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New and, uh, improved?! March 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. We try to keep our posts here at Poor Richard’s Almanac out of the bathroom. But really. I was just installing a new roll of toilet paper when I noticed that it now had a flower design imprinted in the paper. Designs on toilet-paper rolls aren’t, I admit, my first consideration when buying toilet paper. In fact, when I picked up this particular package, I was just thrilled to find that my favorite brand was on sale at the exact moment we needed it.

But seeing the discreet floral motif made me stop and consider the implications. First, a new design would give the company the opportunity to market the tp as “new and improved,” and as we all know, these are consumers’ favorite words after “free” and, possibly, “for a limited time only!” And then it hit me: Someone was being paid a salary to create flower-punch patterns to put on toilet paper, and that salary was being passed along to me, the consumer, even though I’d been perfectly happy with the old toilet paper (and the endless versions before that, going all the way back to my childhood when it was called White Cloud and had no punched patterns of any kind, but came in many colors and was delightfully scented).

Two thoughts about this: First, in a recession, every job is precious, so I suppose I sholdn’t begrudge the job of the poor soul whose work it is to create designs on toilet paper. But really, I’d rather not pay for it. And second, I have no problem with actual product improvements. It’s change for the sake of change that I deplore. (I still remember some high muckety-muck at the corporation I once worked for saying “Change is good, especially when it is for the better.” Then and now, all I wanted to do was say, “No, moron, change is good only when it’s for the better. Change for its own sake is wasteful, superficial busyness. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”)

So, toilet-paper industry, here are some changes for the better that I, Silence Dogood, would like to suggest: Include a how-to brochure with every package of toilet paper that tells buyers how to use the cardboard tubes at the center of their toilet-paper rolls to make cutworm collars for their transplants or honeycomb planters for their seedlings, or note that they can be composted or used as firestarters. Recommend that people make an effort to use the minimum amount necessary, rather than flooding sewers and septic tanks with toilet paper because they just don’t think about it. Suggest interesting alternative uses for toilet paper rolls, such as one I saw just this morning on Emma’s Fluffius Muppetus blog (don’t ask me, I’ve been waiting for years now for her to explain that name), which was using toilet paper rolls to grow mushrooms from spawn.

Readers, please feel free to add your own! And marketers, please: If we like your product, we’ll use it without the “new and improved” shtick. And if we don’t like it, how about making some real improvements? Thanks.

            ‘Til next time,




1. lzyjo - March 30, 2009

Those companies are so sneaky! Have you ever noticed how they put stuff on sale just at the down size the package, or something. I guess the original package downsizing with by a fifth of whiskey, but they do it all the time, from chocolate to ice cream, by sneakily down-sizing the package and keeping the price the same, or even increasing it, after the sale is over. Last year it was those 10 ten packs of “fun size” chocolates that was downsized to 8.

Sigh. Anything for a buck, lzyjo, especially when we’re paying for it!

2. Jen - March 31, 2009

For the longest time, the Wheatbles crackers had “NOW MORE SNACKABLE!” on the front of the box. Used to crack me up every time I saw it. What wasn’t snackable about the previous Wheatables, I wonder? I heard that Ben & Jerrys is decreasing the size of their pint. Now that’s definitely less snackable.

Mercy, Jen! How can you decrease the size of a pint?! As though their actual pints didn’t cost enough to put them in the “occasional luxury” class already. Ouch!!!

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