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Package Changes Prove Challenging for Some

Terrie Ellerbee, associate editor
Terrie Ellerbee, associate editor

She wrote that her mother got so frustrated with the cap that she finally resorted to just unscrewing the whole darn thing.

That was my daughter commenting on my frustration with Coffeemate via the Web.

The cap does frustrate me. It either won’t open like it is ­supposed to or it won’t shut right. And if it is not snapped all the way and you pick it up and shake it, well it can make quite a mess.

(Not sure why the shaking thing is such a habit. It just is. I shake milk, too.)

We love Coffeemate. Everything about it is wonderful.

Except for that darn cap.

And Nestle was nice enough to actually reply to her, and sent coupons for discounts and a free bottle of the creamer.

The cap is still the same, but we appreciate the ­acknowledgment.

And, of course, we still use Coffeemate.

It was not until I saw CNBC’s “Supermarkets Inc.: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine” that it finally clicked for me just how much time teams of people all across the world spend studying one thing: the package of our favorite products.

They work around the clock to make it more comfortable to hold and use, more attractive, more functional, more … well, better in every imaginable way. They study the handles, the box or bag, the colors (green is very popular) and other things people don’t even notice, like making it ever so slightly smaller or more stable on the grocery store shelf.

Well, that probably explains why my husband is always having so much trouble finding the specific products on our grocery list.

There is this suspicion nagging me that maybe products ­females use a lot get changed more often than others. Feminine hygiene products may be in a blue box one trip and in a pink bag the next. Or, the name has completely changed to something like “Pearl” or “U.”

For the younger set, the choices are even more dizzying. There are designer pads in sparkly boxes just for tweens. Since girls seem to be reaching that milestone earlier and earlier, some as young as 8 years old, it would make sense to offer smaller sizes, and they do. But limited edition designer series with prints called “punk glam” and “poptimistic?”

Not sure about that one.

All that pales, though, to the biggest package problem at the store. Like millions of American women, our family has made drastic changes to the household budget. Some changes seemed to be easier to make than others and—a bonus!—would also have the biggest impact on our savings.

One change was that rather than going to the salon for hair color (about $120), I started doing it myself (after a lengthy period of proudly “going gray”). Store-bought hair color cost only about $8 a box and if you can get the color right, well, who would notice?

FYI: This is NOT going to be a story about hair color gone wrong.

My personal choice—Clairol Natural Instincts, a temporary color that lasts for 28 shampoos—has made me perfectly happy. It doesn’t have a strong smell, is easy to apply and doesn’t cost much.

But in the time that I’ve been using it, maybe a year or so, I can’t keep up with the changes.

The shades, Spiced Tea, Ebony Mocha, Amber Shimmer … their names seem to change regularly, too, but that could just be me.

Recently, Procter & Gamble, maker of Clairol, added some of that very popular green color to the package design, which seems appropriate if you have a name like Natural Instincts.

And there are new women on the front of the boxes.

My girl had curly hair.

We can’t find her.

P&G also added a new piece to the hair-coloring puzzle with a “revitalizer” to use two weeks after coloring to keep the color looking fresh.

Yes, this is the hair color that was just recalled.

Fortunately for me, two weeks hadn’t passed after the last coloring—and I see a lot of press releases. That particular one really stood out.

We got a good laugh here at the office when we saw the reason for the recall: “unwanted color result.”

Most women have had this happen at home, whether it came out too dark, too orange, too purple or just flat out, well, unwanted. It really had nothing to do with the hair color itself. It usually was operator error.

It seems like only yesterday that my sister sat on the toilet with a towel over her head squalling herself sick over the very vibrant shade of orange she now sported. (That was a good 30 years ago. For the record, her hair is impeccable today.)

Turns out that when these particular Natural Instincts ­products were packaged, the revitalizer two-week refresher sachet was mismatched to the hair color in the box. So just a toss in the trashcan took care of that.

My 28 shampoos are almost up and I hope we can find the right box this time. Was that Wake Up Cocoa or Coffee Crème?

And as for the coffee creamer—and that darn cap—there is no doubt that it will improve, possibly even before we buy the next bottle.

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