I was standing in a near-catatonic state in the grocery store aisle the other day when the assistant manager lightly touched me on the elbow and asked if I was alright.
I was in the condiments aisle and had evidently been staring at the ketchup for hours, apparently scaring other shoppers. I was frozen by indecision, a victim of excessive and unnecessary variety.
It used to be if you wanted ketchup, you grabbed the cheapest bottle you could find and off you went.
Now, there are dozens of varieties, blends and flavors, and it’s like that in every aisle with every brand and every product.
The store's slogan is “Where shopping is made fun and easy.” But their motto should be “Where shopping has become a freaking nightmare.”
For example, let’s say you are looking to buy a tube of toothpaste. First, you have to battle upstream against a strong current of overwhelming options with a myriad of blends geared to extra whitening, mouthwash built-in, anti-plaque, sensitive gum, buckteeth, phantom tooth pain, and molar syndrome.
Crest even makes a sugar-flavored toothpaste now. It’s recommended by four out of five dentists who are starting a new practice and need the work.
It isn’t just in the supermarkets that brands are continually ever-expanding, encroaching on each other’s specialty claims.
I’ll disguise the names of the two famous coffee chains so you won’t be able to tell who I’m talking about: Dunk-Your-Fat-Laden-Pastry makes a Colombian Roast now to compete with Start-With-Big-Bucks. Start-With-Big-Bucks counters with a light Costa Rican blend to out-do Dunk-Your-Fat-Laden-Pastry. They might as well merge and call it Dunk-Your-Bucks.
But I digress.
Getting back to my weekly fun experiences at the supermarket, the other day my wife asked me to pick up some women’s deodorant called Secret, and there again I found myself staring into the abyss with mind-boggling choices of different scents and pH balances.
She asked me to get an invisible solid. Couldn’t find it, it was invisible. (Drum rim-shot)
Groundbreaking news: Secret has specific formulas geared to particular types of women. I saw one designed for 50-year-old Kansan divorcees starting their first aerobics class.
There’s another one specifically formulated for women who’ve just stopped dying their hair blond. It’s called Secret’s Out.
You also see cross-branding now.
This morning I tried some brand-new Heinz Deodorant. It actually works great, but it takes some getting used to.
It rolls on red so it looks like you’ve been involved in a drive-by shooting.
But that’s OK, as long as my shopping experience is fun and easy.