This Colgate Toothpaste Packaging Is Awfully Deceptive

Logan thought this bonus pack of Colgate contained two equally-sized tubes of toothpaste. After all, the boxes are exactly the same size. Yet when he opened the bonus box, he found a smaller box containing a mini tube of toothpaste.

Logan writes:

I bought some toothpaste last night as my wife an I had been surviving on tiny, dentist-issued travel tubes for the past couple weeks. We’re lazy, so to save ourselves the trip after the next big tube was gone, I decided to buy a double pack of toothpaste. Thinking that the marginal savings of bundled toothpaste was the way to go, I grabbed a healthy sounding combo and was one may way. When I got home though, I was in for a big surprise. When I pulled the “Bonus” tube out of its box, it was actually in another, smaller box. Whaaaaat? Why the double boxing? Was it for packaging reasons? Or was it to hide the widespread reach and effectiveness of the the product shrink ray?

This isn’t the feared Grocery Shrink Ray. This is deception, pure and simple. The weasels running Colgate’s marketing team stuck to the law by printing the net weight on both boxes, but they clearly want consumers to assume that the boxes are the same size.

Way to waste an extra box, Colgate!


Edit Your Comment

  1. SBR249 says:

    Because the net weight (4 oz.) of the smaller tube is so hard to read and deceptively concealed…

  2. 44 in a Row says:

    It could also be a shipping/packaging thing. Boxes that are all the same size are probably much easier to ship than two attached boxes that are different sizes, especially when you think about putting together a shipping carton of them.

  3. legwork says:

    I bought into one of these a couple years ago. The difference was the 2nd full-size box contained one of those little ketchup packets of toothpaste.

    May those responsible wake in their already buried coffin to find it’s 8 inches too short.

  4. legwork says:

    @SBR249: You’re kidding, no? I’m calling OP blame! :)

  5. 44 in a Row says:

    Also, was this really priced as a “double pack”? Because it looks to me to be more like a free sample sort of thing; the second “bonus” toothpaste, remember, is a totally different type, and since they’re calling it “Advanced”, may very well be more expensive.

  6. SBR249 says:

    @legwork: Call it whatever you want, but this isn’t a new phenomenon. I find it hard to believe anyone could have thought they were buying two tubes of the same size. Even if the boxes were similarly sized, the uneven weight distribution would have been obvious when picking up the box.

    Double pack products are usually cleared marked as a double pack and not as a pack with a “bonus”. If it’s a bonus, then 99.9% of the time it’ll be a smaller “sampler” package. The bigger box was probably used for ease of packaging and shipping as 44 in a Row said.

  7. @44 in a Row: @SBR249:
    I agree, I think Carey’s reaching on this one, the net weight is right there, twice, in fact. This was a waste of time reading, they must be running out of things to run on their grocery shrink ray feature…

  8. rellog says:

    @legwork: I agree. It was a bonus tube, with clearly written labeling and was packaged as such, IMO for ease, not deception. I’m not saying Colgate didn’t get a two-fer bang by using that box, but I don’t think deception was intentional…

  9. Wyndikan says:

    This is simply not deception. First thing I read was it was a bonus 4 oz tube, not the 7.8 oz. It even points to the total net weight. People just need to read rather than assume.

  10. temporaryscars says:

    Am I the only one who is confused about what happened here?

  11. OldJohnRobinson says:


    It looks like someone bought a product with a free bonus item and are upset about it.

  12. rlee says:

    @temporaryscars: No, you’re not. If I’m reading correctly, there were 2 tubes, one of which was 4.0 oz. If the second tube was 7.8 oz, then I agree with Wyndikan that there was no deception. But it’s not entirely clear from the text.

  13. The_IT_Crone says:

    It looks to me like a free tube of a different product line. If it’s free… wouldn’t this be the opposite of grocery shrink?

  14. krispykrink says:

    No deception at all. It was done to equal the size for shipping. Besides, the bonus was free, right? Say thank you, and toss the empty boxes into the recycle bin.

  15. hmmmm…. I feel for the OP, but take it as a lesson learned, and compare the oz. per container next time. It doesn’t say “Twin pack” like you would see when you are trying to get a deal on the price.

    Sometimes, it takes people a while to learn how to bargain shop — You are bound to get burned if you don’t pay attention.

  16. tortcat says:

    The sizes are clearly labeled, and I always check. I saw right away the one box was 4 oz

  17. nsv says:

    First of all, the boxes are clearly labeled. And yes, items are much easier to pack, ship, and display when all the boxes are the same size.

    And second, buy plain old boring toothpaste. You don’t need “Total” toothpaste, you don’t need “Advanced Clean” (whatever that means–I thought clean means clean,) you don’t need an “extra clean and healthy mouth” (again, whatever that means.) You (generally) need a toothpaste which will get your teeth clean, get rid of morning breath, and provide fluoride. (And no, I’m not getting into a fluoride argument here.)

    The cheapest brand name toothpaste on the shelf will provide those things. And plain old “Colgate Toothpaste” is usually about half the cost of “Colgate Total Advanced Clean” toothpaste with the pretty foil covered box.

  18. bohemian says:

    I ran into this at Target Friday. Target used to sell double packs where it was two equally sized tubes wrapped together. I have bought those before because they were usually slightly less in price. The “bonus pack” labeled ones are deceptive because the bonus box is the exact same size, you have to look closer to see one is a small tube. Unlike Garnier who bundle a large bottle of hair product with a smaller bottle of hair product shrink wrapped to the bottle so you clearly see your getting a small additional product.

    What was totally vexing is Target no longer sells just plain old Colgate. I spent a good five minutes double checking and and looking behind packs. Nope, no more plain old Colgate. They are now all of the super duper hyped special junk. My guess is that they charge more for these super duper versions and the usually cheap plain old Colgate just has a smaller profit margin.

    I may check Walgreens and the grocery stores and stock up on the plain Colgate if it is going to be phased out.

    The print on these bonus boxes where the ounces is listed is really really small. It is easier to read in the picture above. Reading it in the store required me holding it a few inches away from my face since I didn’t have reading glasses. You have to really look to realize your not buying two tubes of full sized toothpaste.

  19. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    The tubes are labeled, so I wouldn’t call complete foul, but if you were in a hurry and not paying attention, you might have mistaken the “bonus” tube for a full-sized one.

    Whether or not that’s intentional at some level is probably a secret that we’ll never know the answer to.

    @nsv: I’d like to see some kind of scientific report on whether the super-duper Total Extra-Clean Tartar-Protection Extra Whitening stuff is anything different than what’s in the cheap tubes. I look for the cheapest name-brand toothpaste I can find. I think the last one was a 3-pack of Pepsodent for $2.99 (and yes, they were all full-sized tubes).

  20. one800higgins says:

    Although this isn’t the grocery shrink ray (nor is this interesting or uncommon at all, definitely OP’s fault)… Is anyone else getting tired of every other post on this site for the last month being grocery shrink ray? We get it, products are shrinking… Our economy sucks, what do you expect? If they don’t cut something to make a profit we won’t have any products to buy and complain about later.

    Come on guys, enough with the shrink ray.

  21. kidnextdoor says:

    Nation of whiners.

  22. bcsus83 says:

    Um, the package CLEARLY states that you only get a ‘bonus’ of 4 oz. They probably packaged it in the same size box so it would look better and fit better on shelves.

  23. nsv says:

    @1800higgins: You’re right. Shrink ray stuff is good to know, but it is getting to be a bit much.

    Maybe a one or twice a week summary of the shrink ray casualty list?

  24. FilthyHarry says:

    Every time I hear someone expounding the benefits of a free market and wishing loudly for de-regulation, I think “That person is an idiot.”

  25. timmus says:

    Yeah, I’m going to have to go with this as being deceptive on the part of Colgate.

  26. categorically says:

    Reaching again here? I know Nick likes you guys to post as much as possible here, but lets have some standards, OK?

    Not being able to read/comprehend packaging is a consumer’s problem, not a Colgate problem.

  27. coan_net says:

    I see nothing wrong with that.

    many times, companies will put “bonus” sample items packaged with their “main” product as a way to try something new.

    Having the same size box for both – I would think would make it MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to stacking on the shelf.

    Anyway, nothing wrong with what this company done here.

  28. smarty says:

    How is any of this deceptive? You buy Colgate Clean Mint, you get a BONUS 4oz Colgate Advanced Clean. It’s all right there in red and blue lettering.

    Carey’s next post about Smart Water “Oh it didn’t make me any smarter, it’s deceptive advertising!”

  29. Hogan1 says:

    It’s easier to ship equally sized packages. Colgate’s simply looking at this from a logistical standpoint. If you have to ship different sized packages bundled together it creates a nightmare when trying to pack pallets. This in turn could potentially add additional costs which would be passed along to the consumer that would likely me significantly more then the cost of the extra packaging to make the boxes the same size. Also the packages are clearly marked and it’s fairly easy for people with basic math skills to realize 4oz is smaller then 7.8.

  30. snakeskin33 says:

    They’re not even the same product. It’s obviously not a double pack. There’s nothing about two boxes that have different labels and are different products that would logically make anyone believe it’s two of the same thing. Consumers have to be willing to take a basic level of responsibility for label-reading, and this falls well within that standard. I’ve seen packaging like this a hundred times, and I’ve never been misled by it.

    I was, however, misled by the photo appearing at the top of the post, which carefully trims out the primary box that the consumer purchased, thus concealing until after the jump the fact that they’re clearly different products and it’s perfectly clear that it’s not a double pack.

  31. thelushie says:

    @FilthyHarry: What does that have to do with this?

    When I saw the packaging, I knew what it was. There isn’t a way you can mistake this for a twin pack or a larger size. Just read the box.

  32. GeoffinAround says:

    @snakeskin33: I noticed the careful photo cropping as well. It was needless. Perhaps it’s the Consumerist that is engaging in deceptive ‘marketing’ here?

    I was glad to see that pretty much everyone commenting agrees that this falls short of the standard ‘shrink ray’ deception. Colgate is offering a bonus tube of ‘advanced clean’ with its ‘clean mint’ variety. The company is engaging in a strategy to convert consumers much like bohemian, that insist on a standard variety (for no reason, in the view of Colgate).

    While the small box within a larger box is clearly redundant & perhaps a notch towards deceptive, the only way a person would not recognize the difference between the tubes is if s/he simply grabbed it without looking. We are taking an entirely too victimized approach to shopping if we blame Colgate for offering us a bonus.

  33. bohemian says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: Having sat in on way too many marketing strategy meetings, it probably went down as the dual box is easier to pack and display with the added bonus of snagging a certain percentage of extra sales as the terminally hurried and unobservant grab it assuming it is two full sized packs.

    Human behavior plays a huge role in how products are marketed to the consumer.

  34. Not Alvis says:

    I was shopping for toothpaste the other day. I usually get Sensodyne fresh mint ([]) but while in the aisle I saw a new variety called ProNamel ([]). Now, I have a very acidic mouth and could use all the enamel protection I can get, so I was interested.

    I picked up the two packages and held them up to each other: each contains EXACTLY THE SAME acvitve ingredients, in the same concentrations.

    Looking now at the website, even their “extra whitenening” formula ([]) has the same breakdown.

    If all these have the same biological activity, how do they get off marketing them as different products?

  35. anonymouse23 says:

    hahaha this one took me awhile, because I thought that the top package was the bonus package, when it was actually the bottom one.

    It’s all clearly marked and was done for packaging purposes. No trickery or deception, he should have just taken the time he spent typing a post and taking pictures of it, to have read the package carefully.

    Also, I’m almost positive that Colgate packages the “bonus” on top of the regular item, so he was the one being deceptive by the way he displayed this picture. boo.

  36. youbastid says:

    And not only does it clearly state the net wt (twice) on the box, they also made sure that the artwork was printed smaller on the second box – to show the actual size of the tube inside.

  37. mewyn dyner says:

    Yah, so not deceptive. The boxes are clearly marked. I check all sizes and such before buying anything.

    Also, the intro picture on the Consumerist’s main page is deceptive. I did not like how they cropped the picture as you don’t know what’s going on until after you jump to the comments. I was quite confused as I thought both the boxes that were on the main page were bundled together until I jumped and a third box (the main box from the sale in question, as the bottom box had nothing to do with it) magically appeared.

  38. deadhero says:

    Nothing deceptive when is states clearly “BONUS 4.0 oz”

  39. coan_net says:

    @GeoffinAround: Careful – I’ve made a remark about how in a different subject how Consumerist makes stories “lean” a certain way instead of telling only the truth, and I got banned. (TWICE) – lucky someone who works at Consumerist seen how I did nothing wrong and unbanned me each time…… but now I will not say anything negative about Consumerist since it is an unwritten rule that you can not talk bad about them. So be careful.

  40. zsta2k7 says:

    @Clold: While the active ingredients in each formulation is the same, active ingredients solely apply to the ingredients that clean your teeth and reduce sensitivity. It is the inactive ingredients that will provide secondary benefits like whiten teeth and harden enamel. The normal Sensodyne is the only one with dyes, the whitening one is the only one with the whitening agent pentasodium triphosphate.

  41. Tmoney02 says:

    Yep, I don’t like to blame the op but he is in the wrong or at the least being way too anal.

    He is complaining that a Free tube of toothpaste came in a larger box then normal, when the size of the free toothpaste is clearly marked on the box. Shouldn’t he be pleased he got an extra 52 percent of product for free?

    I can personally vouch for these being free as I buy these packages at times. They will be on shelf having ,maybe 5-10 of these and then the rest being older boxes not having the bonus. I get charged the same price whether I buy the bonus pack or the regular.

  42. RodAox says:

    Give me a break….

    1)Box : Logistics
    2)Deception : Sorry as colgate we forgot to call your cell phone to tell you that the FREE toothpaste you will be getting will be 4 o.z. and not the ASSUMED 7.8 o.z.

  43. SOhp101 says:

    Just because the box does not contain the maximum size of the product doesn’t mean it’s deceptive–it’s written on the package exactly the amount of toothpaste. I think they ended up packaging it this way because having a large box shrink wrapped with a small box leads to open spaces within the packing. This increases the chances of damaging the contents inside of large shipping boxes.

  44. lastfm says:

    The truth is in the hole of the beholder.

    If you see a wrong sized box, you see deception. If you see the right-sized box, you see easy shipping. People can see it either way.

    I believe the bottom box is the same size to help ease shipping and storing.

  45. Just back from my neighborhood chain drugstore. I read this item before I left, so, just for fun, thought I would take a look at the colgate section.

    Colgate marketing seems to have a plastic wrap fetish. I found toothpaste wrapped with toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwash, and lots and lots of tubes of toothpaste bundled with another tube of toothpaste. Here is where it gets interesting. The brush, floss, mouthwash- all bundled with clear plastic in odd shaped bundles. The toothpaste with samples had a smaller box bundled to it. The equal size double bundles contained two equal size tubes or bottles.

    This example noted above seems pretty clearly designed to trick. Otherwise it would not have been put in two printed boxes.

    And by the way- I LOVE the shrink ray stuff. Not to mention that the blind loyalty so often evidenced here for corporate America sorta suggests that there is a need to prove it is happening in so many different ways.

    How many people suggested that this guy, just buying toothpaste in a double box to save another purchase down the road, should have examined the box to be sure that there was not another box wedged inside with a mini tube of the stuff. Really??

    As it is I have to check manufacture country, expiration dates, figure out if the stuff even has fluoride in it, and hopefully find it for an affordable price. I think that is enough to ask of any consumerist.

  46. Corion says:

    Hmm. This could have easily been made up for if the package had contained a Tiny USB Stickâ„¢.

  47. EtherealStrife says:

    not checking oz = fail

    It says 4.0 OZ TWICE (on each side!!!), and even has a bundle total. You should be facepalming, not whining about deception.

  48. bluSCALE4 says:

    OP isn’t complaining, the guy he quotes is. OP only states Colgate is wasting paper, which I agree with :P

  49. Angryrider says:

    @EtherealStrife: Agreed.
    Thankfully I don’t have this “problem.” I just stick with the same toothpaste I’ve been using for years.

  50. People are blaming the submitter saying “it’s a bonus not a 2-fer” and are assuming that it was the same price as regular. That may or may nor be true. This fails to take into account the following.

    Let’s say I normally buy abc brand toothpaste 8 oz size for 2.00. I see Colgate for 3.00 which I normally wouldn’t buy because it’s pricier but I am going to get a bonus. I think my bonus is 8 oz because it’s in the same size box as as the primary box. Now I get home and discover the bonus is only 4 oz. I spent extra for a brand I wouldn’t have otherwise bought because of a bonus that wasn’t what I thought I was getting. Colgate has my money instead of the abc company.

    I agree that it’s probably done because it’s easier to package, but let’s not be stupid though, I’m sure they know that bundling a tube with an equal size of bonus will likely result in more sales then if they had strapped on the actual sized box.

    Legal? yes because it’s labeled as such.

    Misleading? Definately.

    Lesson learned: 1) most bonuses, savings, benefits, etc are not as much as they may seem and 2) always read carefully.

  51. Tmoney02 says:

    @painfullyblunt: and are assuming that it was the same price as regular. That may or may nor be true.

    I can gurantee it is absoulutly true. I have bought these packs before from multiple stores and the bonus is free. This part shouldn’t be in discussion and really should be put in the main post to provide a more accurate picture. Also @Tmoney02:

    As for your hypothetical situation if you were really calculating out the price per oz of toothpaste, you would have read the box! You cant miss the 4 oz. Its also on top of the package making it harder to read the original box, but that much easier to read the bonus box.

  52. DarrenO says:

    Deceptive? Not by a long shot. Just how would you expect them to bundle a smaller tube with a larger one? It was clearly labeled and obviously was a lot easier to package two boxes of the same size together instead of trying to have one large and one small box wrapped together.

  53. Scudder says:

    I buy these all the time at Target. Never confused; there is clearly a weight imbalance between the two halves of this combo-pack and the wording is easily understood by anyone in which English is their “first” language.

    Regarding the Advanced Clean….this formula contains an anti-bacterial (triclosan) that is supposed to last 12 hours. Yup, there’s a difference.

  54. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @bohemian: That’s what I was thinking. The main reason for packaging this way..easier to pack and stack. Catching a few consumers who were in too much of a hurry to read the package and thinking it was a 2-for-1 is merely an added bonus but not really the main intention.

  55. ArmchairEconomist says:

    This furthers our need to make manufacturers responsible for their contribution to the waste stream.

    Not only do deceptive practices like this (as well as the all too prevalent practice of decreasing product size while retaining the same packaging size as an underhanded form of price increases) increase the amount of garbage we need to get rid of, but it also increases waste ALL along the product lifecycle.. ranging from using more crude oil for increased plastic packaging, more wood for paper boxes, more oil to transport these products (that have less effective product content), more gasoline for trips to the store for products that run out sooner than before, more gasoline for garbage trucks to dispose of the waste… can you see the downward spiral we have gotten to?

    Increasing oil prices => increase production costs for manufacturers => decrease product content sizes (increasing waste:product content ratio) => uses more oil in manufacture for the same amount of good => increase demand for oil

    All we need to do is stop buying these products, let the manufacturers know the long term effect of their actions… who’s with me?

    More analysis and information here: []

  56. jacksbrokenego says:

    If only that 4oz tube was a 3oz tube, would be perfect for flying without having to check luggage. Then they could market it as a travel tube.

  57. Luftvier says:

    It’s called read the damn package.

    Asthetically, two boxes of the same size look better than a large and a tiny box wrapped together. Moreover, they two same-sized boxes make packing and shipping easier.

    This is not deception. This is consumer laziness.

  58. It has the net weight on the outside of the box. If you can’t be bothered to read that then there is no one to blame but yourself.

  59. balthisar says:

    I don’t see the issue. But I also don’t just blindly grab crap off the shelf under normal conditions. We’d all be such better consumers if we just learned to fscking READ. If this happened to me (for being in a hurry, or some other reason that’s ultimately my own stupid fault), I’d be too embarrassed to post it on the Consumerist.

  60. dragonfire1481 says:

    Maybe I am missing something but the image at the start of this article shows only ONE actual tube of toothpaste. If there was a bonus included in that one box, would there not be TWO tubes (one regular and one the bonus)???

  61. haoshufu says:

    Need to be careful with the marketing words theses days.

    Double pack means you are getting 2 of the same item in a bundle. Bonus pack is you buy one item, get a bonus item and seee description carefully of what you are getting.

  62. Bloodboiler says:

    Boo hoo.

  63. duffbeer703 says:

    This isn’t a deception — unless you count getting something for free deceptive.

    The reason its like that is that the packaging is a “bonus”. If you look at the UPC codes on the box with bonus and compare it to a regular, single 7.8oz tube, they are the same.

    The smaller box is placed in the larger box to keep the packaging square so that it will sit on the shelf properly, and so that when the promotion runs out, the retailer can rotate in fresh stock without the bonus tube.

  64. Aphex242 says:

    Yeah it’s kinda printed right on the packaging. Agreed it’s lameish, but it’s also fairly clear if you’re paying attention (which any good shopper should do).

  65. joemono says:

    The size of the product (4oz) is printed on the front of the box in two different places, and that’s deceptive?

    What gets me is the fact that they package one box inside a bigger box. This is why we’re cutting down trees?

  66. Smashville says:

    I’m not sure what the problem is. I read the post and I don’t see what the problem is. He got what it says on the box…what is the problem?

  67. thelushie says:

    @ArmchairEconomist: I have absolutely no idea what you are rambling on about. And I don’t have any intention of going to your blog and reading it.

    What is so deceptive about the packaging. It in no way misrepresented the contents. People need to learn to read the packaging.

  68. Kounji says:

    Like a bunch of other people said. Its on the damn box. This shouldn’t be a huge deal, customer just misread it

  69. Murph1908 says:

    I’ll chime in.

    I would have looked at the packaging and thought it was 2 tubes of the same size. I might have picked up on the 4 oz label, but maybe not. I too would have felt mislead if I missed it.

  70. Jmatthew says:

    I’m more upset that there was a cardboard box inside a cardboard box… why double box it?

    Wasteful. :P

  71. K-T says:

    I realize that there was making on the package letting the buyer know that the second tube was four ounces, and I am sure that making the boxes the same makes shipping easier; however, you should be able to understand how a person can think that they have been deceived. If you are in somewhat of a hurry and you see two boxes together, that are the same size at a great price, then you may just grab it and run. Especially if you just ran in for something small, like the toothpaste.

  72. Sockatume says:

    The bonus pack wasn’t even the same kind of toothpaste, why in God’s name would you assume it’s a twin-pack? It’s as undeceptive as it could be without taking deliberate measures to avoid confusing idiots.

  73. Sassafras says:

    @GeoffinAround: My husband works for GSK. Just by the Aqua Fresh Sensitive is the same exact thing as Sensodine and is cheaper.

  74. DanGarion says:

    I’m going to have to say nothing seems deceptive about that. The total oz is listed and the amount for the smaller is listed. I think this is just where the boxes are the same size because of shipping. It’s easier to ship everything if the boxes are a uniform size instead of the smaller tub being in a smaller box.

    As consumers we need to take some responsibilities in actually looking at what we are buying and no just assuming things. It’s clearly labeled…

  75. miguelggarcia says:

    Beyond that the box is clearly labeled not once, but twice, I believe that the reason for the box being the same size is plain logistics and packaging, because logistics and packaging is about having the less wasted space possible (wasted space could lead to product moving inside of the cartons, which could lead to damaged boxes that people wouldn’t buy), if they’d used smaller box for the smaller tube it would have been a little more difficult to fill the cartons where they transport them without creating gaps between them.

  76. Anonymous says:

    I just discovered that Folgers Gourmet Supreme Coffee, which used to come in a 34.5-ounce can (2 lb. 2.5 oz.) now is packaged in a 27.8-ounce can (1 lb. 11 oz.). We consumers were not informed by Folgers of this. I only discovered it accidentally because I have one of their old containers. As a consumer, I feel betrayed. I called Folgers and they told me they “discontinued” that size. Folgers didn’t even own up to what they did — which was deceive the consumer. Folgers not only made the packaging smaller; they also increased the price! I call that double deception.