Product packaging nightmares


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, e-mails, posts on our Facebook page from disgruntled consumers who are fed up with lousy packaging," said Tod Marks with Consumer Reports.

Gotcha No. 1 are "oysters," or 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," Marks said.

And freeing a Barbie doll isn't much easier.

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

Gotcha No. 2 is downsizing.

Barbasol shaving cream cans are the same size, but one is 11 ounces and the other is 10. Ivory soap 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," Marks explained. "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.

Take a container of Velveeta Shells 'n Cheese. Once you're done making it, look how little food is actually inside. It's a similar case with boxes of Nice! apricots.

"Companies spend roughly $130 billion a year on product packaging," Marks said. "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 about those packaging complaints. Lysol says a pair of 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.

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