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Thanks for Nothing — Spring 2021

One again we bring you a round-up of products, offers, and advertisements that are real head-scratchers or just too-good-to-be-true.

Example #1

Shoppers are attracted to bonus offers on grocery products and manufacturers know it. Sometimes, however, what looks like a special deal on a product is nothing but a mathematics lesson only indicating that a particular package is X% larger than a smaller one, as we have previously reported.

The latest arithmetic lesson comes from Campbell’s but apparently the math wizards there never quite mastered long division.

Campbell's Tomato Soup

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here, the same 15.2 ounce can of tomato soup is compared to the regular 10.75 one, but the company can’t seem to decide how much more you are actually getting in the bigger can. Thanks for nothing, Campbell’s.


Example #2

Recently Shaw’s Supermarkets seemed to offer a great deal in their “Just for U” coupon section – $5 off a $5 purchase.

Shaw's $5 off

*MOUSE PRINT:

It only looked like $5 off a $5 purchase. The zero after the $5 purchase requirement was truncated and only visible when viewing the details of the coupon’s requirements. Thanks for nothing, Shaw’s.


Example #3

Macy’s had advertised a great price on men’s Dockers pants – only $9.95.

Macy's 1

*MOUSE PRINT:

But, when clicking on the $9.95 offer, the price quadrupled to over $40.

Macy's dockers 2

Thanks for nothing, Macy’s.

If you find a questionable product label or advertisement suitable for the Thanks for Nothing series, please submit it to: Edgar (at symbol) MousePrint.org .

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Cold-Eeze: Reduces Duration of Common Cold Symptoms by 42%?

A recent commercial and packaging for Cold-Eeze — those cherry-flavored lozenges with zinc gluconate — claims to reduce the duration of common cold symptoms by 42%.

Cold-Eeze 42% claim

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cold-Eeze asterisk

It turns out that the scientific study on Cold-Eeze that supports the 42% claim was done a quarter of a century ago in 1996 and involved only 50 hospital employees who took the product and 50 who did not. [Full study here.] It seems odd that the company would introduce this new claim now after sitting on this data for decades.

Many people like the product despite the fact that no one can really say for sure that their cold ended more quickly than if they had not taken the zinc drops.

Interestingly, Cold-Eeze has extended its product line to include cold remedies that also supposedly promote immune health and help with fatigue. The asterisk after that claim goes to the most candid of disclaimers:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cold-Eeze disclaimer

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AAA Crams a Sneaky Optional Charge onto Some Annual Paper Bills

A New York reader wrote to us recently complaining about a sneaky “optional” charge that was tacked onto his annual AAA bill that he received in the mail. We then found a Massachusetts consumer with a similar problem (her bill is below):

AAA billClick to enlarge

*MOUSE PRINT:

AAA dollar disclosure

AAA added a $1 voluntary donation to their traffic safety foundation on this bill, and automatically included it in the “amount due” rather than as a separate box to check if the member wanted to donate. On this bill, the annual membership fee due should have been $87 and not $88.

The problem with this type of billing is this: Many members may simply rip off the payment stub at the bottom of the bill and send a check or enter their credit card number for the amount the stub says is due not realizing that the actual membership fee had been bumped up by an “optional” dollar.

AAA payment stubPayment stub from New York consumer

From a legal standpoint, this billing practice may well be classified as “cramming” — tacking a charge for a new item onto a bill without the customer’s affirmative consent and including it in the total due. As such, this may well be contrary to state consumer protection laws that ban deceptive practices.

We contacted AAA headquarters multiple times asking a series of questions about how extensive this billing practice was, whether it extended to those on autopay, how many people are affected, and whether they will change the practice. We received no response despite sending three email inquiries and calling twice.

Customers should not have to scrutinize every bill they get to make sure something they never ordered was tacked onto their invoice and included in the total. Just the way that the IRS includes a check box on your tax return so you can indicate if you want $3 to go to fund presidential elections, AAA should do the same thing if you want to add a dollar donation to their safety foundation.

There’s an old consumer maxim: it is easier to steal a dollar from a million people than steal a million dollars from one person.

We need your assistance to help determine how extensive this problem is since AAA operates as separate regional clubs around the country. Please look for your last bill from AAA to see if it includes an “optional” $1 charge or not. Either way, send a scan or clear photograph of it (crossing out your member number) to Edgar (at symbol) ConsumerWorld.org. In addition, use the comment section below to indicate what you think of AAA’s billing practice, and your experience with their bills. Please include your state, and whether you are on autopay or receive a paper bill in the mail. Thanks!

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