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Some Of The Itchy Little Things

“When once the itch…comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But f you have not a pen, then I suppose you must scratch anyway you can.” -Samuel Lover

So far, I’ve written about the Ontario Election, climate change, technology, politically correct language and stupidity. Those rank at the top of the list of things that make my skin itch but there are other things that make me want to scratch too. They just aren’t big enough to deserve an entire post of their own. (maybe they’ll get their own post when they grow up)

For example:

I like to cook and I am always on the lookout for new gadgets for the kitchen. The other day I purchased a new knife sharpener. It looked great in the store, black and chrome encased in hard transparent plastic packaging on a red cardboard background. It literally called my name as I walked by. When I got it home, it took ten minutes, a pair of shears and a knife that was waiting to be sharpened, to get the hard transparent plastic packaging away from the red cardboard background in order to set the knife sharpener free. Have you noticed how many products there are that come packaged like this and how bloody difficult they are to open? This was a $30 knife sharpener not something that demanded high security and tamper-proof packaging.

CD’s are a perfect example. I can never get the shrink wrap off the damn things without tools. Do CD’s have freshness issues that require vacuum sealing? You shouldn’t have to put the bloody thing in a vice, put on safety goggles and a hard hat just to get them unwrapped.

Then there is the text on the back of the packaging. How much smaller can it get? I already can’t read half the words on most packages without an electron microscope. It frustrates the hell out me although I tend to be a little more forgiving of manufacturers on this one. I blame government and all the the stuff they require put on packaging in both official languages. By the time you get instructions, contact information, safety disclaimers, government requirements and safety warnings on the label, it’s small wonder you can read anything at all.

It has never occurred to government that if you keep adding stuff to what manufacturers are required to put on their labels, eventually they run out of room and the text will be so small that nobody will bother reading the safety warnings they ordered. Of course, government will eventually realize it and demand that manufacturers use larger type which will lead to larger packaging which will lead to more waste in our landfills and that sort of defeats their environmental strategy, doesn’t it? (You almost feel sorry for government. The more they try to fix things for us, the more things they have to fix. It must be Hell going to work every day.)

The Canadian Federal Government has just announced that it will require cigarette manufacturers to increase the illustrations of the effects of smoking to cover 75% of packaging. Illustrations are good, especially for the illiterate and the intellectually lazy. They don’t require text and are easier to read, especially big illustrations but what is the point of this politically correct (and safe) stupidity? (other than giving the appearance of doing something proactive when you aren’t really prepared to do anything constructive at all) Government has already required that stores hide cigarette packages from the viewing public. They’re sold now like condoms used to be sold, under the counter.(and wasn’t that effective at stamping out sex) So, if you can’t see the effects of smoking before you buy the product, isn’t it a little late in the day once the consumer has purchased the product and lit up? If you really want to eradicate smoking, declare tobacco illegal, ban it and stop collecting tax money from it although banning marijuana hasn’t been a very effective government policy. Maybe what government should do in its war on drugs is impose ridiculous packaging regulations on illegal drugs before they can be sold.

And then there is Ikea, Sweden’s answer to purgatory.

North America’s largest Ikea Opens Dec 7 in Ottawa
(photo Ottawa Citizen)

They’re building the largest Ikea in North America here in the big city and I happen to drive by it the other day. It’s big, really, really big and my first thought was that if it was difficult to get out of the smaller Ikea we used to have, it will be impossible to find your way out of this one.

Then I got thinking of the government’s new omnibus crime bill with its imposition of mandatory prison sentences which some think will drive up the cost of operating and marinating prisons. But I have a plan (See? I’m always thinking.) Don’t send convicted felons to prison, send them to Ikea.

They’ll be in there for years wandering around trying to figure out how to get out. You won’t even need guards unless they make it past the ball play room and best of all, you could teach them a trade like how to assemble large home and office furniture with a tool the size of a Q-Tip. I believe that one of the reasons that Scandinavians are fair skinned and blond is because of Ikea. They spend so much time trying to get out of the store, they don’t get enough sun.

Finally (Settle down, this isn’t my last rant, I’m just getting ready to head off to bed. All this thinking has worn me out)  why are grocery stores trying to impersonate department stores and department stores trying to impersonate grocers? Everywhere you go now, everyone has a little of everything but never enough selection of anything because they no longer have room on their shelves for all the brands they used to carry. Even Canadian Tire, that great Canadian icon (and the last place guys could go to get their testosterone rejeuvenated) has expanded from automotive and hardware to include housewares and now, in some stores….food. Say what? I don’t go to Canadian Tire to buy eggs. I go there to get spark plugs. How long will it be before Fredrick’s Of Hollywood carries power tools? (I know, I know, they already do carry a couple but I was referring to Black and Decker type stuff)

All that this product expansion has done is undermine brand uniqueness and reduce real choice for the consumer. I can never find what I want anymore because it isn’t available…no room on the shelf. Now, instead of going to a couple of stores on Saturday morning to pick up groceries and some hardware or household products, I have to go to a half a dozen stores to try and find the brand product my old store no longer has room to carry. (It works on the same principle as cable and satelite tv. The more channels we subscribe to, the less choice we actually have….but I digress)

That’s real convenience isn’t it?

Iincreasingly it’s almost like our retail industry is run by government bureaucrats but then, isn’t that the Canadian way? I am Canadian and I like being a Canadian but sometimes, it seems like everything is run by government, if not by policy…definitely by attitude. If you read my earlier post called Get On The Bus, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I think we’re going to need a bigger bus.

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