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Only one marketing technique really drives sales for Sam’s Club and Costco: the fact that bulk saves. It’s a simple concept people in the bomb shelter business knew throughout the Cold War. The cheapest way to stockpile canned hot dogs is by buying a lot of them at once; even the less fearful without a bunker in their backyard knew this, but it took effort to convince them that massive quantities are a smart way to live. For mothers who go through three boxes of cereal a week, a Costco membership just makes sense. For most Americans, amassing bulk goods doesn’t save a lot of money. It just takes up space, unless you’re buying concentrated cleaning products. Using the same concept as purchasing 48 rolls of paper towels, the inherent bulk nature of concentrated cleaning products doesn’t just save money: it saves space (and the earth) too.

The rationale behind standard liquid detergents has never made much sense. A washing machine already uses many gallons of water, so any wash cycle will dilute the detergent and diffuse it evenly throughout the load. To dilute it before packaging only forces people to buy more frequently. It was a sales strategy that failed as soon as people started seeing through the veneer. Buying concentrated cleaning products ensured a detergent would last for many more loads, which meant less trips to the store and less money spent. The use of the wash cycle’s water is a more environmental method of diluting detergent, but it’s an economical method too.

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