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HP Ink Cartridges: 35 Times More Reliable*

HP ink cartridgesComputer printer companies practically give away their printers because they know they will make the real money by selling high-priced replacement ink cartridges.They are not fond of no-name companies that sell refilled cartridges at much lower prices. One way to get consumers to buy the name brand is to tout its superiority. HP claims in this ad that its cartridges are “35 times more reliable than bargain ink cartridges.*”

*MOUSE PRINT: “Based on a 2005 Inkjet Cartridge Reliability Comparison Study by QualityLogic, Inc. and commissioned by HP. Testing performed on HP 45, HP 56, HP 57 , and HP 78 Inkjet print cartridges compared to leading remanufacturer brands.” [Boston Globe Magazine, May 22, 2006]

The footnote goes on to refer the reader to the full details of the study , and other information. They tested 50 of their own cartridges, and 30 of each of 13 other refilled brands. The results: 2% of the HP cartridges had a problem, while 70.3% of the other brands failed in some respect. Presumably this is how HP came up with the claim that they are 35 times more reliable.

Trouble is, HP is using failure rates to mathematically support their reliability claim. More appropriately, if they wish to make claims about reliability, they should be looking at the reliability rate of their cartridges compared to the reliability rate of competitors. Flipping their test statistics, HP cartridges were reliable 98% of the time, while competitors’ cartridges were reliable 29.7% of the time. HP could and probably should have said their new cartridges have over three times the reliability of refilled cartridges. Still, that is a genuine advantage to boast about, but it is not the claimed 35 times advantage over the competition.


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WaMu Rewards: Earn Cash Back on Purchases*

WaMu Rewards

Everyone has heard of credit cards that earn rewards. Now Washington Mutual is introducing a debit card that earns cash rewards with every purchase.But exactly how much do you get back?

*MOUSE PRINT: “Free Gold Debit MasterCard® with Rewards—get a $.03 reward for each debit purchase transaction up to $250 per year**  **Applies to purchases made by phone, online, in person or by mail. If your account is open and in good standing on your anniversary date, you’ll receive a $.03 reward for each Debit MasterCard purchase transaction made within the last year up to a $250 reward.” [Washington Mutual website, May 16, 2006]

Thinking it must have been a typo, I read the disclosure to mean that you got back three percent (not three cents) for every purchase using their debit card. How generous!  To double-check, I called WaMu’s customer service department. They explained that with every purchase you indeed would get back three cents.

MrConsumer asked: “Now let me get this straight, if I buy a $1000 refrigerator, you are going to give me back three cents?”

Customer service representative: “Yes.”

How generous, and what a great incentive to switch to WaMu. In order to receive the advertised maximum rebate of $250 per year, one would have to make 8333 separate purchases. A snap.

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Cingular: The Fewest Dropped Calls*

Cingular Fewest Dropped Calls

Cingular has been widely advertising that it has the “fewest dropped calls.” What is the basis of their claim?

*MOUSE PRINT: The footnote indicates “Dropped calls based on nationwide experience among national carriers.”

Who did the survey/test and what exactly did it find? Cingular is not talking much on the subject and refers inquiries to the research company that did the study, Telephia. Telephia says their results are proprietary and won’t discuss them. See Boston Globe story.

The claim is also contrary to two recent reports on service quality from JD Power and Consumer Reports (subscription required).

Now it is revealed that Telephia sent a letter to the four major carriers at the beginning of May, after Cingular began running their campaign. According to a follow-up Boston Globe story:

Telephia sent a letter this month to officials at all four major wireless companies, saying it didn’t know how Cingular concluded that it drops the fewest calls. The San Francisco research firm also said it couldn’t say whether Cingular’s advertising is fair, legal, or responsible.

”While we can’t evaluate the specific analysis Cingular uses as the basis of its nationwide claim, Telephia can confirm that Cingular does have a statistically significant lower dropped-call rate than the competition across some market/time period groupings,” said Sid Gorham, Telephia’s chief executive, in the letter.

For consumers, we are still left without any substantiation, and with increasing doubt. Hey, Cingular, what is the real story? Can you hear us now?

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