Monday, January 28, 2008

Lighthearted Diatribe on the Economics of Diapers and Tampons

It’s nearing the end of the month, and Thursday’s shopping trip was more about comparing prices than purchasing multiple items. I bought three gallons of milk, but needed to price shampoo and conditioners as Sam’s Club no longer carries their Member’s Mark line that I’ve come to depend on. I figured that as long as I was going to be at Sam’s Club and WalMart I might as well compare prices on the two items that I’ve been thinking about on and off for over a year – disposable diapers and tampons.

It all started when my hormones when wacko. I ended up having a light “monthly” flow that went non-stop for about 6 months straight. Needless to say, I was fed up with needing to use tampons. Fed up with paying a small fortune for them, but unwilling to consider the alternatives. The last time I’d spent so much money on paper products was when my children were in diapers. Hmmmm. Diapers. I recall that when my kids were in the hey-day of diapers, a single one cost around $.06 each. (I’m roughly as old as the dinosaurs.) The tampons I was buying – the plain Jane ones in cardboard and paper wrappers – cost close to that, but I was unsure of the exact numbers.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of tampons costing as much as disposable diapers drove me nuts. Diapers incorporate high tech ingredients and coverings to deliver super techno absorbing abilities. They’re made up of:

Polyethylene Film: plastic used as back-sheet and to help stop liquids from leaking out of the diaper.

Hot Melts: used to glue the different components of the diaper, such as the pad and the elastics.

Hydrophobic Non-woven Polyethylene: used as a top sheet for the leg cuffs; it will not allow water to pass through.

Hydrophilic Non-woven Polyethylene: the main top sheet in contact with the baby skin, allowing the liquids to flow into the diaper core.

Elastic: used to improve the fit of the diaper and usually made of polyurethane foam, rubber or lycras.

Lateral Tapes: used to hold the diaper in place once it is on the baby; made of polypropylene and hot melt.

Frontal Tape: used to allow for multiple repositionings of the lateral tape without tearing the back-sheet; attached to the front of the diaper with adhesive; reduces the thickness of the poly film without the risk of potential tears associated with the lateral tapes.

Cellulose: Used for the construction of the pad. It aids in the integrity and absorbing capacity to the diaper. It comes from pine trees. Liquids are absorbed due to the capillaries in the void spaces between the fibers and the surface tension angle between the fiber and the water.

That sounds like a lot of science to me. Compare that to what it says on my Tampax box under ingredients:

cotton and/or rayon fiber, rayon and/or polyester overwrap, cotton cord, and cotton and/or cotton/polyester thread.

Doesn’t sound very complicated to me, and certainly not equivalent in cost to the process that produces disposable diapers.

And now for the results of my pricing research. To simplify things I’ll just stick with the prices at WalMart, mostly because that’s where I found the cheapest price on tampons, and everyone can shop at WalMart – no membership required. The cheapest plain Jane tampon was the Equate brand at .10 each. Tampax tampons cost $.14 each for any size absorbency.

The least expensive diapers at WalMart are the White Cloud brand. A stage one diaper (closest in size to a tampon) costs $.14 each – the same as a Tampax brand tampon. (I was right!)

Of course prices go up from there. Tampax Pearl and Playtex Gentle Glides with plastic applicators were the most expensive tampons -- $.20 each. Pampers were the most expensive disposable diapers -- $.24 each for a stage 2. Huggies’s stage 3 diapers in a large box (just think how large a stage three diaper is) cost $.21 each – or the same as a high end tampon. Can you believe it?

Despite the anger that wells within me each time I think of tampon manufactures making their fortunes at the expense of menstruating women, I’ve had a great laugh over my economic research. Mostly because my hubby is a cutie.

Hubby had a Utah Beekeepers Association meeting on Thursday at a local restaurant. Our neighbors have a few beehives and were in attendance. When Nancy asked Hubby what I’d been up to lately, Hubby told her about my research project pricing diapers and tampons. Just thinking about my mild-mannered husband having a conversation with our neighbors about the injustices of diaper and tampon pricing makes me laugh until I snort.

My pricing expose my not make a dent in the pricing of tampons, but it did accomplish something. It got at least two men (Ron and Hubby) talking about diapers and tampons. Now that’s a miracle!

2 comments:

Doreen said...

Have you ever heard of this?
You should look into it and see if it's something you could/would use. I got one a few years back, and it's been so convenient! Of course, I've also been taking numerous breaks, what with having babies and breastfeeding, but let me tell you, it's well worth the initial investment. :p

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