As I complete my 59th lap around the sun, I have accumulated quite a few pet peeves, one of which was on display that other day as I accompanied Nick on his dog walk.  Three times he had to stoop over and dutifully collect the stink pickle, and then pocket it for the rest of the walk.  I was very grateful that I was not in charge of the stoop and scoop (as I will be next week when Nick is out of town), but then realized that I was grateful that dogs don’t routinely need a wipe – after all we cheerfully let them wander around the house and sit on the furniture.  Another one of my pet peeves is dogs with upright tails and exposed assholes, but these two pet peeves may cancel each other out.  Without the dog’s anatomy, as objectionable as it might be, toilet paper might also be a part of the dog walk.

These pleasant thoughts led me to ruminate on why humans are the one animal that routinely requires some sort of post evacuation hygiene.  Dogs of course can lick, but let’s not dwell on that.  Even apart from our obsession about cleanliness and germs, it is just a basic human fact of life.  The explanation seems to be anatomical.  We are the only mammal that is truly bipedal.  Even our simian cousins, the great apes, can only stand up briefly and a visit to the zoo reveals that while they may have the ass for squatting, they just don’t have the ass for standing proud and tall. Our upright posture was followed by the development of our enormous glutes (i.e. heinies, biscuits, bedonkadonks) that gave us the ability (well not me in particular) for endurance running and hunting.  The successful hunt then provided improved protein-rich carnivorous meals.   

Once we went bipedal, the blow hole rotated from a visible low maintenance location to the deep dark recesses of our intergluteal cleft where the sun just can’t shine.  Our hands were free for multi-tasking and using tools, and our well-fed brains followed suit to create the beautiful synergy that became the reasoning, imaginative and emotional human mind.  Man stood up, went hunting, opposed his thumbs, then looked around and said, “Please pass the TP.”  All in all not a bad trade off.   

Some cultures may use water, but we Americans are fully wedded to toilet paper, contributing to a thriving paper products industry.  Americans use about 50 pounds per year, which, oddly enough, is up 13 more pounds compared to 20 years ago.  Most of the bun wad is made from 100% virgin fiber, which has irritated and frustrated environmentalists, who point out the folly of cutting down virgin forests for a disposable product.  Recycled toilet paper, i.e. deinked paper products, is a more logical choice, and is routinely used in institutional settings (i.e. at the ballpark, gas station, etc).  However, home-use toilet paper is still primarily 100% virgin fiber.  When presented with a choice, most Americans have focused on the more obvious interpretation of recycled toilet paper and have not warmed up to the idea.  Furthermore, virgin TP is one of the most heavily marketed tissue products and not surprisingly has the highest profit margins. 

The marketing challenge is to simultaneously convey the contradictory messages of strength and softness.  To me, strength brings to mind something like Kevlar or burlap, resulting in splinters or rope burn, respectively, but softness brings to mind a delicate rippable material.  Lite beer faced a similar dilemma of the contradiction between taste and calories, and their successful campaign featured beer swillers yelling, “Tastes Great – Less Filling!”   “Softly Plush – Shreds Less!”  

 I recently saw an ad for “Quilted Northern Soft and Strong” which plays both angles, and tries to get away from the cute soft imagery of soft babies, puppies and teddy bears.   The woman says:

“It’s time to speak frankly about a something nobody wants to talk about.  It’s not just about – you know – it also has to keep your hands clean.  It has to have strength that I can count on and it’s still soft.  Quilted Northern: Protection for a confident clean.”  

This ad goes right for the jugular about American’s cleanliness fetish, but I have got to say that shredding and clean hands are probably more of an operator error than any fault of the TP.   

Nick keeps our household stocked in toilet paper on Costco runs to get bulk purchases of paper products and he comes back with whatever is on sale, or whatever has a coupon.  The strength/softness dichotomy is of no interest to him, maybe because he only uses half as much paper as I do.  Our current stock happens to be Charmin Ultra Soft; the packaging acknowledges the budget minded by saying “Using less never felt so good!”  The Charmin campaign appears to rely on PR from a nationwide contest called “Enjoy the Go – Everyone deserves an enjoyable bathroom experience!”  For a $50,000 prize, contestants must answer trivia questions about bathrooms, followed by a contest of stacking toilet paper and then tossing the rolls into a toilet.  The final event is a TP mummy contest.  The winner is anointed “Queen of the Throne” and decked out in a crown, faux sable cape and jeweled scepter.  I wish I had known about the contest.  I would have nailed it and put it on my resumé. 

I also noticed that the Quilted Northern ad offered a money back guarantee, and I thought I would take them up on the offer.  All I needed was to buy the product, and send them the cash register receipt and the UPC code from the package.   I also had to send them a little essay on why I did not like the product.  Hmm … this might be a little tricky.  Although I will admit to occasional, but judicious, dissembling and exaggeration, I consider myself an honest person.  However, to claim my refund, I would have to out and out lie.   I really don’t care about toilet paper, and have never had any concerns about shredding, absorbency, scent, softness, plushness and any other selling point they can up with.  In a good faith gesture, I went out to buy Whole Foods 100% recycled toilet paper for a comparison.  Both are unscented and weigh about 4 ounces, but the Quilted brand appears bigger.  However, it actually has fewer sheets – 242 sheets compared to 336 sheets for the recycled brand.  The larger size is probably related to air fluff to make the roll look bigger and feel softer – i.e. the basis of the old add for “squeezably soft” Charmin.  Both have a quilted pattern of hearts on the roll, but I must say that the Quilted Northern brand does feel a bit softer.

So what can I come up with to claim my refund?  I decide to lie, since I feel that Quilted Northern is not being totally straight up with me.  Although the TV ad says there is a money back guarantee, it is not on the product itself and you have to go to the website to find the details on the refund.  Furthermore, you have to wait 6 to 8 weeks to get the refund, which seems like a ridiculously long time to pop $5.99 in the mail.  I am sure that Quilted Northern figured that only a few refund requests would trickle in, and their money back guarantee is really only an empty offer.  So here is my letter:

The missing words in the following poem contain two sets of anagrams (like spot, stop, post), one indicated with *** the other with —.  The number of dashes/asterisks indicates the number of letters in the words.  One member of each set of anagrams will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

To:  Quilted Northern

 From:  Liza Blue 

Re:  Refund Request for Quilted Northern: Soft and Strong

 Date:  February 22, 2011

 I went to the store to get some tissue for my ****

 There were lots of choices but I liked the Quilted ones.

 Your TV —- says that your product —- all other brands

 Keeps you clean and also protects your hands.

 It’s 50% stronger to —- any rips,

 And plush and soft to absorb the drips.

 So I decided to **** the others and chose Soft and Strong

 But when I got home everything went terribly wrong.

 My fingers were exposed to the **** as the TP wilted

 What gives – isn’t strength was the whole point of being quilted.

 So I think that your ad is full of meaningless marketing fluff

 And I will be one of the few who —- to call your bluff

 My reason is that you fell flat on your 50% stronger boast

 And in 6 weeks I will expect my refund by return —-.










  Answers: buns, spot, tops, stop, snub, nubs, opts, post

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