Why We Need Consumer Protections

Because people can be bamboozled by the simplest schemes. I observed this at my local CVS drugstore:
IMG_0086
You’ll notice on the left that two bottles of mouthwash can be had ON SALE!!! for $6.98. On the right, one bottle of the same mouthwash costs $5.79.
The one large bottle of mouthwash is the same size (16.9 oz) as the two smaller bottles (8.4 oz each).
What a bargain.

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14 Responses to Why We Need Consumer Protections

  1. TomZ, a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma says:

    Why do you want to infringe on bizness’s freedom to rip off consumers?! And why infringe on Uhmericans rights to pay more for somethign just cause we wanna and we’re dum?? This is obviously what the Infallible Founders meant when they made freedom of press, that a company should be free to press you into spending more.
    You hate freedumb.

  2. Colin says:

    I get “This photo is currently unavailable” from Flickr.

  3. Juice says:

    Yawn. So we need thugs with guns to threaten any business that doesn’t assume its customers are smart enough to read labels and do simple addition.

  4. Troublesome Frog says:

    It sounds to me like that money would be better spent teaching people how not to be so easily duped to begin with.
    I’ve always thought that there should be some sort of required high school math class that is essentially a, “Here’s how not to get cheated by people who think you’re stupid” class. How do you compare the value of two things? How do you quickly estimate a quantity and compare two quantities? How can you tell if something passes the smell test? Something like a practical high school level Street-Fighting Mathematics course. It wouldn’t even require algebra (or perhaps elementary algebra for interest rates). Quizzes might consist of the teacher consistently trying to rig games and cheat students out of stuff. It might even be sort of fun.
    The side effect of being forced to do that kind of reasoning is that you simply get smarter. You start to hear claims like, “Obama’s trip to India is costing $200M per day!” and you immediately say, “There’s no way that could possibly be true,” instead of, “Wow! What an interesting factoid!” It gets hard wired into your brain. You don’t need to say, “What did I learn to do in Don’t be Stupid 101?” Crazy and obviously wrong stuff just starts to jump out at you the same way you learn to instinctively avoid being punched if you spar for a while.
    We’re clearly not making kids spar enough, and they’re getting punched in the head. There are too many people throwing punches to catch and regulate them all. We need to start producing kids who can defend themselves.

  5. Janne says:

    I get the point, despite not seeing the picture, and I’m quite willing to believe it may be a deliberate rip-off.
    With that said, I have at times deliberately bought a smaller package of a product, for more money than the large package of the same product. Why? Because I needed only the small package, because I was taking it on a trip, and a large package would have been an unnecessary extra burden.
    If you formulate the above as “Half the travel weight, only one dollar extra!”, then it doesn’t seem like quite the same ripoff any more.

  6. Seems to me that having 2 smaller bottles of a given product is more useful than having 1 larger bottle, simply because you can take your newly purchased goodies and, for example, put one in each bathroom, or leave one in the car for travel. And manufacturing those 2 smaller bottles _will_ cost more, though I don’t know how much that added cost will be.

  7. Herp N. Derpington says:

    @4 Fuck that, we need to start producing kids who can punch back! The best defense is a good offense right? I mean, clearly the whole world is out to get us and our progeny. Hell, what bad can come from telling an entire generation that everyone (including your teacher) is out to cheat you, you will fail if you don’t get good, and these are the ethics that you really ought to be learning. And if those pesky regulations were gone, these newly empowered kids can be off to bask in their Randian paradise, free to cheat and be cheated, free to thwart and be thwarted, and the poor and stupid people will die and everything will be golden forever and ever.

  8. Troublesome Frog says:

    Hell, what bad can come from telling an entire generation that everyone (including your teacher) is out to cheat you, you will fail if you don’t get good, and these are the ethics that you really ought to be learning.

    I’m not sure, really. Given that it’s more or less true, it might not be a bad idea. For the average American, the people who handle most of your money are out to screw you. Your bank, your credit card company, your mortgage company, your 401(k) manager, and the people who sell you cars would all sell your organs to catfood companies if they could make a buck doing it. No amount of regulation is going to fix that.

    And if those pesky regulations were gone, these newly empowered kids can be off to bask in their Randian paradise, free to cheat and be cheated, free to thwart and be thwarted, and the poor and stupid people will die and everything will be golden forever and ever.

    I’m assuming that you think that teaching women self defense is actually teaching them that society approves of rape, right?
    Seriously, I like good regulations that make it hard to screw people. I’d love to see regulations squeeze Wall Street back to its status as a middle man with middle man profits. But the reality is that you can’t regulate everything away. The credit card companies, maybe. The mouthwash sale sign people? You must believe in omniscient benevolent philosopher kings on unicorns if you think we’re ever going to plug those holes.
    Our first priority needs to be not raising any more suckers. If we don’t fix this problem, they’re going to keep getting bled dry faster than we can change regulations to protect them.

  9. trog69 says:

    I’ve noticed the over-pricing of larger units products are packaged in a number of years ago. Then as now, I knew that they were fishing for people who don’t pay attention to the price per (oz., lb., etc.). I’ve always been kinda anal-retentive about things like that, so it was natural for me to notice this.
    I do think that it’s a shady way of conning people out of their money, but people who don’t bother comparing eventually have only themselves to blame. If enough of them were to voice their disapproval of tactics like this, they’d be shelved faster than the 200-load bottles of overpriced laundry detergent.

  10. Ross says:

    So, 9 posts, more than half of which at least implictly go from the assumption that the person at fault is the consumer who gets fooled.
    I have a rule of thumb about moral issues: if my reasoning tends to lead with me siding with the strong over the weak, if it tends to lead to me siding with the person who is screwing over the person getting screwed, if it tends to lead me to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comforted, then I’ve failed at priorities.

  11. Ross says:

    Also, I think what Mike’s objecting to is not that the price is higher per se, but rather that the higher price is considered a “SALE!”, with all the BIG SAVINGS it represents. It’s not charging more for the smaller bottles that is dishonest, it’s charging more and presenting that surcharge as a *discount*.

  12. Troublesome Frog says:

    Ross,
    There’s a distinction between who you side with morally and what you think the solution to the problem might be. I absolutely side with the victims here. I have nothing but contempt for type of person who takes a few bucks off of a person who isn’t very clever and may just be trying to get by. People who make careers out of subtly taking money away from suckers are morally in the wrong and make society a worse place.
    That being said, you can’t stop them from trying. The world is full of sociopaths who will find legal ways of doing morally questionable things. You can change the rules all you want. We could spend half of our GDP on regulations trying to protect people who are bad at arithmetic, or we can spend a fraction of that teaching arithmetic. The morality of the situation doesn’t play into the policy side of it.
    Of course, it’s still worth regulating big ticket items. Cars, mortgages, mutual funds, an anything that can take everything a person owns lend themselves to good regulation. The kind of stuff mentioned above? Just teach math and running small time scams won’t be profitable any more.

  13. Wow says:

    “There’s a distinction between who you side with morally and what you think the solution to the problem might be.”
    Why?
    The only reason I can see for that being the case is if you solve problems by immoral means.
    The moral side is with the person raped. The solution won’t be to lock the one raped up so they’re not at risk any more. Even if it’s 100% guaranteed to work.
    “The world is full of sociopaths who will find legal ways of doing morally questionable things. You can change the rules all you want.”
    All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
    You can live the best life you can manage, but you’ll still die within a couple of centuries. Does this mean you must give up living a good life? Xians think so.
    The point is not to win the fight against the sociopaths but to fight them, whether you win or no. Just because a cause is hopeless doesn’t mean you get to give in and keep your morality.

  14. Troublesome Frog says:

    Why?
    The only reason I can see for that being the case is if you solve problems by immoral means.

    1) I don’t think I proposed solving a problem through immoral means. I was actually saying that just because something feels morally good doesn’t mean that it solves the problem you’re all indignant about.
    2) A solution that doesn’t work doesn’t work. Simple as that. Propose a law that will prevent people from changing the size and price of a product in a confusing way. Go ahead. Propose it. What’s your solution? The unicorn-riding philosopher kings who prevent those kinds of things don’t exist. You’ll almost certainly end up with something that has most of the following properties:
    * Near impossible to enforce.
    * Near impossible to comply with.
    * Expensive to enforce.
    * Creates problems for businesses acting in good faith.
    * Businesses acting in bad faith immediately find a way around it.
    Prove me wrong.

    The moral side is with the person raped. The solution won’t be to lock the one raped up so they’re not at risk any more. Even if it’s 100% guaranteed to work.

    I’m trying to make sense of this statement every way I possibly can. I have no idea what you’re trying to say here. Locking up rape victims would prevent rape? Did that even sound good in your head?

    All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

    Another way for evil to triumph is for good men to do things that don’t make a damn bit of difference when they could be doing something to actually solve the problem. There’s a difference between feeling good about what you’re doing and effectively fighting the problem.

    The point is not to win the fight against the sociopaths but to fight them, whether you win or no. Just because a cause is hopeless doesn’t mean you get to give in and keep your morality.

    No, but when a tactic is useless, you change tactics.

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