Outsmart Corporations...With a Sharpie

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Have you ever wondered why the measurement cups for laundry detergent are so impossible to read?

Consider that the outside of your box, carton, or bottle is stamped in bright colors in a giant font. Yet the cup they send you to measure out the high performance serum (or powder) is barely legible.  

This is not an accident.


Laundry


Companies are very, very savvy about their packaging. They spend thousands of dollars testing their packaging with focus groups. No detail is too small--the way the cartons fit into the shipping case, the way the cases stack onto the forklift... there are production engineers and consultants who optimize every step of the operation. Even the slant of the letters on the package is designed to convey a mood and message to the consumer before she ever touches the handle.

So why is the measuring cup so bad? Specifically, why is the "fill line" near the bottom of Why does it have to be so hard?the cup, and difficult to read? Why is the cup so much bigger than necessary?

Think about it: because the error is always in their favor. The #1 fill line is tough to find. If you add just a 1/4 inch more detergent, that's 33% too much liquid or 40% too much powder. And evidence suggests that Americans use too much detergent most of the time. The #1 fill line is enough for all but the dirtiest loads, even in a full-sized washer.

Too much detergent is bad for your bank balance and bad for the environment. And the manufacturer knows this. The past several years have seen laundry detergents become much more concentrated. This is potentially good environmental policy- why ship more water (as an ingredient in detergent) around the nation? It's true that concentrated products fit more tightly into delivery trucks, which takes diesel-belching vehicles off the road.

But it only works if you don't use 33-40 percent more detergent than necessary. Either way, the company gets "green" press for concentrating their products. So don't let them chuckle all the way to the bank.

Take a sharpie marker and blacken the fill line on the outside of your measurer. Or better yet--substitute an equivalent (like a 1/4 cup measurer--check yours) for the poor one the company gave you. This took me five seconds.

Actually, it really took me 39 years and five seconds, but at least I'm getting smarter.

This post originally appeared on Sarah's blog at www.sarahpinneo.com. 

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