Walking through the isles of a grocery store can sometimes turn into a stroll down Ambush Alley. The shenanigans just keep getting worse for shoppers. Even the most astute consumers can be tricked by the creative tactics they encounter at grocery stores and the trickery of food manufacturers. What's a savvy shopper to do? Read the label, and read it carefully, because chances are you'll get ripped off if you don't. Here are 5 common rip-offs that you can avoid by reading the label.
This one got me the other day, and only making a return kept me from being ripped off. My problem started when I picked up the cheapest bleach I could find. Bleach is bleach, right? Wrong? My mistake was picking up a private label brand called "Simply Value" from Smart & Final for the low, low price of $1.49 a gallon. They should have named it "Simply a Rip-Off" because based on the active ingredients, it was significantly more expensive than Clorox. Simply Value figured out that if you dilute normal 6% bleach to 2.75%, you can still get people to buy it at the equivalent price of $3.25 a gallon. Neat trick and since it's a store brand, the store was in on the scam. As I returned the diluted bleach, I noticed the "No Cards, No Gimmicks" sign. They'll keep half of that promise - No Cards.
Barely "Fruit" Juice
The term fruit in anything has become fairly meaningless. Take the term, "Fruit Juice Drink Blend". You would think that you are getting a blend of fruit juices. Examine CapriSun, it has a whopping 10% fruit juice. The blend is sugar and water mixed with a tiny bit of apple and grape juice concentrate. Ocean Spray has fruit drinks with cranberry and other juices but when you look at the label carefully, you'll see that it contains a meager 27% actual fruit juice. It used to be that nobody wanted cranberries and that's why they put them in the juice drinks. Now they don't even give you 100% cranberries.
We talked about this a few weeks ago when I spotted chicken that had been infused with a 15% solution. Since that time, my wife and I have been laughing at the Foster Farms commercials of the Plumped Chickens. You should check out www.SayNotoPlumping.com for more information. I used their calculator to estimate that plumping would cost my family $77 a year. Their commercials which feature the Imposters, can be found at the Foster Farms Website. The plumping of chickens isn't just about adding water, it increases the amount of sodium dramatically which amongst other things will make you plumper.
Shrinking groceries (aka Shrink-Ray) are food items that have gotten smaller over time with the manufacturer and the grocer hoping you wouldn't notice. Last year, we outlined 9 Shrinking Groceries, to give you a heads up. But the foods that are the most egregious are those that attempt to make the package look like it hasn't shrunk. Two come to mind: the Breyers "Half Gallon" whose width and height are exactly the same as before, but whose depth has shrunk dramatically. And the Arrowhead "Gallon" that suddenly got an air pocket dome that you could put a baseball in. Both packages were designed to give the visual illusion that you're getting the same amount of product. That's not just underhanded, that's psych warfare against the consumer.
I'm starting to sense a little resistance by reputable grocers and manufacturers against those that are profiting from the Shrink-Ray. Foster Farms and Trader Joe's have gone on the offensive against deceptive product labeling. TJ's is running radio ads with their spokesperson, John Basilone, belittling the diminutive half gallon wanna-bees and offering up their "Real, full two quart half gallons" as the superior alternative. Guess where I'm going to buy my next gallon of ice cream.
Fillers and Fake Foods
Ever look at a container of Kraft Parmesan Cheese? It boldly displays that it's 100% Parmesan Cheese with no fillers. Some other brands will use lower quality cheeses and other ingredients to charge a lower price. That cheap crab meat that looks so good, it's actually Alaskan Pollock or another fish. They clean, press and color it to make it look like crab meat, but of course, it's not the real thing. Make sure you look at the ingredients in crab cakes too, they might not contain an ounce of crab. Lastly, high fructose corn syrup has invaded every aisle of the grocery store and is often used to create cheaper alternatives to sugar. You'll see misleading labels such as "With Real Maple Syrup", but the reality is the dominant ingredient is cheap corn syrup not high quality maple syrup. They put a touch of the real stuff so they can market it like the juice manufacturers do.
If you value your money, you'd be wise to take a few extra minutes and read the labels on what you buy carefully. Chances are, you'll avoid more than a few rip-offs.
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