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May 6, 2019

Here We Downsize Again – May 2019

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Prices on paper goods are going up again, but you’d never know it because the packages look about the same and you pay the same at the checkout. But you are getting less in each package.

 

Kleenex Tissues

The boxes are the same size but Kleenex is giving you 10% fewer tissues. Thanks to Leif S. for spotting this downsizing in progress right now.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Kleenex downsized

 

Brawny Paper Towels

Brawny has a long history of downsizing its paper towels. This time, packages are going from 87 sheets down to 80 sheets — almost a 10% reduction.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Brawny paper towels downsized

 

Downy Unstoppables

*MOUSE PRINT:

Downy Unstoppables NOT downsized

P&G recently came out with new bottles of Downy Unstoppables laundry fragrance enhancers. The bottle is slightly larger but the contents actually weigh 25% less. That’s a big downsizing… seemingly. Even more surprising, when tossing these pellets in water, they float, whereas the old ones sunk to the bottom. Checking with customer service revealed what had really changed. The product engineers at P&G removed some of the dead weight from each pellet making them lighter. That cut the net weight of each bottle by a quarter, but the number of laundry loads you get remained the same. So it only looked like Unstoppables had been downsized.

If you spot a new example of a product being downsized, please try to take a sharp picture of both the old and the new packages and send it to: edgar (at symbol) mouseprint.org . Thanks.

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April 29, 2019

Act Fluoride: Alcohol-Free?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

Bob F., a regular Mouse Print* reader, recently bought a bottle of Act fluoride mouthwash/rinse for kids. The front label of the bottle clearly stated that the product was “alcohol-free.”

Act front

When he looked at the ingredients statement, however, he was taken aback.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Act ingredients

The first inactive ingredient listed was “benzyl alcohol.” What?

Clearly, any parent would be concerned about a child swallowing this candy-flavored liquid if it contained alcohol.

But that is not the case here. When most consumers think of alcohol, they think of the alcohol in liquor. That is actually ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Benzyl alcohol in ACT is chemically different. It is a flavor enhancer and preservative.

So, Act is properly labeled as “alcohol-free” because it does not contain the common type of alcohol that you find in other mouthwashes like Listerine.

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April 22, 2019

Wayfair Called Out on Exaggerated Savings Claims

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:45 am

Wayfair, the large online seller of home goods, had its big “Way Day” sale on April 10th and 11th, promising the “lowest prices of the year” and “up to 80% off.” In the process of checking it out, we discovered often exaggerated savings claims and misleading price comparisons, and not just on Way Day.

Wayfair Way Day

 

Perusing those six categories, some of the discounts seemed too good to be true. For example:

Wayfair memory foam mattress on Way Day

Here they’re claiming this store brand memory foam mattress is on sale for $349.99, marked down from what looks like their $2,100 regular price. That’s 83-percent off, seemingly saving shoppers $1,750!

Many other items were advertised at 40 – 80% off, with some discounts so large as to raise questions about the legitimacy of the savings claimed. To check this out, Consumer World conducted a spot-check of a dozen deeply discounted items from the six categories featured above on April 10, 2019 – the first day of Wayfair’s Way Day 36-hour sale.

Here is the cart with those 12 items:

Wayfair Way Day cart

Scroll down the list.

You’ll see the amazing discounts above that Wayfair was offering.

But the question was, when the Way Day sale was over, would all these items revert to the higher price shown? Or, would you save almost as much if you delayed your purchase or missed the sale and returned later? To find out, we went back the day after the sale ended, April 12, to check the prices of the same dozen items.

Wayfair day after cart

Scroll down the list.

One item we checked was that memory foam mattress pictured at the top of this story. It was on sale during Way Day for $349.99 and was still on sale right afterwards and only slightly higher — $376.99. So customers who purchased that item on Way Day when it was said to be 83% off, really only saved a mere $27.

Wayfair mattress after Way Day

 

All the items went up in price right after Way Day, some by only a little and some by much more. This certainly suggests that the company did lower its everyday prices for the sale and it was a good day to shop there.

But none of the items in our spot-check reverted to the stated crossed out price (the “strike-through price” like the $2,100 reference price for the mattress). In fact, while Wayfair’s claimed savings on Way Day for the items in the sample averaged 71% off, the actual savings on Way Day compared to Wayfair’s everyday prices right after the sale only averaged out to be a 16% discount.

*MOUSE PRINT:

What Wayfair does in their product listings for many sale items, and not just on Way Day, is make it appear that their own regular price is being cut by crossing it out and claiming it is now being offered at an often large percentage-off discount. The trouble is, this is not how Wayfair’s discounts actually work.

Take the mattress pictured above, for example. Is the $2,100 strike-through price really their regular price? Wayfair buries the answer in a 42,000-word page of fine print accessible through an inconspicuous “terms of use” link. Its strike-through price is really the list price or the highest price they ever offered the item, according to that disclosure.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Wayfair terms

The Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Against Deceptive Pricing says that comparison to a high list price or regular price that is rarely charged can mislead buyers as to the discount they actually receive.

Various states have similar false advertising laws. For example, in Massachusetts where Wayfair is headquartered, the company appears to run afoul of state consumer law by not “clearly and conspicuously” stating the basis for its price comparisons and discount claims. Simply put, under the attorney general’s regulations [940 CMR 6.05], when sellers advertise an item as “X% off”, it automatically means the discount is off the seller’s own regular prices – just the way a shopper would understand the claim. If sellers intend the savings claim to be a comparison to any other type of price, they have to finish the comparison — X% off what — such as by stating “83% off list price.” Similarly, putting a line through a higher price suggests it is the seller’s own regular price that is being reduced unless it is labeled otherwise. Wayfair’s product listings fail to make these critical distinctions and disclosures.

And Wayfair has an additional burden. List price comparisons are not even allowed under Massachusetts law unless the seller can demonstrate that a reasonable number of sellers in its trade area actually offer the goods at the stated list price.

We asked Wayfair to comment on our findings and their pricing policies. The company did not respond to two inquiries.

In our view, shoppers are misled when retailers make illusory savings claims based on inflated regular prices rarely if ever charged or by making comparisons to list prices that virtually no one ever pays. Why can’t sellers just play it straight?

Consumer World is turning over its findings to the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and other relevant agencies.

The spot-check of prices done by Consumer World is limited in scope, and cannot be used to project the average actual savings on all items during Way Day nor the number of items that did or did not revert to the claimed reference price.

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• • •

April 15, 2019

Fly to Hawaii for $6 Roundtrip?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail,Sweepstakes,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:10 am

Arby’s is running a promotion offering 10 lucky people the chance to buy roundtrip tickets to Hawaii for only $6.

Arby's contest

There are two opportunities to enter the sweepstakes: last Friday, and today (April 15th) at noon Eastern time. You will be flown first to Los Angeles, spend a night in a hotel, and then the next day, you will be whisked off to Honolulu in either first or business class. All for only $6. What a deal.

Except for one thing in the official rules.

Mouse Print*:

official rules

Your flights to and from Hawaii have to occur on the same day – April 27th. That’s right. Your day in Hawaii starts out with six hours on a plane going there. Then visiting an Arby’s to try three of their new sandwiches and be in a television commercial. And then another six hours on a plane back to the mainland.

As their ad states, “no volcanoes, no pineapple farms… just you, sweet buns, tender meat.”

So, if this is your idea of a fun vacation, hope you’re one of the first five today to win the trip. And here’s one additional consumer tip: You can save the $6 on the ticket by entering the promo code “Aloha.”

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• • •

April 8, 2019

Sometimes Dental Discount Plans Can Be Cheaper Than Dental Insurance for Procedures

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

MrConsumer had a root canal that recently developed an infection and root tip surgery (an “apico”) was recommended as a possible remedy.

Not wanting to inflict pain on my pocketbook also, I asked if the dental office manager would be willing to charge me the “allowed” Blue Cross dental insurance price for the procedure despite the fact that my policy only covered preventive work like cleanings, exams, and x-rays. She said she would and added that by contract with some insurers, dentists are required to only charge the allowed amount to patients in such cases. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but I’ll take the discounted price, thank you very much.

I asked for a breakdown of what the “cash” (no insurance) price would be versus the Blue Cross price.

Apico price comparison

With my current insurance which would pay nothing toward the procedure, the full amount I would have to pay is $900 less than the cash (uninsured) price. Wow, what a savings.

But, I happened to ask if this endodontist accepted any discount plans. A discount dental plan is not insurance but rather a membership you can buy that offers a set of predefined prices for dental procedures that are 10% – 50% less than the uninsured cash price. Some well known insurance companies like Aetna and Cigna offer such plans, and independent firms do too. The plans vary in price, but for a single individual you would pay between $100 and $125 a year for one.

To MrConsumer’s everlasting delight, the office manager said that they accept Cigna Preferred Network Access. She gave me their pre-negotiated discount prices for my procedure:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Apico discount prices

This discount plan was $400 less than the Blue Cross price, and $1,300 less than the cash price. Yikes, what a savings.

So MrConsumer bought the Cigna discount plan using a percent-off promo code, which brought the price down to $99 plus a $20 administrative fee. And the plan went into effect the very next day, with no waiting periods for major procedures.

So, as we have all read that sometimes buying prescription drugs using a discount card rather than your health insurance might save you money, such is also the case with dental discount plans. Many dentists do not accept any of these plans, so this may not be a solution for everyone facing high dental bills.

Where do you find these plans and which dentists accept them? Just go to DentalPlans.com . [If you use this link, you will receive a 15% discount, and get an extra month free, as will MrConsumer.]

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