Companies convince you to unwittingly use more shampoo, detergent, and mouthwash by increasing the size of the container cap. “A “use” was “one capful,” so when the cap got just a bit bigger, consumers used just a bit more. And as a result, the product was used up faster, resulting in a quicker need to buy more.”


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  1. Sherryness says:

    They will still put an indicator line on the inside of the cup showing to where you should fill it with product. But the line is a barely visible “raised” area, instead of being clearly marked. I think it should be clearly marked in a contrasting color. I can never read the lines inside my Downy lid!!!

  2. j-o-h-n says:

    There is an old story about how somebody suggested making the size of the ‘nozzle’ of a toothpaste tube bigger to sell more — people still squeezed out a brush-length, it was just a bigger around one!

    IIRC, One of the earlier stories of this kind of thing…

  3. smallestmills says:


    You know, I just figured that out, rarrr. I was trying to figure out why my washed loads were so soapy.
    Dark basement+barely visible line in dark blue Tide cap=too much soap.
    I just realized a couple days ago there was a “fill to” line inside the dark blue cap.
    It’s not so much the money, it’s my too soapy laundry.

  4. HungryGrrl says:

    Can’t you get a measuring cup or something and use it to measure your detergent instead of using the cap?

    I’ve known about this phenomenon for a long time (maybe I read it in The Tightwad Gazette), and never use more than half a capful of detergent in a load of laundry. I think that not overfilling the washer is more important than anything else in getting clean and properly rinsed clothes, anyways.

  5. TPIRman says:

    There’s also the fact that the instructions on most detergent bottles recommend using significantly more detergent than the average load requires. I think HungryGrrl has it right when she recommends using a separate measuring cup. Just figure out how much you really need to get the wash done and use your own cup.

  6. Hawk07 says:

    This is probably common with consumer items that have full market saturation. There’s only so much toothpaste, detergent, dish washing soap, etc. you can sell to a household.

  7. mopar_man says:

    I understand the toothpaste/cap length and laundry detergent/cup size for measuring but how does one judge the amount of shampoo based on cup size?

  8. bilge says:

    re: Shampoo

    Most people shouldn’t wash their hair every day, much less “apply, lather, rinse, *repeat*”

  9. cabinaero says:

    @Sherryness: It would cost waaaaay too much to add a differently colored line to the cap. A better solution is to find the line, mark it with a sharpie, and then just save that cap when you run out of the product. That way you’ll always have a cap with nice, clear markings.

  10. hoo_foot says:

    Not news.

    My mother gave me this advice in the early ’80s: don’t use the cap to measure detergent.

  11. Chicago7 says:

    HEY! Sneaky bastards!

  12. wring says:

    wait, people actually use the container cap of SHAMPOO to measure?

  13. chameleonz says:

    Most shampoos are TWICE the strength you actually need.
    I always keep a the empty bottle of Suave,fill it halfway with water and the rest from a new bottle.
    Works just as well.

  14. acambras says:

    I thought “lather rinse repeat” was the scam to get people to use more shampoo.

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    Cough syrup is the worst. Read the label (2T). Look on cup where the 2T mark is on most cups: abouth 1/3 of the cap. Many consumers end up guzzling down 3x the amount they should. And of course, the time you’re least likely to read a label is when you’re sick and feverish, or Lil’ Timmy’s coughing up a lung.


  16. wakela says:

    If your long distance service runs an ad that says, “Hey everyone! You should make twice as many phone calls!” Is that a scam? Jeez, people just use as much of a product as you find effective. You need someone to tell you this?

  17. TPK says:

    Another big example of this is contact lens disinfectant. Never use the “free” lens holders they throw in the box with your solutions. If you examine them, you will notice that they are much larger than your contact lens, and the cup is much deeper and has a flat bottom. All these things are certainly on purpose to require more solution to submerge your lens.

    Make sure your lens holder is not the same brand as one of the lens solution providers! This is an obvious conflict of interest. I get mine from the eye doctor, they are smaller, have a round bottom to match the shape of the lens, and take much less solution to cover the lens.

    I tested this once, using an eye dropper, and the “free” lens holder took more than twice as much product to fill than the no-brand holder from my doc’s office.