ad also says the product is safe to swallow.

To us, what’s hard to understand is the claim that this product is going to boost your intake of vitamins. The ad doesn’t list all the vitamins in the paste, and neither it nor their website specifies the amounts of each in the product. So… we found a tube in the store and checked the back.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Vitaminpaste ingredients

An inch of toothpaste delivers just 7% of the daily requirement of eight vitamins and minerals. And maybe if you ate the stuff, you would get that small boost of vitamins. But most people spit out toothpaste. And even the back of the box recommends you spit it out and rinse the residue.

*MOUSE PRINT:

instructions

So the question becomes, can vitamins and minerals be absorbed by the body just by being in your mouth for a minute or less? The company’s answer is actually on the back of the box in small print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

absorb rate

According to them, you only get 10% of the listed daily requirement. That means you get 7/10ths of one percent of each vitamin per brushing.

For about $4.99 for a 4.1 ounce tube, this whole thing is hard to swallow.

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September 4, 2017

Did You Fall for the Whole Foods Price Cuts Hype?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:05 am

It seems like virtually every newspaper and media outlet carried stories at the end of August breathlessly touting price cuts at Whole Foods now that Amazon has taken over the high-priced chain.

Whole Foods Headlines

One would think with such headlines that everything in the store was now at bargain basement prices. Nothing could be further from the truth. All these reporters were buying what Amazon was selling in their press release without checking the true extent of the price cuts and how that would affect the average shopper.

MrConsumer made a visit to the medium size Whole Foods in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood two days before the price drop and again twice last week afterwards. Rather than finding large signs all over the store proclaiming that thousands of items had been cut in price, it appeared that very little had changed.

*MOUSE PRINT:

365 Tomato sauce

On his third store visit, the day after the price drops, MrConsumer went up and down every aisle, electronic clicker in hand, trying to count every item bearing the Whole Foods + Amazon orange logo signaling a new lower price. The final count: only 49 items were cut in price. Put another way, Amazon did not reduce the price of 99.5% of the estimated 10,000 items carried by the average Whole Foods store. A Whole Foods spokesperson confirmed the number of items carried, but refused to discuss the list of affected products or even just the number of items reduced.

Some of these products were accounted for multiple times in the overall tally, like the seven flavors of one brand of tomato sauce, the four varieties of one brand of eggs, and the over half a dozen sizes of bottled water. Together, those three products alone accounted for nearly 40 percent of all the price reductions.

Now, were there legitimate and sizable price reductions? Absolutely. Atlantic salmon went from $12.99 a pound to $9.99, and fancy schmancy ground beef in a cryovac package dropped from $8.99 to $6.99 a pound. Are these now bargains? Not exactly. Are more price reductions coming? They say so.

Salmon before/after

Amazon and Whole Foods were masterful at getting the media to promote an almost nonexistent price drop, and in turn at helping them counteract the supermarket’s high-price image. The reality is that the average shopper will barely notice any savings in their weekly grocery bill at least in the short-run.

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August 28, 2017

Is Your Samsung Warranty Missing? (It May be No Accident)

Filed under: Electronics — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:31 am

A few weeks ago, MrConsumer recounted some surprises found in Samsung television warranties concerning black bars on the screen. The biggest surprise, however, was this: the $400+ television did not come with a copy of manufacturer’s warranty in the box.

Since MrConsumer used his Citi Double Cash credit card to buy the TV, which provides an extra TWO YEARS of coverage beyond that provided by the manufacturer, it was critical to have a copy of the original warranty.

A visit to Samsung’s website proved to be a waste of time:

Samsung- no warranty info

A call to Samsung’s 800 number also proved to be fruitless. Neither the customer service agent nor her supervisor could provide it. The supervisor even erroneously suggested that a serial number (not just a model number) was needed in order to get a copy.

Doesn’t federal law require that a copy be in the box?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Actually, an amendment a few years ago to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) allows manufacturers to disclose the terms of their warranties online as long as they also have a non-Internet means to request a copy such as a phone number or mailing address. (See our 2015 story.)

How anti-consumer, however, of any manufacturer to fail to spend the extra penny it would cost to put a copy right in the box with their product.

We asked the PR folks at Samsung if it was simply an error in this case that the TV that MrConsumer bought did not have the warranty included, or if it was company policy to no longer include it.

In part, a spokesperson replied, attaching a copy of the warranty:

“Samsung provides product warranty information on our website, www.samsung.com. We apologize you were unable to find the warranty for your TV on our website. This was caused by an error, and we are addressing it.” — Samsung spokesperson

Well, that didn’t answer the question of whether it is Samsung’s policy to no longer include a copy of the warranty in the box (and if so, why)? We wrote back two more times asking again, but received no response.

What kind of company refuses to directly answer such a simple question?

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August 21, 2017

Pret a Manger Accused of Deceptive Sandwich Packaging

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

MrConsumer had occasion to eat at what he considers an expensive regional European sandwich shop last March called Pret a Manger. He discovered something sneaky about how they packaged their sandwich wraps.

Pret Bang Bang Chicken

Upon opening the package, one gets an unexpected surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pret revealed

What looked like a long wrap sandwich, potentially worth the $7.49 price, turns out to be two small halves that come nowhere close to filling the package. The “Lovingly Made” cardboard surrounding the middle of the sandwich hides the dirty little secret of the empty space between the two halves. I thought to myself — great — I have a good Mouse Print* story.

As we have discussed in the past, deceptive packaging can be illegal, particularly when there is nonfunctional empty space in the package. That’s called slack fill, and it tends to give consumers a misimpression about the actual contents of the package. It makes the consumer think there is more product inside than there really is.

Fast forward to this summer when a New York consumer purchased a different wrap at Pret and got snookered too. He thought to himself — great — and he filed a class action lawsuit a few weeks ago against the company claiming millions of dollars of losses suffered by purchasers of these kinds of wraps. His lawsuit claims that depending on the sandwich there can be up to two-and-a-half inches of empty space between the two halves. (See story in Gothamist.)

So we asked Pret about their reaction to the lawsuit and why they package their wraps in this deceptive manner. They did not respond.

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August 13, 2017

Samsung’s TV Warranty Suggests Limiting Your Viewing of Certain Stations/Programs or Else!

Filed under: Business,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 1:28 pm

While reading the warranty for a recently purchased Samsung HDTV, MrConsumer did a double-take reviewing one particular section.

But first, you have to understand a little about the screen dimensions of high definition televisions vs. the old-fashioned cathode ray tube ones. Old TV screens were more boxy — almost close to a square. They were 4:3 perspective. That is, left to right, the screen was only slightly wider than it was high. High definition television screens are usually 16:9 — much wider than high — more like a movie screen.

If you watch a standard definition TV channel, or an old television show that was not shot in high definition, you usually see black bars left and right of the picture:

black bars

Those programs are in 4:3 format and when viewed on a 16:9 screen, there is space left over on the left and right — thus the black bars. In some cases, if a program was only produced in HD, but you are viewing it on a standard definition channel, you will see black bars on all four sides of the picture.

Now back to the Samsung warranty. In its own separate section of the warranty, Samsung warns purchasers not to spend more than 5% of their TV-watching time viewing standard definition programs or channels! What? A TV manufacturer is telling users what they can and cannot watch on their own TV?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Samsung 5% warranty warning

The warranty actually says that you shouldn’t watch standard definition programs and channels (unless you stretch and distort them to fill the screen) for more than 5% of the time each week. That means if you watch 20 hours of TV a week, you can’t watch more than one or two episodes of your favorite old shows a week without potentially voiding part of your warranty.

The problem, they say, is “burn-in” — where something that is constantly on the screen and not moving causes the image to be seared into the display permanently. Think of the old pong video game where you had a white box on the screen for hours at a time. That could get burned in to the old cathode ray screens. The same problem exists for LCD and LED TVs apparently, but to a much lesser extent.

We asked Samsung why it manufacturers televisions that cannot support SD programs and SD channels in their original 4:3 format without potentially damaging the TV and voiding a part of the warranty? Here is their (non-) answer:

“Samsung is committed to the highest quality and most immersive TV viewing experience for all consumers. We provide customers with guidance to ensure the best performance of their devices. We encourage consumers to enjoy their preferred content on their TV while understanding the suggested ways to get the most out of their product.” –Samsung spokesperson

The spokesperson did note that the company offers a lifetime warranty against burn-in, but only on last year’s high-end SUHD line, and this year’s premium QLED line.

We also wondered if other manufacturers were cautioning viewers to limit watching standard definition TV. Sure enough, on LG’s website, they have a similar warning:

LG burn in

So kiss goodbye your old episodes of “I Love Lucy” and “All in the Family” as well as watching the entire array of standard definition channels, like 2, 4, 5 and 7 for any significant length of time.

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