January 2018

by Marshall Chapman

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

Have you ever gone shopping for a favorite item—something personal like underwear or toothpaste—only to discover it’d been discontinued? Or even worse, upgraded to “new and improved,” which usually means of inferior quality and more expensive?

I have been buying the same brand of toothpaste for as long as I can remember.

And always in the same medium-sized tube. The jumbo-sized tubes are too cumbersome. Plus, they seem to dry out before the toothpaste gets used up. Also, I prefer a flip-top cap rather than the ones that screw on. Toothpaste is personal. It’s one of those things we use two or three times a day, so it has to be just right.

Okay. So I’m in the Oral Care aisle at Walgreens, scanning the shelf where my toothpaste is usually stocked in its familiar little red and white box. But I can’t seem to find it, because all the boxes look too big. Finally, I open one of the big boxes only to discover a medium-sized tube rattling around inside. So I reluctantly purchased it. All the while thinking How weird!

Had toothpaste gone the way of tortilla chips? Remember when those cellophane bags contained 90% chips? Then one day, the top half of those bags was air, with only 50% chips. Supposedly “settled in transit.” Remember?

But back to toothpaste. As it turned out, the cost of the medium tube in the large box was indeed more than my old medium tube in the medium box. But even worse … after I got home, I noticed the tube felt different in my hand. It didn’t feel compact or solid like my old tube. It was like there was a pocket of air inside the tube containing yet another tube that held the toothpaste. A tube-within-a-tube, if you will.

This was really weird. So I compared the weight listed on the new tube with that of my old. Sure enough, the net weight of the new tube was lighter.

At this point, I’m laughing. I’d been had and I knew it. Strike one up for corporate America! Bigger packaging, less product, for a higher price. And with no “new and improved” warning. They just snuck it in.

Oh, well. At least the toothpaste tasted the same.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit www.tallgirl.com.

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