HIGHTOWER: Fish Sticks, Your Cat and You

Time for another journey into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, spaceship Hightower takes you inside the labels of a couple of consumer products, where what you see is not what you might have expected to get.  Our guide on this journey is Consumer Reports magazine, which salutes such marketing excess every month.

Let's begin with the new package of Van de Kamp's breaded and baked fish sticks.  It looks almost exactly like the old package-same photo, same promise of 18 fish sticks inside.  But the label offers one change that seems like good news:  Instead of each stick containing 3 grams of fat, the new label boasts that each stick has only 2.5 grams of fat.  Less oil?  No...less stick!  Read the small print and you'll find that the 12 ounces of fish sticks in the old package have been sliced to 11 ounces in the new one.  The price is the same, so, in this case, less literally  is more.

If you think that's fun, wait'll you try the "Mr. Spats Cat-a-Comb."  It's a cat brush that you mount on a corner of a wall in your home, down at the cat level.  The idea is that your little Fluffy will rub its body up against the wall-comb, thus grooming itself-no need for you to comb the furry feline.  The package shows a cat happily rubbing against the cat-a-comb.  However, the instructions inside are a bit more involved than you might expect.  "IMPORTANT," they declare:  "Cats learn by imitation."  Indeed, you are expected to get down on all fours in front of your cat and crawl along, rubbing your face and body against the Cat-a-Comb until your cat gets the idea.  The instructions are even more demanding, noting that "your theatrical performance is critical to effective learning."

This is Jim Hightower saying...Of course, by this time, your cat will look at you like you're the dumbest critter on earth...and it will walk away from you directly into the kitchen and eat all 18 of your low fat fish sticks.

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