Surprises in the Fine Print

Time for another trip [Far-out space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the Lilliputian world of tiny print -- an obscure realm of product packaging where a keen eye and a magnifying glass can reveal that the product is not really delivering what you think it is. Thanks to Consumer Reports magazine for bringing these items into focus for us.

Let's start with something good to eat, like Havarti Spread. Yum, I love havarti cheese -- but, wait, the back of the box quietly informs us that this spread gives you a "havarti-type flavor." The cheese is actually cheddar. Ok, how about Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake Kit with white crabmeat? The package urges you to "treat yourself to this Chesapeake Bay delicacy." Only when you check the ingredient list do you find this note: "Crabmeat is a product of Thailand." Well, at least you get crabmeat. When you buy a box of Manischewitz mashed sweet potatoes, however, you probably would not notice the small type that whispers: "Contains no sweet potatoes." There is sweet potato flavor, but the product inside is "multipurpose white potato" flakes.

If you feel the need to shed a little light on products like these so you can read the fine print, don't trust the Philips light bulb company. It offers an 85-watt bulb for recessed floodlights, bragging on the package that this Philips 85-watter "replaces 100-watt" bulbs. Yes...but no. Squint at the back of the package and you learn that this bulb actually delivers only about 77-watts worth of light. So, technically, you could "replace" your 100- watt bulb with this one, but it really wouldn't be a replacement in terms of the light it put out.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... If this is confusing, consider the ad for a $500 bikini swimsuit that, in the tiny print, warns: "Should not be worn in the sun or water."

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