Some Generic Products I Have Regretted Buying Because They’re Terrible

Sometimes generic products are fine. But sometimes they’re truly awful.

Photo credit: kropekk_pl, CC BY 2.0.

Ever since I started spending my own money, I’ve preferred generic brands for their cheaper prices. The generics I purchase are often just as good as the name brand. But there were always certain types of products that I only bought name-brand because the quality mattered to me and I didn’t want to take a risk on a generic. These included skincare, razors, and my favorite body wash.

After college, I joined the real world and needed to save even more money—which meant my last bit of brand loyalty went out the window. I started trying the generic versions of things I had only bought name brands of before. Some of these switches went well. Some of them went horribly wrong. Take generic razors: not all of them are bad, but there’s one brand that definitely is.

Here’s a list of specific generic products I have regretted buying because they were horrible. The quality was really bad, they barely functioned, or they found surprising ways to ruin my life. Some of these purchases are from my youth, and some are post-college experiments in generics gone wrong.


Target up & up mouthwash

I took some Target mouthwash to sleepaway camp and learned that it really burns your mouth. (More than mouthwash is supposed to.) My cabinmates kept asking to borrow it, and I would say yes but explain the danger. They would brush it off and then come back saying “Why didn’t you warn me how much this burns?!”

Target up & up razors

I used to be loyal to Gillette Venus until I told myself I had to save money by buying generics. I never use the cap that comes with disposable razors, and I store my razor in the shower caddy that hangs under my shower head. The lotion bar on the Target razor basically melted and the goop dripped onto the caddy. I later found that if you store them out of the shower and with the cap on between uses, they don’t do that. But still: do better, Target.

Target up & up bandages

They didn’t stick well and fell off. It’s pretty important for Band-Aids to stick. Also, notice how I called them “Band-Aids” without even thinking about it? That’s the power of a quality brand.

Walgreens Studio 35 shave gel

It was supposed to come out as foam, but instead it came out as a stream of gloop. To get it to foam you have to stir it in the palm of your hand. I’ve never had a problem with other generic shave gel, though.

Key Food antibacterial wipes

These INJURED ME every time I tried to use them. The funnel that you pull the wipes through cracked and every time I tried to fish out a wipe, the funnel edge would scrape my hand. I finally figured out how to just take the whole cap off, but I still had to take the entire roll of wipes out just to get one.

Key Food olive oil

Noticeably less flavorful than regular olive oil. If I use it for cooking, it’s just as good as regular olive oil, but if I dip bread in it, it sucks. In my carefree youth, I probably would not have bought generic olive oil to save money. I actually love the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods store brand olive oil, so not all generic olive oil is bad.

Rite Aid Renewal apricot scrub

I recently decided to try a few generic versions of the St. Ives apricot scrub even though I really like St. Ives. (Gotta save that dollar.) With Rite Aid’s generic version, the exfoliants were smaller than the St. Ives version and it didn’t work as well. Other generic versions of this are fine! It’s just you, Rite Aid.

Generic tissues

I don’t remember the brand, but once in college I bought a generic box of tissues from an independent grocery store and they were very hard. It was unpleasant. Generic tissues are fine in general, though.

Generic cream cheese

I’m really loyal to Philadelphia cream cheese because it’s delicious and any generic version of it sucks.

Dollar store bobby pins

Bobby pins from Poundland, the dollar store of the U.K. The varnish flecked off, which can happen with name-brand bobby pins too, but this was some serious fleckage. Poundland is still a glorious wonderland, though.

99-cent store scrunchies

Scrunchies (the big ’90s kind) from a random independent 99-cent store. The thread holding the seams together unraveled almost immediately.

Dollar Tree pound cake

I bought some American Classic lemon pound cake from Dollar Tree that tasted pretty bad. American Classic seems like a knock-off version of America’s Choice, which is pretty bad because America’s Choice is already a knock-off brand.

So use what I have learned when buying generic products of your own! I will continue to buy generic products while I’m on this rollercoaster they call life, because it’s an easy way to save money. Although it’s unavoidable that you’ll sometimes buy a bad-quality generic product and waste your money, buying generic is still worth it—and so is knowing when you should invest in Band-Aids or Philadelphia cream cheese.


Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She writes for Slate and has written for The Hairpin, New York Magazine, Splitsider, Electric Literature, and more. She loves all things Tina Fey. Her first name rhymes with “rain or shine.” Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_. Her website is madelineraynor.wordpress.com.