Dumb Products That Don't Work Right

Last Updated Apr 11, 2011 4:42 PM EDT

Dumb Products That Don't Work RightWe're all too busy and life is too short for products that don't work the way they're supposed to. They drive us all crazy. Sometimes it's the design, sometimes it's quality control, but I blame product management for most of it, since it's their ultimate responsibility.

I'm not even talking about PCs and other high-tech stuff like buggy Blu-ray disc players, memory-hogging antivirus software, and smart all-in-one printers that don't work right with Microsoft Vista.

I'm talking about simple consumer products here. They're not rocket science. They should work right.

It's ironic that Intel can make a 10 million transistor microprocessor that works after you drop the device on the floor but Johnson & Johnson can't make a shampoo bottle with the same capability. I mean, who doesn't drop the shampoo bottle in the shower?

Maybe I expect too much from corporate America, you tell me. In any case, here's my current list of:

Dumb Products That Don't Work Right
  • Neutrogena shampoo container. My favorite shampoo has a cool new container that stands upright so its opening is capped on the bottom. The problem is, when you drop it - and you will - this tiny plastic piece that plugs the opening breaks off so, when you set it down, all the shampoo leaks out. I'm two-for-two on this. Still love the shampoo ... if I can only keep it bottled up.
  • Walgreens Pill Splitter. When you get to a certain age, pills become a fact of life and it's a good idea to have a pill splitter. Well, I have an old freebie from a veterinary clinic but, like an idiot, I went out and bought an expensive high-tech one with all sorts of safety features. It's safe, all right. But it's a crappy pill splitter. What a waste.
  • Listerine Total Care. I live in the mountains so we have our own well and there's no fluoride in the water. So my dentist recommended Listerine Total Care with fluoride. It's purple. It stained my teeth purple. Yes, I know saliva chemistry is a complicated thing, but still, it's hard to believe.
  • Stainless steel products that stain. Speaking of stains, you pay all this money for stainless-steel products that look cool ... until they stain. I'm not talking five years down the road, I'm talking five months. And no, we don't use abrasive cleaners on them.
  • High-tech ice cube trays. For two bucks you can get Rubbermaid ice-cube trays where the ice pops right out or you can pay five times as much for high-tech trays that everything sticks to. Yes, we have an icemaker; we use the trays for cooking stock, fresh fruit juice, and the occasional jello-shots.
  • Heating vents. We have these beautiful oil-rubbed bronze heating vents on our hardwood floors. They have these complex mechanisms for opening and closing the louvers. They don't work. They're always stuck. They've been that way since day one. No, they're not painted. Just a dumb design, I guess.
  • Kink Free garden hoses. I've tried all-kinds of brands. They all kink. What's that all about?
  • Pool algaecides. Okay, this one's more of a scam for lazy people than anything. I've maintained my own pool for ages and the only way to keep algae away is to properly maintain the equipment, water chemistry, conditioner and phosphate levels, brushing, and most importantly, chlorine levels. In my experience, pool algaecide products are either unnecessary or don't work.
First, what do you think is going on here? Is it incompetent product management, planned obsolescence, or just me? I'd love to hear from a real-live consumer product manager. Second, here's a chance to get some frustration off your chest by sharing your most annoying dumb product that doesn't work right.

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