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Consumers irritated by product packaging 'gotchas'

November 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Product packaging - boxes, blister packs and fancy packaging - can add up to a mountain of frustration for consumers. Consumer Reports reviewed some of the complaints about all sorts of packaging problems.

Opening a box of cereal shouldn't cause an "explosion." but Consumer Reports says that's just one of many "packaging gotchas."

"We literally get hundreds of letters, cards, emails, posts on our Facebook page, from disgruntled consumers who are fed up with lousy packaging," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior projects editor.

Gotcha number one: hard-to-open packages called "oysters."

"Several readers complained vehemently about the No-Touch Kitchen System from Lysol, saying it was basically impervious to every implement they could bring to the table," said Marks.

And freeing a Barbie doll isn't much easier.

"Trying to pull her out, can't do that," said Marks. "We've got those ties on the back going through her head. She's still stuck."

Another gotcha: "Downsizing."

For example, several Barbasol shaving cream cans are the same size. But one holds 11 ounces and the other holds 10 ounces. The company says: "a slightly reduced product volume, improved function." Ivory Soap bars used to weigh 4.5 ounces. Now it's just 4.

"They're keeping the price the same but giving you less for your money," said Marks. "Well gosh, that amounts to a price increase, if you ask me."

Then there's the "black hole": packages that make products look bigger than they are.

For example, a container of Velveeta Shells & Cheese seems to hold more than how much food is actually inside once you're done making it. The same holds for how little content is inside a box of Nice! Apricots.

"Companies spend roughly $130 billion a year on product packaging," said Marks. "Roughly 7 percent of a product's cost is in the packaging. So it's coming out of manufacturer's pockets, and it's coming out of consumers' pockets."

Consumer Reports contacted companies regarding the packaging complaints.

Lysol says scissors should be enough to open its soap dispenser. Mattel had no comment about Barbie packaging. Kraft says it leaves room for water in the Velveeta Shells & Cheese and that noodles expand. Ivory says its half-ounce bar soap reduction is due to increased production costs. Nice! Apricots said it will evaluate its product.


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