Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Soaked, Sudsed, Lost, and Juiced

How often do you go shopping and find that one of your favorite products has disappeared from the shelves because it's been retired? It happens to me often enough that our trips to stock up at CVS have an underlying hint of dread.

A year or so ago, Bausch & Lomb stopped making the basic "Boston" solutions I've used to clean and soak my contact lenses forever, so I'll need to audition replacements, at some expense — not that there are many options. I won't be using B&L's other formulas because they made my eyes sting the time I tried them. I was able to get one last bottle of soaking solution from an independent pharmacy in Vermont, so I'm okay for a little while.

My most recent surprise was the disappearance of my favorite Neutrogena shampoo:

Instead of this rather elegant bottle of clarifying and volumizing shampoo, they are selling opaque tubes of new, gussied-up formulas. The whole point of buying Neutrogena is its simplicity and implied "purity," isn't it? That's what the bottle above suggests to me, and what it delivers. Now we're asked to buy this:

It's supposed to strengthen your hair and repair split ends. They've lost me: the only thing that "repairs" split ends is glue. I get the point of tubes, but I like to see how much shampoo I have even more than I like getting to it quickly, and I can always turn a bottle upside-down when it's getting low.

You can usually track down a discontinued product for a while on eBay, Amazon, or in old-fashioned pharmacies.  I ordered four bottles of shampoo from Amazon. I want more but I'll need to find space for them.

I understand that marketing and R&D people hang onto their jobs by convincing their employers that consumers love change, variety, and "improved" products. This is also true of web-development people who keep mucking up Redfin.com, Walkscore.com, eBay.com, and countless other websites that were faster and better in the past, adding unnecessary bells and whistles in site rollouts that often cause more problems than they solve — but keep people on the payroll even longer as they work to repair them. Eventually, those folks may even "redesign" the site to be closer to how it worked in the beginning, and they'll claim it's another improvement. Most of the time, their job consists of fixing things that aren't broken and disappointing their most loyal customers and users. 

A good example of a formerly good but currently bad website is Walkscore.com. When you typed in an address, it used to give you a clear, simple map that showed you how close the property in question was to various destinations: restaurants, groceries, errands, schools.... Now, most of the time you'll get an apartment listing — even if it's not for rent or for sale. The site exists mainly to push rentals now instead of its original, noble purpose, and don't ask me how sales are doing. You have to fight to find the shrunken, Walkscore map — and then you have to double-check that it took you to the correct address. It's plunked me in the wrong neighborhood (in well-established areas of Newton and Jamaica Plain, for instance) several times in recent weeks. That's pretty terrible for people who are mainly using the site to check out unfamiliar neighborhoods. On top of all that, the categories are loaded with incorrect, closed, or private businesses. For example, the closest "grocery stores" to several addresses I was curious about turned out to all be vitamin supplement stores, caterers, and food importers. Gee, thanks.

On the retail side, the Ocean Spray product people are on a perpetual tear, creating new variations to the point where you can't find the basic flavors because the shelves are so packed with weird ones. (Cran-Broccoli, anyone?) Now, as we know, all juice is loaded with sugar, or sugar substitutes, so it's not good for you no matter what else is in it, including vitamins. All we should be drinking is a splash of it in our sparkling water. Sometimes. So it's not like we need this level of cranberry connoisseurship. But Ocean Spray offers so many different juices now that I doubt if even people who work there can keep track of them all. Maybe they think we'll be fooled into thinking juice is okay if it fills an entire store aisle. Maybe they think we'll feel tempted by all this:

Or maybe they're just out of their minds?


  1. Clean shampoo discontinued? Bleh!!! Got scared when I read this, as this is what I stock in the bathrooms. Glad to hear my supplier has 41 cases of travel size ones left, guess I need to start hoarding. Crap.

  2. I agree with you that some of Bausch & Lomb's contact solutions sting. The one I've been using recently that's really good (I can put it directly into my eyes when they feel dry) is B&L's Bio True. Hope this helps!


  3. Ocean Spray....are they trying to make one flavor per droplet of the oceans spray??? Crazy!! I hear you on products disappearing...my favorite hair spray is nowhere to be found. "Progress"...phooey.

  4. Ugh... the Neutrogena change is horrific. So clean and lovely to ... I can't even say.

    And agree with you on the 5483245024580425 options for everything. I, for one, hate to have that many choices. We are so overwhelmed by choice in every aspect of our lives that it ends up paralyzing us!

    (I loved this post, by the way. You always have such great insights.)


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