Toilet Paper Math

I’m always confused by the array of claims on the packages as I walk down the toilet paper aisle, with enticements that I can really get a great deal if I only buy so and so’s product. “18 of these rolls = 82 smaller rolls” announces one Charmin package, while the next Charmin package claims “24 = 108”, and yet another insists that “12 = 48”. Cottonelle, on the other hand, goes for broke claiming that 12 Family Mega rolls = 128 regular rolls.

I just can’t get the math to work. I have taken enough statistics classes to know how to lie with numbers, but I just can’t figure out how the companies arrive at these claims. I wonder if they used another product quality as an enticement? “This package will fit under your bathroom sink and leave enough room for the iron and boxes of tissues and cleaning products” or “These rolls will fit in your toilet paper dispenser without getting stuck because they aren’t too big in diameter.” Now, those are claims that resonate!

What advertising gimmicks are you susceptible to? How good are you at doing math in your head? What are your favorite or least favorite ads or commercials?

32 thoughts on “Toilet Paper Math”

  1. You keep an iron under your bathroom sink? Or would that be iron ingots or ferrous sulfate tablets?

    Since all our television is streamed, we don’t see many of the usual ads. What I’ve noticed lately, of the ads we do see, is that at the end of the ad I have no idea what the product is or why I should want it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. If I’m “hungry”, really yummy looking food has enticed me to try a product like pizza. Like Bill, we do mostly streaming – the only ads I see are from CBS Sunday Morning, and there’s always one ad that they play seems like a dozen times in the space of 90 minutes. Even if I wanted to buy it, I wouldn’t…

    I can do some math in my head, but not long division.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m pretty good at doing math in my head, but the constant changing of the size of products annoys the hell out of me. 😦 When in doubt, I always look at the comparative measure like cost per ounce or per pound or per cup/qt/gallon.

    TP and paper towels are particularly annoying because the real key is the total square footage of the paper you buy. Related to that is both the use of larger cardboard tubes to make the rolls seem bigger than they are along with narrower paper on the tube and or thinner/flimsier sheets and fewer plies.

    Sure, a one-ply TP roll can easily give you more SF and a seemingly bigger roll, but if you need twice as much paper to do the job, where are the savings? Probably non-existent.

    I don’t believe I’m susceptible to most ads because I’m anti- buying stuff just because someone tells me to buy it a hundred times a day. For that reason, I try not to watch much TV. When I do, I zone out during the ads as much as possible.

    My all-time favorite ads were of the E-Trade baby about 10-15 years ago. They made a few new ones this past year which are good but didn’t hold a candle to the first batch. And they never influenced me because I was an E-Trade customer long before those ads hit the airwaves.

    One ad that really bugs me is the Limu Emu ads for Liberty Mutual Insurance. UGH.

    My wife often gets all upset with ads because they aren’t “realistic” and “Nobody would do/say THAT!”, and “How stupid is that?” I tell her the goal of the ad isn’t to entertain you or convince you to buy the product, it’s to cement the product in your subconscious for the future when you may be in the market for that product. It’s all about brainwashing, folks. Marshall McLuhan nailed back in the 60s when he said, “The medium is the message.”

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

      I am good at simple math in my head, especially estimates. When Lou and I first lived together and began sharing expenses he would go through all kinds of math figures to obtain a precise amount to split TO THE PENNY. I would look at it and say, “ that looks like a 57/43% to me. He would go through all the agony of what he did and it would come out to—57/43%.

      Regarding advertising, TV ads are now contained with streaming, then further limited by my disinterest during the summertime. But the pop up ads on the computer are so intrusive. I am going to try an app that limits some of this to determine if that works even better than the private browsing window, AKA porn window, of last week’s discussion. All of them irritate me.

      OT, I passed my one month exam Friday, but I still have travel restrictions for 2 more weeks, and I cannot bend forwards past 90º until August 2 for fear of dislocating the new hip joint ball. Man, is that ever inconvenient! Lou planted most of my garden, but he is not a great weeder, so the garden is scruffier than Ilike it. Today I am going to one of my community garden volunteer gigs. They have raised beds that I can assist with. Freedom!

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Why is insurance advertising now in the hands of such obvious shucksters? Why would I buy insurance on the basis of how stupid and annoying their ads are? Dear Flo, go to hall!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Can’t stand the emu or the gecko, but we enjoy Dr. Rick (counseling young homeowners turning into their parents) and Mayhem (personifying various things that cause accidents or damage, like a raccoon, a windstorm, or a distracting bag of fries).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, here’s the sad thing for the ad folks,. I know who Dr. Rick is and I think the commercials are a little humorous, but sitting here right now I’m not 100% sure which insurance company he represents.


    3. I’m with you Chris – if it weren’t for the mute feature on the remote, I’m sure the Limu Emu ads would have certainly led me to tv destruction. I didn’t even like the Liberty Mutual adds BEFORE that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There doesn’t have to be any math, or any truth, behind those numbers (or behind the claim of “NEW” on a label). Neither does there have to be any “economy” behind the “economy” size.

    Sadly, neither does there have to be any grace behind the names of many churches, and I say that as a member of the clergy.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. As a former member of the clergy I agree about church names and advertising. When I traveled in the south I used to collect church names, where names like four-square appear more often.
      As a former educator, I am horrified by college advertising. And these days anyone can be a college and make big claims.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. As a former church member, I cannot agree more. There is behavior in churches that is reprehensible. We have a number of family members who are Evangelicals. The shaming, judgemental behavior demonstrated by those folks is really hard to tolerate. Years ago our children refused to associate with the loudest of the homophobes any more saying, “You taught us not to be that way.” Interestingly enough, the loudmouths are the ones with a gay daughter.

      I have given up on trying to be a part of a church, not due to lack of belief or faith, but rather because of the behavior demonstrated by some of these people. It is so sad. I had a wonderful experience as a child who felt loved and accepted as part of a church.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I am very good at mental math, as it is now called in math curricula. My mind often just jumps to a good estimate without me going through it step by step. Yes, about confusion of real price of tp.
    Since Sandra went into care I have saved hundreds of dollars on paper products. She went through paper towels at an alarming rate, getting worse in the last few years. I have used less than two rolls since last August. The nursing home provides the tp and they won’t let her have the roll. They hand her tp when she is done. Since we had a good supply here when she went into care, I have not bought any in 10 months.
    Three things that should be much more prominent on packaging: weight, sell by date, and if it is other than the normal expected product. Of course, I could pay more attention.
    Not quite OT: just had physical and I lost 40 lbs in last year.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Complicated answer. Lost 15 lbs in two months when Sandy first got difficult at home and I was eating the same as before, not a heathy diet because she had to avoid so many foods. Since then been eating healthy because I cook for only me. When I told two GI doctors about the 15 pounds, and they were treating me for related issues, they both said congratulations. And I lost 40 lbs and could easily stand to lose another 10-15 but I am not on a weight loss diet as such. All my related numbers dropped in accordance. My pulse went back to 60 where it has been my life until I quit biking. But I am doing fairly rigorous PT. S
        I eat no prepared foods so packaging information other than price per unit has no meaning to me.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Does anyone else remember when TP manufacturers reduced the width of the roll? I actually have a TP tube from before (saved for craft projects because it was white), which is 4.5 inches, contrasted with the current 4.0 inches. This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts – people won’t notice, so we can sell you less for the same amount of $. I remember when tuna cans went from 6.5 oz. to the current 5.0 oz. There are countless other examples. Grrrrr….


  7. I used to drink Code Red Mt Dew. It was 24 oz bottles I think and it would last me two days. Then it went to smaller bottles and I hated that so much I quit drinking it. Just for spite.
    (Lightboard rule #1: NO OPEN CONTAINERS OF LIQUID NEAR THE LIGHT BOARD! Hence, a bottle, with a cap)

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I make an effort to not be too curmudgeonly or critical about stuff in general, but it’s a struggle sometimes. That TV ad with a long legged, young black woman, jerking around (dancing?) in a white pantsuit with a phone in her hand, really bugs me. Her movements look like something out of the Ministry of Silly Walks, but are not amusing, and I fail to see what they have to do with whatever it is she’s supposed to be promoting, a bank I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You might say this is stating the obvious, but most ads, with the exception of geriatric products, are not aimed at you or me and are aimed at a culture of which we are not a part, at least in the minds of the creators of those ads. We scarcely exist.

      It has been several decades since I was in the advertising business but there are some aspects of it that I doubt have changed. It is populated, primarily by 20- to 40-year-olds who consider themselves clever, and some of them are but few have had a full complement of life experiences. In general, they create ads for themselves and their peers. Actual television production involves a lot of money, sometimes exotic locations and dinners at expensive restaurants. If you can convince a client to foot the bill for all that and also produce an ad that gets attention, mostly from your friends and counterparts in your insular world, why wouldn’t you? It’s amusing and sometimes exciting work and it’s not that easy to prove the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a given ad.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Pretty much all of the insurance ads (Liberty Mutual, Progressive, State Farm, Mayhem) irritate me to no end. I don’t watch much commercial TV in the first place and when I do, 90% of the ads drive me crazy. Virtually none of the ads cause me to go out and buy whatever they are selling. I also get very irritated with internet ads that pop up whenever I order something (which is not too frequently) or even browse a site.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’m good at “approximate math”. If you pin me down to decimals, then forget it.

    I’ve been the president of the “if you see it in an ad, it’s a lie” fan club for so long that ads don’t do much for me anymore. And as I mentioned above, the remote and the mute button are never far from my hand when I do have the tv on.

    I will however admit to still being drawn to seasonal variations of products (products I already buy). You know, the holiday colors candies or cookies. At Solstice, it gets a little silly – all the little bowls YA and I have out and about filled with various holiday sweets in those pretty holiday colors!

    YA and I are still getting our tp by the case (unbleached, double sheets, but not too thick). By getting so many rolls at once, I only have to be cheesed off about the price every 9-10 months.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. tp
    i just buy costco mega 30 pack period
    no reading
    paper towels my wife wants them
    i use cloth
    she goes through a 12 pack of towels a couple times a year
    we were just in chicago moving emma to her new apartment and debbie like to play mom and bring pop toilet paper paper towels and frozen fake meat in mass quantities each time we go
    this time emma said no to 12 rolls of paper towels she has no storage and they don’t make good architectural accents

    Liked by 3 people

  12. oldest son devin had a brain as a young kid that needed to be directed or he’d drive you nuts
    we went to yellowstone and driving around he sat with his sports statistics book and memorized all the data
    i would have to cry out “stat break”….. no more stats until the clock says 3:35 and at 3:34 he be loaded with more stats to tell us about
    i used to have him quiet down by counting backwards from 100 br 3 or 7 or 13
    divide 472 by 14 and stuff like that
    we both got better at mental math

    Liked by 3 people

  13. The math I do in my head is pretty much limited to figuring out what an appropriate, generous tip should be. I rarely buy products based on whether or not they are cheaper than a comparable product; to my mind price is a factor, but not necessarily the most important one. At this stage of the game, I’m not likely to fall for some advertising gimmick.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Have you ever heard of the shrink fl? Toilet paper rolls are being reduced by one half inch of its width. And then a TP manufacturer cut off a half inch times 1 billion rolls that’s a lot of money they say plus we pay the same price for a smaller rules.

    C. R. Ayers


    Liked by 3 people

  15. It’s not enough for a company to make a consistent, reasonable profit. They have to continuously increase their profit margin. Just increasing the price for the same product can be counterproductive, so they seek other ways to get more money for the same amount of product in various nefarious ways. Some products they dilute with water. Some they reduce the size of the package. Sometimes they are subtler.

    I remember hearing about a manufacturer of liquid laundry detergent. It didn’t have many options for increasing the profit margin except by raising the price, which competition made impracticable. One of the marketing managers had the idea of increasing the size, subtly, of the measuring cup cap. It meant that the bottle would empty more quickly and incrementally it increased the profits.

    Liked by 3 people

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