Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thermos FUNtainer Update: Some Newer Straw Bottles Have Breakage Problems

When we first met the FUNTainer straw bottle (March 2007), it was love at first sight. The durable straw bottles we bought two years ago are still in good condition (despite being dinged and scratched from heavy toddler use and periodic drops onto a variety of surfaces).

This summer, a new generation of FUNtainer emerged. We liked the new version's improved drink top, but had some reservations about the lid's new materials. The new straw bottle lid lacks the durability of the earlier straw bottle. After seeing the easy breakage of the new version, we no longer recommend this version of the FUNtainer straw bottle.

Spotting the New Bottles
The newer versions of the bottle (right, Hello Kitty) have an oval push button on the lid. They also lack the #5 plastic recycling symbol inside the lid's flip-top. The new lids are unmarked for recycling (and are presumably no longer polypropolene).

Another distinguishing feature is the under the lid upper straw assembly. Again, the pink Hello Kitty FUNtainer demonstrates the shape of the new version.

The upper straw is connected to a large flexible disk that fits under the lid. The plastic snap-top lid has an oval opening to accomodate the new straw straw assembly.

The old straw bottle versions, which I still love, have a 3 part straw assembly with one short straw above the lid and two below. The Foogo has a similar assembly as the new FUNtainer, but we haven't seen or heard about atypical breakage in the Foogos (which, to my limited knowlege, seem to still be produced in polypropylene, aka #5 plastic).
Our Concerns
The redesigned lids and their corresponding straw cup bottoms are, in our limited experience and opinion, breaking easily and soon after purchase.

Kids' stuff breaks, and kids put their stuff through extraordinary use, so we don't worry about limited breakage. Breakage from ordinary use, however draws our attention, and when it seems to be happening frequently, I start to worry.

Frequency of Breakage
In June 2008, I photographed the Hello Kitty FUNtainer. I had purchased it at Target primarily to write a comparison review. After the review photos, I set it on the counter to be handwashed (I handwash all our Thermoses even though some FUNtainers are reportedly dishwasher safe). It was washed and air-dried. The next day, my mom, Ranger, and I headed to the zoo, so I filled up three FUNtainers with ice water. When I went to screw on the lid, I heard a click sound and the flip-top broke off in my hand. As I'm rather incompetant at opening jars and bottles, I don't think I have atypical hand strength.

I shrugged it off and called Thermos for a replacement. They sent one at their expense, so I wrote a review and gave it little thought. The replacement lid later broke at the hands of a visiting 18 month old. (2 broken lids).

A friend owned one of the new FUNtainers (hers is the Hello Kitty pictured to the right). Her under 2 year old daughter broke their first lid. A free replacement was issued. The bottle was dropped on their wooden (above a crawl-space) kitchen floor and the bottle bottom shattered and broke free. (1 broken lid + 1 broken bottle)

My friend Karen bought 8 of the new FUNtainers because she knew how much I use and like my older ones. Of her 8 FUNtainers, only two lids and two bottles remain functional) though not necessarily matched sets. Karen called Thermos when her first lid broke after 2 weeks of use. She told the representative that the bottle was dropped on carpeted floor, so she was charged $5 plus shipping and handling for a replacement lid. One of her bottles (which were designated as dishwasher-friendly), had the bottom pop off in the dishwasher filling her dishwasher with a strong epoxy-like smell. (7 broken lids + 6 broken bottles)

Local damage totals: 10 broken lids + 7 broken bottles (for 10 bottles purchased + 2 free replacement lids + 1 purchased replacement lid). Many bottles were broken during typical use.

Type of breakage
Other than my first lid's break when the upper part of the flip top broke off intact, all the other local lid breakages seem to include the loss of a hinge leg. When the hinge legs break loose, they are a small (approximately nickle-sized) piece of irregularly shaped plastic with one rough edge. I do not have photos of any seperated hinges (as a parent's automatic response is to throw them away), but the remaining hinge leg suggests how large the plastic fragment could be.

When the bottom comes of the bottle, it reveals some gnarled looking welds. The weld that goes in a circular ring around the bottom looks gnarled, but actually isn't a treachorous as it appears. Despite serious second thoughts on the action, I eventually ran my hand around the ring and found that particular bottle's weld free of metal burrs, splinters, and sharp edges.

The center weld, however, has rather sharp edges where the metal appears to have been crimped or cut. The corners concern me.

When the bottom comes off, there are also globs of adhesive (which is probably what caused the strong smell in Karen's dishwasher). These can sometimes be peeled free of the bottle, an endeavor 3 year old Ranger would gladly undertake if I would give him access.

Whatever the new resin may be, it doesn't react to drops like the old polypropylene materials. A friend gave me a blue Foogo with a cracked bottom (after over a year's use) to compare with the new FUNtainer's breakage from a drop.

The older, marked #5 plastic (blue Foogo), cracks, but does not seem to shatter or break into multiple pieces. The new plastic broke into multiple pieces and had additional radial cracks appear from the location of impact.

Communication with Thermos

I was unsettled by the lid's easy breakage back in July, so on July 18 I emailed a Thermos executive directly in addition to calling Customer Service. In addition to explaining the cup's easy breakage, I made these layman's observations:
The lid design seems improved, but we immediately had problems with it that I suspect have to do with materials rather than structure. I noticed it's no longer labeled as #5 plastic. The texture and density of the plastic seem quite different than the also hot pink Barbie straw cup Funtainer we own.
This break renders the cup too unreliable to be very useful... There's something about this redesign that seems to be making it a lot less durable than the earlier Funtainer lids.
I keep seeing notations in different online forums about people having lid breakage, and I couldn't understand it with the old version of the lids (those marked #5). Our other Funtainer and Foogo cups have taken over a year's worth of toddler abuse and we've had no plastic breakage to date. They're easy to love and recommend. There's a lot of promise in this new design but the easy breakage is problematic.
I didn't hear anything back, but I was distracted with readying our lives for the Raptor baby, so I reissued my concerns (1/7/09). After assistance from a third party, on January 8th, I was emailed by the Thermos executive I previously emailed. He had heard nothing of this type of breakage in the new FUNtainer.

I sent him the details and photos of broken FUNtainers included in this review. He invited me to call him directly. I tried for almost a week, but never reached him or received a phone call.

Out of frustration, I emailed him again. He replied in a concerned manner and said that he had asked Thermos' research and development to investigate the matter. That email, dated January 14, was the last I heard from him. On February 1st, I asked him for an estimate on when he would expects more information, but (as of this posting) my email remains unanswered.

Update: 2/18/09- Thermos responds to Baby Toolkit.

What are your experiences with the FUNtainer?


Mimi-n-Moe's Mom said...

Unbelievable!!! Thank you so much for this undertaking. I tried to get my voice heard on this matter and it seemed like the company was not interested. I do not recommend any consumer buy these until this issue is resolved. In addition, I try to avoid companies that are not customer service oriented, so unless they make great efforts to repair the damage done, they won't be getting any more of our money. ~Karen

nina said...

Hi, I don't have a comment to make regarding the new FUNtainer; however I will be following the comments closely to see if others have had these breakage problems. I just wanted to mention that our Foogo has endured probably 2 dozen drops onto hardwood and is holding up so far. I had heard that the Foogo bases can break (as in the pic above!) & I cringe every time our toddler drops his, but so far so good... I hope Thermos improves their FUNtainer as we will probably be looking at this in a few years for school! Thanks for the heads-up.

indywriter said...

We have 4 funtainers: 2 of the old design and two of the new design. The base of one of the older models is cracked after hitting the driveway, but is still firmly attached. They new models are intact so far, but one of the "buttons" appears to have a stress line (you know, where the plastic turns white if it bends too much). I cannot fathom how it got there, as that is not a piece that bends or really moves.
I am a big fan of the new straw design (SG loves to hold the straw between her teeth and let the thermos dangle...), but the new lids feel softer. Our funtainers don't get frequent use this time of year, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on them in the future.

Bitts said...

I have not been happy with the Foogo because after about 6 weeks of use, our lid cracked as I screwed it back on. I was torqueing it pretty tightly because it always seemed to leak, which I thought was due to a loose lid. In addition, the top straw assembly would come apart/off when my toddler would hold it by her teeth and let the thermos part dangle. Also, the interior straw fell off the lid into the thermos almost every time we used it so it would leak out the exterior straw like a fountain any time it was at all inverted.

I was very disappointed with the quality & performance of the Foogo and won't be buying another one.

hollystar said...

interesting. we have been using the same half a dozen of the foogo straw bottles for almost two years now and, just to give you a little bit of a guideline to compare, we have had the same breakage on the bottom that you showed were it just cracks a bit but doesnt completely fall off. one of the lid hinges has broken, but i chalk that up to destructive toddler.

while i am very happy with the investment we made in the foogo, but i seriously would not support the FUNtainers. i hope, for thermos's sake they start listening to their customers a bit more.

punkinmama said...

I don't have experience with these (yet), but I think you should email the Thermos guy a link to this post, as well as to any other person at Thermos whose email you have.

They need to know to take this seriously. It's a bigger deal when customers actively tell others to not purchase a product (rather than just being unhappy themselves). If they know anything about customer satisfaction/loyalty, they will take some action to improve (or at least respond to customers in a more timely manner when they have concerns).

Keri Jackson said...

We have 2 of the new funtainers. My daughter uses one of them in her lunch box for school. I dont believe it has been dropped, and I hand wash it. Luckily I guess it hasn't broken yet. She isn't a very rough girl though...

lace said...

We have 2 of the older design FUNtainers (probably have had them for over a year) and they have been dropped numerous times. No cracks or damage besides paint starting to flake off from the design. We only hand wash.

No problems with the top straw coming off with use. The only problem we had with the straw was a severed in half one soon after purchasing. I'm still not sure if that was from it being bitten through by the 3 year old or was cut by the scalloped scissors I saw laying near her. My guess is that she cut it with the scissors.

The older FUNtainers are my first choice when I reach for a cup for the girls, even though they do leak when held upside down. But that's not much of a problem because we only allow water in them.

Heather said...

We love our Funtainers around here. We only have one of the new design, but it has been my favorite. Here I thought it was an improvement! I like that the lid closes more securely (we have problems with the older design lids popping off of their hinges and then not sitting quite "right" afterward) and that the new spout design is easier to clean thoroughly.
I ruined one of my old design Funtainers by putting it through the dishwasher, so ever since I have washed them by hand; perhaps that helps their longevity?

Naomi said...

We have the Hello Kitty shown and also bought an Incredible Hulk one at the same time. And both lids broke their hinges on the first use. It hadn't even occurred to me to ask for a replacement lid, maybe I should try to get one since the lids won't stay shut...

Anonymous said...

I too was very frustrated with the Foogo bottle bottom cap breaking so easy. These are for children, they drop the bottle all the time. However, I have a easy fix to this. When you buy the brand new container, find an old silicone wrist band, it fits perfect to the size of the foogo bottle. It works like a rubber cushion, so when the bottle is dropped, it protect the plastic underneath. If it is already broken, use some electrical tape to wrap the cap then put the silicone wrist band on top. At least you can use your bottle for a bit longer. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I have four funtainers. I bought all four of them between July 2008 and November 2008 and by January 2009 all four had broken lids. I have emailed Thermos and am waiting for a response. Thank you for being so committeed to consumer awareness. We live in Arizona and I needed something I could keep drinks cold in to send with my kids to school and these seemed great.

Mama said...

I'm going straw cup crazy! My 6 year old has the classic funtainer (very attached to the owl graphic), but she is a chewer and so I have had to order many replacement straws. Frustrating but not the fault of Thermos. I recently purchased 2 new funtainers for my younger sons (one is upgrading from the Foogo sippy, which I love) and within a week we have the broken top as one was dropped. I am contemplating ordering a replacement, but wondering if I am throwing good money after bad. I also have 2 old foogos that I am tired of the replacement assembly, I had considered ordering new funtainer lids and swapping so I could continue to use the stainless botttles. FYI I have 3 kids and they each have a Klean Kanteen for water every day, but I like to keep their milk in something insulated. Frustrated with thermos right now!

Crystal L said...

Just wanted to say thanks for this article. I actually have a newer model funtainer (camo print) and I got it at Target. I have to say that I really LOVED the bottle as it's one of the only ones I own that will keep my sons drink cold for a full days outing. It's fairly easy for him to use. I went online this evening to look for a replacement and found this article. I actually had ALL of the same stuff happen to my funtainer. The bottle piece came off and my husband had to gorilla glue it back on and the top hinge also separated so now I have to use it without a top (and unfortunately it drips out of the hinge now). I'm now considering looking for another brand. Anyone know anything that keeps drinks cold for a long time like the thermos and is easy for a 2 year old to open and is pretty much spill proof? Thanks!

Sandra said...

Hi and Thank you for the great work you all did on this product.. I will have to say I have a 10 yr old boy and 7 yr old girl and they both have 3 funtainer's each they use them for school and during the summer. We have had these for about 2 yrs now So far I have not had a breaking problem with these at all. I just went out the other day and bought the new kind of FUNtainers they seem to be working great. My son is real rough with them. So far nothing is wrong except for the occasional loss of the straw on the old one's and the paint peeling off from the Design on them. We have use them for hot and cold beverages. I have thrown them in the dishwasher top rack. I have stored them in the fridge with juice and ice in them, and they still are fine.. but I will be keeping an eye out for any new breakage on these new Funtainer's. I know a lot of my friends use these for there kids at school so I will pass the word to them to just keep an eye out for and breaking or cracking.. Thank You again for the great work on keeping us Moms informed about this product.

Julie said...

Wish I would have read this a day earlier. I just purchased two more of these cups and have one broken one in my cupboard. I, too, have been trying to deal with their customer service department and cannot believe that I have to pay for a replacement to a part that shouldn't have broken in the first place. Kind of disappointing.

Julie said...

Wish I would have read this a day earlier. I just purchased two more of these cups and have one broken one in my cupboard. I, too, have been trying to deal with their customer service department and cannot believe that I have to pay for a replacement to a part that shouldn't have broken in the first place. Kind of disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I have a 5 year old son who just started Kindergarten. In July we purchased I FUNtainer bottle from Target and loved it. I thought that it was very durable because he drops it all time on carpet, cement, tile, asphault and whatever kind of flooring is found in stores (vinyl?). Before school started they went clearance, so we stocked up and bought two more bottles and one food jar. So far we haven't had any problems. I don't know if this is because I don't put them in the dishwasher, or if I'm just lucky. I will let you know if I have any problems with them in the future.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for your post. Our Barbir FUNtainer's lid just broke tonight. I left it in our fridge (at a shelf 80 cm. from the ground) so it's ready for tomorrow morning's school. It fell off when my husband opened the fridge door. And the lid broke.. just like that. I live in Thailand and still don't know how I can get the spare part. It costs almost 30 USD when purchased as imported goods in Thailand. Just can't believe this could happen easily. You're right that kids' water bottle should be more durable that this.

Craig Boudreaux said...

My wife purchase 4 of these a couple of weeks ago and 2 have broken already from very short drops. I'm very upset that these are labeled as 'unbreakable' and 'for kids'. Thermos obviously does not understand kid's products. When I called to complain they offered replacement lids for a fee. Why would I buy something so poorly designed that I know will break again?

Mary said...

I also had the same experience!!! We bought a funtainer about 5 weeks ago and it is broken already. My daughter dropped it, but she is 5 years old. Come on now, it only fell about 3 feet at the most! When I contacted customer service they said they do not offer a warranty but I was welcome to purchase a replacement lid, plus shipping and handling of course. No way!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I bought two of these for my daughters for school and soccer use. One is Hello Kitty (different design than the one you show) and the other is High School Musical. So far we have one broken lid - the hinge part broke when my daughter accidentally dropped the bottle on our linoleum kitchen floor (not a soft surface exactly, but not exactly hard either - I drop things on it all the time without breakage). This was within only a few weeks of buying it. After spending $10+ (I bought it on clearance) for a water bottle I would expect it to last longer than that!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any e-mail addresses for the execs. It might help to have a lot of customers e-mail them directly. Maybe that would illicit some change.

Shannon said...

I have bought (and returned) several of these older funtainers as well. Almost as soon as we get them home, the kids seem to drop them (they are heavier than plastic) and they crack on the bottom almost immediately. I contacted Thermos Canada and they asked me to email photos and replaced one of my funtainers. One other one was returned to the store with a receipt for an exchange. Every single one of my 3 containers has a cracked base. Now I have the issue of my son pulling off the top straw and losing them around the house. I debated on purchasing the new lids with the new straws but after reading this article, I will not be giving Thermos any more money until they resolve this issue. I cannot believe that a company as big as this isn't concerned about their shoddy product. I have my own stainless steel thermos water bottle and it has a stainless steel bottom. They should do that with the funtainers as well. All this said, I love how these keep water cold ALL DAY! Even though they are cracked, at least they still work well. Thanks for all the info!

Anonymous said...

We too love the funtainer bottles, and purchased new ones for our girls for Christmas. Unfortunately the very next day my daughter had hers slip out of her hand, and the lid cracked right off--totally unusable. It was such a strange crack that I thought it might be a fault in the plastic. I found your site while searching to see if I could obtain replacement parts. I will give Thermos a call Monday.

Brooke said...

I called thermos and had an extremely rude lady talk to me very condescendingly as I tried to order a replacement straw. (lost, not broken). VERY disappointed in how I was treated.

Anonymous said...

Adrienne, thank you for all this information about Thermos funtainer. Do you still recommend the older model of funtainer?

adrienne said...

Anonymous 2/2/2010-

I do still recommend the old style ones. Ours have stood up to regular kid use for 3 years. I do not recommend washing them in the dishwasher.

Thermos has reworked the plastic yet again (mid 2009), and it may be back to the original form. I haven't had the time or motivation to purchase and field test the newest version. I cannot find an easy way to discern generation 2 from generation 3, so I'm flummoxed about reviewing the newest ones when buyers may not be able to tell the possible improved gen 3 from the problematic gen 2.

RaeRae said...

we have had the new version for almost 9 months maybe and the old version given to us after use by my younger sister. we have never had a problem with either one. We have a spiderman new version and my 20 mnth old son has thrown it in the street and out of his stroller when i am walkink and there are just scratcehes on the plastic no crakcs and hasnt broken i am hoping that may be they have fixed these problems since coming out with a new verson in 08 or we have just gotten very lucky. I love this product and so does my son although more expensive then a "sippy cup" very worth the money. Thank you for your research and making others aware.

Jen in Texas said...

I bought 2 of the new Funtainer beverage bottles (Camo Chick & Batman) through the Thermos website. We have owned them about 2 weeks and they both started leaking from the bottom already. I called Thermos this morning and they refunded me immediately and told me to just throw them away. They offered me a replacement cup but I told them no thanks since they would probably break too.
We have had 4 of the older style Funtainers and while the tops broke off and the bottoms came off, the actual cup/straw portion still works great.
I also feel like the new straw design is a choking hazard for those children who chew on things b/c they are so small.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the hard work you putinto this. We have had the Foogo straw bottles for a couple of years and we love them; however I can't seem to find new ones anywhere! Target is consistently sold out and since I have a bunch of replacement straws (kids chewed them) I'd like to be able to use them with a new bottle too. I have not tried any of the FUNtainers (although I was thinking about it) but I think I will be waiting instead to see if I can find the Foogos again. Very disappointing to read people's feedback about dealing with Thermos. If I didn't LOVE the insulation, I would buy a different brand! But here in Phoenix nothing else keeps my kids' drinks cold!

Umm Belaal said...

my son has had his blue soccer ball cup for over 2 years since he was 18 months and it has endured tons of drops and it never broke. i never put it in the dishwasher till recently when i found out it was okay.

i bought a newer design funtainer for my daughter last month and found that the new design, if you tighten the lid, the top straw piece turns out of place and leaks. if i pull the straw from the top, then it stays in place.

either way, i have found them to have GREAT customer service. a few months ago, i called them regarding my sons funtainer leaking, and they immeditely sent me two of the rubber rings as mine had gotten lost.

and i called them about my daughters leaking, and they sent me a new replacement lid.

i even have an adult sized version for myself.

i have no complaints, it is a bit pricey but totally worth it in the long run.

my sons school charges $20/month for milk, and it totally justified how much i paid for his funtainer as i can send milk from home for him and make up the cost in less than a month!

adrienne said...

Umm Belaal:

We also have a first version soccer Funtainer, and it's performing well in its 3rd year of use. I can't find another cup with insulation that rivals the Funtainer, so its what we use for milk.

My family's experience with 2nd generation has been more mixed. I have an adult Funtainer that hasn't had any breakage issues in the 8-12 months we've been using it. We use a couple 2nd generation lids (from friends' bottles that lost their bottoms) and we've had no performance problems with those lids. Our original Foogo straw cup has been trouble-free for years.

I do think dishwashing causes separation of the bottoms in generation 1 bottles (but that's just a casual theory). It seems like some of the first generation 2 lids were very prone to breakage, but more recent 2nd generation releases have had some correction.

The biggest problem is that we haven't found an easy way to distinguish the remaining brittle 2nd generation from the non-brittle ones.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. We have 8 of these containers. At $18.99 a piece that's a huge investment in something that breaks so easily. Replacement parts are not cheap since thermos charges a small fortune for shipping and does not make them available locally. We switched to Camelbaks.

Lyn said...

Was searching the internet for replacement straws for my son's Funtainer cup and came across your blog.
He likes chewing and biting down on the straw while running around so the straw is starting to bread. My son has the Mickey Mouse one that we've owned for a little less than a year and it's been thrown around the sidewalk, knocked over on all types of surfaces like marble and hardwood. It fell out of our van a good many times when I open the door. The plastic has held up great. We have had one incident where it leaked quite a bit during one of our trips but it hasn't happen since.
I'm hoping the replacement straws won't be too hard to acquire but I doubt it since I live overseas.