Maddening packaging tricks

Published On: Nov 20 2012 02:14:08 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 21 2012 07:45:00 AM EST

Product packaging—boxes, blister packs, and fancy packaging—all can add up to a mountain of frustration. Consumer Reports gets a raft of complaints about all sorts of packaging problems.

For example, opening a box of cereal. It can cause an explosion of cereal all over the floor. Consumer Reports says that’s just one of many “Packaging Gotchas.”

The first gotcha: “Oysters.” They are those hard-to-open packages. 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. And freeing a Barbie doll isn’t much easier.

Another gotcha is “Downsizing.” Testers purchased two Barbasol shaving cream cans of the same size. But one contains 11 ounces and the other 10. The company says, “A slightly reduced product volume improved function.” Another example, Ivory Soap. It used to weigh 4.5 ounces. Now it’s just 4.

Then there’s the Black Hole, packages that make products look bigger than they are. Take the container of Velveeta Shells & Cheese. Once you’re done making it, there’s actually very little food inside. And the box of Nice! Apricots is less than half full.

Companies spend roughly $130 billion a year on product packaging. About 7 percent of a product’s cost is in the packaging. 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 a scissors should be enough to open its soap dispenser. Mattel had no comment. Kraft says it leaves room for water in the Velveeta Shells n’ Cheese and that noodles expand. Ivory says its half-ounce bar soap reduction is due to increased production costs. And Nice Apricots said it will evaluate its product.

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