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Thanks for Nothing – Fall 2023

A few times a year we spotlight offers from companies that are real head-scratchers, are actually less generous than they appear, are just plain outrageous, or may simply elicit a chuckle. Here’s the new crop.

Shake ‘N Bake

It seems like skimpflation has hit the grocery shelf again. This time it’s Shake ‘N Bake. The product is well known for helping to make fried chicken by simply having you put the breading in a bag, adding chicken pieces, and then shaking and baking. Now they have made a significant change to the product.


Shake 'n Bake

They removed the always included bag saying it was an environmental move. The consumer who spotted this, Michael P., said in response to their claim, “All it means is they save money and the consumer has to use one of their own Ziploc or other plastic bags.”

Maybe they need to rename the product now to simply ‘N Bake. Thanks for nothing, Kraft Heinz.

Panera Contest

Mark D., a regular Consumer World reader, got some good news recently. He won a prize in a Panera promotion.

Panera prize

That’s pretty generous winning a $99 membership in their unlimited sip club. But then Mark figured out he had not actually won a prize worth $99 but rather he received a sale solicitation to buy a membership in the club for that price – a $20.99 discount from the usual $119.99 price.

Thanks for nothing, Panera. And please do consider dropping deceptive offers like this.

AfterPay Installment Plan

I know that grocery prices are high because of inflation and greedflation, but when you are even offered the option to put a package of beef stew on the installment plan, something is really wrong.


Buy now, pay later stew

Thanks for nothing, AfterPay.

Prices Gone Wild

Speaking of high prices and beef stew, things are really getting out of hand when you have to pay up to $750 for a single stew pot (and could really use an installment plan to finance it).

Le Creuset pot

And when it costs $39.99 for one package of toilet paper (and that is a Target sale price), something has really gone askew.

Price of Charmin

Thanks for nothing Williams Sonoma, Le Creuset and P&G.

If you find an ad suitable for inclusion in our “Thanks for Nothing” series, please send it to: edgar (at symbol) . Thanks.

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Is Hershey Running an Illegal Sweepstakes?

A longtime Consumer World reader, Alex from Virginia, wrote to us recently about a sweepstakes being run by The Hershey Company for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

He got a package like the one below from his local Dollar General store offering a chance at winning $25,000.

Reese's Win $25,000 package

The front of it said, “You could WIN $25,000. See details inside.”

The law of most states says that paying a price (“consideration”) for the chance to win a prize is a lottery, and usually only the state and charities are allowed to conduct them. (This is also the definition of “gambling” in Pennsylvania, where The Hershey Company is headquartered.)

The FTC recently reiterated that companies can’t charge a price to enter a sweepstakes when describing their $18.5 million case settlement with Publishers Clearing House:

Real sweepstakes are free and by chance. It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter.

But companies always have promotions telling shoppers if you buy their product you have a chance to win a prize. So how do they get away it?

To prevent any promotion by a company being deemed a lottery or gambling, it must disclose a “no purchase necessary” means of playing the game, such as by sending in a postcard with your name and address. That is called the alternate means of entry (AMOE).

Being a savvy shopper, our consumer knew this so he scrutinized the outside of the package looking for the required information on how to enter the sweepstakes without having to make a purchase. There was nothing on the front, the back, the sides, or even under the flap. But after the candy was purchased, he got a big surprise when opening the package.


There, INSIDE the package, they disclosed how to enter the sweepstakes without having to make a purchase and provided a website with more information! Hello?

disclosure inside the package

And just in case you were thinking maybe Hershey put these Reese’s packages in a special display in stores, and that display disclosed the free way to enter the sweepstakes along with the URL of their special website, that was not the case at least where MrConsumer found the bars in the regular candy display at the checkout at his local Walgreens in Massachusetts. Likewise that’s where a California shopper also found them. A Washington state shopper found them without special signage along with other candy at a Safeway checkout, and our Virginia consumer found them in this display at Dollar General:

Reese's display at Dollar General

So is this promotion legal? We consulted with one of the country’s leading sweepstakes law experts who said in a statement in part:

My opinion on this promotion is that it does violate the lottery laws. The need for clear and conspicuous disclosure [of the AMOE] is particularly important for an on-pack sweepstakes … [and] should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed on the outside of the package.

What does Hershey have to say for itself? We contacted their PR representative three times asking for comment and an explanation, but we received no reply.

However, the company issued a statement to the Associated Press, and the reporter incorporated their position into her story:

Hershey Co., that Pennsylvania candymaker that owns the Reese’s brand, said late Monday that its website contains full details of the promotion. It also said some packages have QR codes that link consumers to more information.

“As with all of our promotions, we place great care and diligence to ensure they are compliant with all regulations,” Hershey said in a statement.

The company also said in-store displays showed abbreviated rules for the sweepstakes, including how to enter without making a purchase. But Dworsky said a spot check of candy displays in multiple states, including California, Virginia and Washington, found no such signs.

Packages purchased by an Associated Press reporter at a Michigan drugstore didn’t contain QR codes, and the store had no signage explaining the promotion.

We’ll only reiterate that the obligation is on the company to disclose to consumers the way to find the free method to enter the sweepstakes, not for buyers to have to go hunting to find it or to have to buy the product.

This case is particularly troubling because children and young people are candy buyers and could well be attracted to the cartoon character on the package, the school theme, and the idea of winning money. Not knowing the law, they or other impulse purchasers might buy this candy needlessly or repeatedly when they didn’t have to.

We also discovered that the company ran the exact same promotion from January through April this year with the same packaging. The problem is that some of those older packages are still for sale indistinguishably intermingled with the new ones but the sweepstakes offer and code inside expired months ago.

For all the foregoing reasons, we urge Hershey to recall all specially-marked packages of Reese’s with the $25,000 offer.

In addition, we have turned over this case to the Federal Trade Commission, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, and some other law enforcement entities for their review.

Perhaps it’s time for Reese’s to change their slogan from not sorry to sorry.

Please add your opinion in the comments section.

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One Supermarket Makes Digital Coupons Easy to Access in Just-Launched Test

Digital coupons are advertised discounts that require shoppers to individually “e-clip” each coupon they want on the store’s website or app usually before they go to the store. Last year, we highlighted the problem with digital coupons [see original story] at supermarkets because they require having the internet or a smartphone to use. That process effectively shuts out millions of non-tech-savvy shoppers including seniors and low-income folks without such access. And thus they are forced to pay higher grocery prices.

SS digital coupon items

Last November, a coalition of national consumer organizations including Consumer World called on the CEOs of a dozen of the largest supermarket chains to offer an in-store, offline alternative so everyone without electronic access could avail themselves of all the weekly sale items offered at their stores. None of the CEOs responded to us.

Now we learned that Stop & Shop, a leading chain in the Northeast with nearly 400 stores, has just begun a test of a way for all shoppers to easily get all the extra weekly digital discounts without having to use the internet or a smartphone. They are installing a kiosk in select stores right near the main entrance where shoppers simply scan their loyalty card or enter their phone number, and all that week’s advertised digital coupon offers from the Stop & Shop circular will be automatically loaded onto the shopper’s account. No more having to go online to find and individually e-clip the digital coupons you want.

Stop & Shop digital coupon kiosk
See video demonstration


Simplifying all of the above:

Kiosk instructions

That’s all you have to do. The kiosk also provides a printout with special offers for you and a list of some of the digital coupons added to your account. (Suggestion: they need to add all of them to the printout.)

And for those with smartphones, you can check your loyalty card account online to make sure all digital offers have indeed been automatically clipped for you. For example, below you can see that the two digital-only offers shown at the top of this story for chicken parts and ground turkey have been added to MrConsumer’s account just by scanning his loyalty card at the kiosk.

Clipped coupons

We suggest that Stop & Shop and EntryPoint Communications (the developer of the kiosks and its software) simplify the look of the kiosk. There’s too much going on here with multiple signs, irrelevant offers on the computer screen, a product display, and more. The kiosk should, at least initially, simply emphasize to enter your phone number or scan your loyalty card (with a big arrow pointing to the scanner) to get all the advertised digital coupons added to your account. Period.

To their credit, the companies are going to have people posted at the kiosks to guide shoppers though the process of using the system for several weeks after their introduction.

We salute these companies (and those chains that have already adopted kiosks) for stepping up and offering a simple solution to make digital coupons accessible to everyone.

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