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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Confusing Toilet Paper Math

     Bought any toilet paper lately? If so, have you been confused? For example, Angel Soft brand offers paper in various sized rolls. 

Regular – 132 sheets 
Big – 198 sheets 
Double – 264 sheets 
Jumbo – 286 sheets 
Triple – 396 sheets 
Mega – 528 sheets 

     And, they are packaged in a way that's confusing. For years toilet paper manufacturers have been selling less product and masking the shrinkage with hyperbole and claims that are difficult to figure out. 
     According to marketing professor at Harvard Business School, they get away with it because consumers have a better grasp of how much an item costs than they do of the size it should be. Meaning, if consumers think something should cost a dollar and another one costs $0.90, in their minds the latter is the better deal. They rarely rake into account the size of the product. 
     All it takes is for one company to make its product smaller and every other company is forced to do the same thing because if they don't it makes their product appear to be more expensive. 
     When it comes to toilet paper for example, Angel Soft boasts that its double roll has 60 percent more sheets than Charmin Ultra’s double roll. Both brands have a lot of different sizes, but the number of sheets isn't the only factor to consider; sheet size and thickness are also factors. 
     When Consumer Reports contacted some manufacturers to find out what’s behind the toilet paper roll shrinkage some companies said it was, get this, their products had become so good that consumers need less of it than they used to! Somewhat more honest was Kimberly-Clark. Smaller rolls were due to rising costs for manufacturing and distribution, but they added that innovations yielded a better, stronger tissue, so that you need fewer sheets. Procter and Gamble’s spin was reducing the number of sheets actually enabled the company to improve the quality of its product. The less is more approach. 
     Another ploy aimed to confuse the consumer is to advertise not just single and double rolls but mega, triple, and jumbo variations and other sizes. Reminds me of the time I walked into a fast food restaurant and ordered a small Coke. I was informed that, “We don't sell small drinks.” “What?” was my reply. The clerk explained they have medium, large and extra-large. When I asked, “Then wouldn't the medium be the small one?” It drew a blank look. 
     What most of us do is pick the giant package that barely fits into the shopping cart assuming it must be the best deal. The truth is manufacturers are TRYING to confuse us. They want us to get frustrated when trying to figure out the best deal and just grab the first familiar name we see. The more confused you are, the more likely you are to resort to one of the most familiar brands.
     How do you compare all the options to determine which is the best buy when there are, for example, 11 different size packages of just one variety of Charmin Ultra Soft on display? 
     You can check the fine print on dozens of packages and compare the number of rolls in that particular package to how many “regular” rolls it is the equivalent of. But, what's a regular roll? In fact, you can hardly find one and if you do it looks like a mini-roll. The package is only slightly over 6 inches tall and there's a meager 71 sheets on it. The company is comparing it to a virtually non-existent product that people are no longer familiar with. 
     Toilet paper companies aren't the only ones who do that. One day before I retired I compared my home internet speed which was touted as "high speed internet" to what I was getting on my work computer and was shocked at how slow my home computer was compared to my work computer. When I called the ISP and told the representative something was wrong, upon questioning he made a confession. "High speed" was being compared to dial-up speed. Who has dial-up internet anymore? 
     The trick is to make you think you are getting more than you really are. While the big second number always relates to “regular” rolls, the first number does not relate to the same size roll. Sometimes it means double rolls, double rolls “plus,” mega rolls, or mega rolls “plus.” 
     All these “sizes” are made up and have a constantly changing number of sheets on each roll. For example, one roll has 352 sheets per roll and the other 326, yet they are both called “double plus” rolls. They are engaged in deliberate deception. 
     You can Google “toilet paper cost calculator” and find many calculators available, but there's an easier way if you're in the store and have a small calculator handy. Most phones have them and even my watch has one, assuming your fingers are small enough to use it. 
     To determine the best price on toilet paper you need to figure out the price per square foot per package. Forget about the price per roll! 
     First, find the total square feet listed somewhere on the package. Divide the number of square feet into the price of the package. 
     While on the subject of toilet paper, the packaging on many wipes, those toilet-paper supplements, says they are flushable or safe for sewers and septic tanks. THEY ARE NOT!! They don't break down and flush properly nor do they disintegrate in the pipes. A plumber once told me they make a good deal of money snaking out toilets into which people have flushed so called disposable wipes. 
     Kleenex should not be flushed either because they are designed to stay together when wet, and absorb moisture, so they take too long to break down in the sewer system and can cause blockages.

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