Back Around the House II: Is new and improved better?


Why do manufacturers who have a perfectly acceptable product think they must find a way to make the product new and improved?

The first time I remember this happening, it was my favorite candy bar. They put a smaller bar in a bigger wrapper and raised the price. It was neither new nor improved, but the manufacturer said it was both.

The latest one was my shampoo. When 10 of us lived here, I got into the habit of buying the large economy size of just about everything because that’s what we needed to last a week or two.

Now that there are just the two of us, I still buy the largest size of items which last awhile.

The last time they “improved” my shampoo, they put it in different packaging, changed the label, and claimed it now came in three different types. I finally figured out which one of the three types was the same as my old favorite and eventually used the last of it.

When I went to the store to get a new bottle, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the shampoo shelves. I pushed my cart back and forth several times, but my old favorite wasn’t there. This was surprising because it was supposed to be one of the best-selling brands.

I decided to make one more pass. This time I read the brand names instead of looking for the old familiar package. I figured if I had to get something new I had to avoid the stuff that makes you moan and groan and carry on in the shower. Bingo, there was my old favorite, “new and improved” again. I was annoyed because I would have to try to figure out which of the three types was mine. I did the eeny, meeny, miney, Moe, and went to the check out.

When I got home and opened the package, I discovered they had “improved” the shampoo. Instead of the creamy blue liquid I was used to, there was a puffy blue blob. They apparently improved it by aerating it like they did the margarine many years ago. Now they call it “light margarine.” I’m sure the next “improvement” will be “light shampoo.”

Another supposed improvement is ordering things online. I watched Bill do this several times, and I was almost ready to try it. Then he ordered a new chipper-vac from a major store. He got a good price.

The only catch was we had to pick it up at a store in a nearby city. We thought it was worth the slight inconvenience to save so much on shipping and handling.

Two days later we went to the store, a rather large store. We reported to the “Merchandise pick-up” entrance as instructed. We entered the door and found ourselves in a tiny room. The walls were all white with no decoration. On one wall there was a computer. Bill went to the computer and did as it ordered. His name was then recorded on a screen above the computer.

We claimed two of the five chairs in the small room and looked around. In addition to the white walls there were several windows and a glass door, but they were covered with white paper. We were the only people in sight. It was eerie.

Some other customers came in. They did as the computer ordered and they waited. Soon the other chairs were filled and we were all making snide comments to each other about the new improved delivery service—untouched by human hands.

Another person arrived. He looked at us and asked, “Are you all waiting for merchandise?”

We admitted we were and he decided to go look for a clerk. I was sure he’d never return, but would be eliminated by whatever was now running the place. He did return and about 15 minutes later our merchandise was delivered to us by an actual human being.

This new and improved merchandise delivery method only took 20 minutes longer than the old method. My conclusion is “new and improved” must relate to the manufacturer’s bottom line. What’s good for the customer is not a consideration.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate October 9, 2002.

By Kathleen Floyd

Back Around the House II

Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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