Getting a handle on product measurements

16Sep10

A few months ago, I decided it was time to replace the carry-on bag that I had been using for more than a decade. The old bag served its purpose well and was still in reasonable shape, but I really wanted something more compact, with better wheels and more pockets for storing smaller items.

So, I went online, read some reviews, and compared the measurements of several rolling carry-on bags. I found one that seemed to be a great match, placed the order, and waited patiently for it to arrive. When I opened the box, though, I was rather disappointed. The new bag was actually quite a bit larger than the old one that I was replacing.

I went back to the website to see if perhaps I read the measurements wrong, and discovered the problem. The product dimensions listed on the website did not include the handles, which added 2-4″ to the length and width. Since the handles were fixed in place and couldn’t be folded down or removed, the bag was actually considerably bulkier than the product description suggested.

Though I wasn’t expecting a refund, I contacted the retailer to explain the problem. They agreed that the product measurements on their website were very misleading, and took the bag back for a full refund. This experience made me think about how manufacturers and retailers can better describe the dimensions of products that have a handle, stand or other attachment. For instance, they should:

– Provide one set of measurements that includes the handles, stands, and other attachments, and another set of measurements that excludes these items.

– Specify whether the attachments can be folded down, removed, or otherwise modified to reduce the footprint.

– Make sure to use the right set of dimensions when determining compliance with third-party size guidelines. For example, if the bag has a bunch of bulky handles that are fixed in place, and the size of those handles puts the bag outside of airline size requirements, then don’t claim it’s suitable for carry-on usage.

This may seem like a lot of work, especially for companies that are accustomed to only providing one set of measurements for each product. However, providing the extra information that people need to make the right purchase decision is good for revenues and customer satisfaction. Buyers will be more confident that they’re choosing the right product, which should improve conversion rates, and they’ll be far less likely to return the product because it’s not the size they were expecting.



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