MARTIN SLOANE | Supermarket Shopper Free product is not included in net weight

The net weight on a package should be an accurate measure -- at least I thought so:
Dear Martin: I have enclosed a label from Jones Dairy Farm Braunschweiger Liverwurst. I have been buying it for many years. This particular label says, "Now, two extra slices, free." However when you look at the net weight, it is still the same 8 ounces. Did they just cut thinner slices? Where is the free product? Mark, E. Stroudsburg, Pa.
Dear Mark: Thank you for writing. It really is there. I weighed the 8-ounce package, with the two extra slices banner and found that it weighed considerably more than 8 ounces; .65 of a pound to be exact.
Why the confusion? Adele Graves, a senior spokesperson for Jones Dairy Farm, says the United States Department of Agriculture does not allow food processors to include the weight of extra (free) product given to consumers as a promotion.
Adele Grave's statement left me wondering how the USDA could allow this confusion in net-weight labeling. "That's our policy," said Andrea McNally, a USDA spokesperson. "The net weight on the package is what you are paying for and anything free is not included."
The labeling policy is different at the Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over most packaged foods, such as dry cereal, for example. Sebastian Cianci, an FDA spokesperson, told me the net weight on the label must accurately reflect the contents, whether or not part of the contents is free. I think the FDA policy makes more sense.
Dear Martin: I am 80 years old and do my own grocery shopping. I recently gave the supermarket cashier a $100 bill. She gave me the change. I moved forward to allow the next shopper to check out, and I started counting my change.
The cashier looked at me and seemed startled. She stopped what she was doing and reached toward me with a $20 bill in her hand. The change in my hand was $20 short. I reported this to the store manager. A few weeks later, the manager walked up to me and said they had put a camera on this cashier, and she no longer worked for the store. He thanked me.
Dear Ruby: Thank you for an important warning. A dishonest cashier can try to shortchange a customer who is in a rush to get out of the store. Counting your change before you exit is the only sure way to avoid being a victim.
Dear Martin: I have a 17-year-old son who has been working for a local grocery store for the past year. It has been a great experience for him, and he has learned a lot. My mom shopped at this store every week, and my brothers worked there while they were growing up.
I am writing is to tell you about someone who made shopping and working at that store special: Nell Loegler, wife of the former owner.
Nell has been a second mom, confidant and friend to countless boys and girls. She treated them as her own and has been a major influence in their lives. Even after college, marriage and lives far away, when they come back to town, they dropped by the store to visit. Jerry Loegler recently sold the store, and Nell will be a substitute teacher at my son's school, so she will continue to positively influence many young lives. Sara Bedard, Cullman, Ala.
Dear Sara: Thank you for writing. Working in a grocery store requires a young person to learn many new skills. The experience is especially rewarding when a young person is taken under the wing of a mentor and sees the workplace through that person's eyes.
If you were walking down a supermarket aisle and noticed the big & quot;SAVE on Birds Eye & quot; circle on the front of the box of Kraft Stove Top Oven Classics, you might be interested in the savings. Unfortunately, when you read the small print it only says: & quot;See Coupon Inside! & quot; There is no way to tell the value of that coupon without tearing open the package.
Which Birds Eye product is the coupon for? When does the coupon expire? I have the answers for you. There is one Birds Eye coupon printed on the inside of the box. It has a value of 55 cents and requires the purchase of two Farm Fresh Mixtures, Stir Fry Blends or Baby Vegetables. The coupon expires on June 30, 2003.
Why keep this important information a mystery? I asked Chris Charles, a senior manager of communications for Kraft Foods. & quot;The coupon is not intended to trigger a purchase, it is only intended as a bonus. & quot; She continued, & quot;A decision was made to keep the front of the box clean. It is certainly not intended to be misleading. & quot;
Kraft Foods usually is clear in its promotion offer information. However, every banner, oval and burst on a product package is there for a purpose, usually to motivate a purchase. Shame on Kraft for denying it.
Specially marked packages of General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, 27-ounce size, have a 70-cent coupon printed on the outside of the box, not inside it. Turn the box around and you see a 70-cent coupon good on Chex Morning Mix. It expires Sept. 1, 2003.
XSend questions and comments to Martin Sloane in care of The Vindicator. The volume of mail precludes individual replies to every letter, but Martin Sloane will respond to letters of general interest in the column. Check out Martin Sloane's Web site at
United Feature Syndicate

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