We've read about them, heard about them and even bought products we wish we'd never purchased or had heard the skinny on before we plunked down our money. Why? Because they turned out to be flops or among the Biggest Flops of 2013.
What exactly is a flop? "They're losers not winners," says Perry Reynolds, vice president of global trade development at the International Housewares Association.
Simply put, a flop is a product that doesn't do what the manufacturer said it would do. It disappoints. It doesn't meet our expectations. Even worse, it doesn't work well or at all. Or, there are already products on the market that work better or faster.
There are many ways a product can flop. Among them are insufficient research, price, functionality and competition from a brand that is so deeply embedded in the consumer's unconscious that it's hard to compete with it. "The industry has a similar product already," says Christie Susko, adjunct professor of marketing at George Washington University. Or, an existing product "has a very loyal customer base," she says.
Here are a few of the Biggest Flops of 2013, some based on consumer research and others based on category analysis.
Lexus IS250: Consumer Reports has been reviewing cars since 1936, and the Lexus IS250 landed on Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine's The Loser List for 2013 in its January 2014 issue. "It costs $36,000, and there's nothing special about it," says Eric Evarts, senior associate automotive writer at Consumer Reports. "It's not fun to drive, it's not fast, and there are a lot of cars for the price that do better." In fact, the Lexus IS250 (not to be confused with other Lexus models) scored 52 out of 100 points in the luxury car category. "There are not many cars that score below a 60," Evarts says.
Nabisco's Watermelon Oreo cookie: The biggest product flop in the food sector was the Watermelon Oreo, which debuted on June 10, and was only available nationwide for a limited time, says Hester Jeon, an industry analyst with IBISWorld, a Santa Monica-Calif.-based industry research company. In the complaint department: The cookie tasted "vaguely like watermelon" but left an unpleasant aftertaste, he says. In case you missed them, the Watermelon Oreos came with bright green-and-pink filling between two vanilla cookie wafers.
HTC First phone: Known as the Facebook phone, it was likely "dead on arrival" when AT&T dropped its price from $99 to 99 cents a month after it debuted this year, according to Roger Chen, executive editor of CNET, a tech media website that publishes reviews and news about consumer electronics. The Android skin that Facebook promised would put people first means that Facebook Home dominates the phone's user experience, Chen writes. There are shortcuts to get users to their favorite apps but it's a "jarring change" for which people were not ready. Even with the backing of Facebook, which funded an advertising campaign for it, no luck.
EarHero earphones: No doubt about it. This flopped, scoring 6 out of 100 overall by Consumer Reports. "Marketed as 'the world's safest earphones,' they're designed to let you hear sounds around you along with music or phone conversations," writes The Loser List by Consumer Reports. If you've already paid the $150 for your set, there may be time to return it. Otherwise, beware of the cacophony.
Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Interior paint: A paint makes it to ShopSmart's The Loser List when it doesn't easily hide the paint color underneath it, it doesn't resist stains and easily dulls, says Bob Markovich, home and yard editor at Consumer Reports. This paint scored just 60 out of a possible 100 points. Relative to others in its category, the Sherwin-Williams paint ranked fair, as the competition scored between 74 and 86 points. "It's pretty shabby," Markovich says.
WorkFit Exerpeutic 1030 Desk Treadmill: If you want to do two things at once – read email and walk on a treadmill – stop short of doing it on this treadmill at $750. Be warned: Safety first. The Exerpeutic lost points in a Consumer Reports assessment because the motor cover posed a tripping risk. Your feet might just hit the motor cover while you're walking, which is enough to say "no" to this option. Check out other choices to be safe.