Reader Joanne is wondering if the tiny handwritten mouseprint on the Haagen-Dazs drink special sign is purposefully misleading. She saw the special and ordered the drink, but when she asked for “no ice” she was told that it would cost twice as much, and that this information was on the sign. Her boyfriend examined the sign (after she got her ice-packed drink) and sure enough, in tiny handwriting at the bottom of the sign was a note that said the drink cost twice as much with “no ice.”
We just finished our food and wanted to get a drink. We noticed the sign at Haagen-Daz advertising a Large 22 oz. Soda or Juice special for a $1 tax included. We decided to go here instead of going to the other vendor we originally ordered our food. When I reached the front, I asked for a large root beer with no ice (since my teeth are sensitive to very cold drinks and I love lots of soda). When I gave the owner a dollar for payment, he said it cost more with no ice. A little taken aback, I said “Excuse me?” He retorted, “It’s on the sign.”
Of course, I didn’t see it on the sign but because I didn’t want to hold up the line, I agreed to the ice (the ice was packed all the way so there was little soda left). I told my boyfriend about it when I sat down and started to examine the sign. My boyfriend was the one who noticed the little scribble at the bottom of the sign. I had to go up close but sure enough, there it was.
Can someone tell me..is this legal?
We weren’t sure if this type of thing was allowed or not, so we took a look at the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs guide to spotting false advertising. The guide helps teach consumers to spot deceptive advertising to they can report it to the city (PDF). Here’s what they had to say about “fine print.”
Watch out for FOOTNOTES AND ASTERISKS (“*”). The “fine print” in an advertisement sometimes changes an offer made in the large print. That’s deceptive.
With that in mind, this sign does seem to stretch the boundaries of what’s allowed. If you’d like to report it to the city so the experts can evaluate it, send your pictures of the ad and a cover letter to this address:
Department of Consumer Affairs
42 Broadway, 9th floor
New York NY 10004
FALSE ADVERTISING How to Spot It and What You Can Do About It (PDF) [NYC Department Of Consumer Affairs]