Beware of Products You Don't Need

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

While teaching advertising, I've come to be quite a skeptic. Aware of the various methods of advertising, I tend to focus most on the Parable of Created Needs. What this advertising method says is that manufacturers create a need for a product, persuading consumers to purchase it because it's a necessity. Listerine succeeded in 1914 when it warned of halitosis, and products are doing it today. We all fall victim to this lure. While I love the smell of Febreze, I must admit that I truly could live without the product.

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The Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner

I have yet to meet anyone who's agreed that this product works. That aside, the premise is that by hanging this automatic shower cleaner which requires several batteries to operate and pressing its button once a day, the cleaner sprays the shower stall thus cleaning it. The product costs between $25-$30 and lasts approximately a month. Considering it would take at most half an hour each week to clean a shower stall, the consumer is paying this product $12-$15 per hour to clean.

Toilet Brushes That Need to be Disposable?

Yes, toilet brushes aren't pleasant, but do they really need to be disposable after each use? I can find a toilet brush in most dollar stores, and even Walmart sells one for under $2.50. That coupled with a dip in bleach keeps it clean for a few uses. Prices vary around the country, but I found the Clorox Toilet Wand with two handles and six disposable heads to cost from $10-$12 with refill packs of six priced from $3.50-$4.50. Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush with one handle and four disposable heads cost between $5-$6.50 and a pack of twelve heads cost $4.50-$5.50. The rough average is .97 per cleaning with a disposable wand.

Pure, Clean, Fragranced Air

Most everyone likes a home to smell nice, but the importance of smell seems to be on the rise. The Glade company lists twelve families of air freshening products. The commercial which depicts a family waiting for the Glade Wisp air freshener to "puff" another burst of scented air makes this product seem not only fun but essential. Yet, the cost may not be so fun. Each puffing dispenser costs $9.49 for .26 oz. of liquid. Febreze also has created several options to air freshening. One is the simple aerosol spray which creates a pleasant smell while killing harmful bacteria, Febreze Air Effects. Each 9.7 oz. can costs between $4-$5. The more advanced Febreze NOTICEable is a plug-in freshener which alternates between two smells. It's a good idea, but the original plug-in costs close to $10. The .879 oz. refills cost $6. That's a hefty price tag for sweet smells.

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If it's a favorite product, then splurge and enjoy it. Products are made to make people happy. Simply evaluate the product's abilities and costs before making a strong consumer decision. Not every family is going to sit around and watch the air freshener puff; more likely than not they won't even notice it's in the room.

Editor's Note: What are some of your "favorite" products that you don't need?

Do You Need This Product?
May 15, 20080 found this helpful

Kelly Ann, you have hit the nail on the head. We all see and hear hundreds of commercials and ads every day, and they're so tempting. They make life seem so wonderful if only we buy their products.

I read Thriftyfun.com almost every day, and that keeps my head on straight and money in my purse.

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May 16, 20080 found this helpful

I remember a time when there was a big push to getting away from disposable/one-time-use items, but they always seem to come back. I'm glad to see some of the companies "down-sizing" their packaging (like laundry soap) or using more earth friendly packaging. I will buy products from those companies. I do try to stay away from as many disposable/one-time-use items as possible. Too expensive and they add to the landfills! I do always have a can of air freshener in my bathroom, though.

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December 31, 20080 found this helpful

There are some times when disposable products or single-use products are sensible. If you're traveling to a place where you may not have access to a washing machine for several days (camping, hotel stay, relatives who don't need any extra strain on their already-bursting laundry schedule), go ahead and use toilet paper, flushable baby wipes, disposable menstrual pads and diapers, even paper towels. Try for the biodegradable types, of course.

If you have a health condition which makes it hazardous for you to keep a used toilet brush, even if it's been bleached, go ahead and use a wand with a disposable head.

If you're involved in community theater and everyone shares makeup in common, PLEASE use disposable applicators, and don't double-dip! Bacteria can grow, especially in eye makeup, and you don't want to share them. Conjunctivitis and other serious diseases can be passed that way.

If saving fifty cents adds an hour to your work each day, really, splurge on the fifty cents and save the hour. Your time is worth about $7.50 an hour if you were to go out and get a minimum wage job and work for that hour, and if you need money that badly, that's probably a good idea.

However! If you're buying something disposable, get it organic and biodegradable. If you're using disposable items because you don't want to share germs (theater example, above), consider buying and using your own makeup (or whatever) instead. Sure, it'll cost more at first, but you won't be spending anything on disposable applicators, nor risk sharing diseases anyway because of people who don't understand the "no double-dipping" rule.

Figure out what the cost is -- financial, environmental, time, effort -- and what the benefits are, and make an intelligent, informed choice. Don't be penny-wise and dollar-foolish (or life-foolish).

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