Monday, March 14, 2011

Not-so-Savvy Consuming

JAN: I like to think of myself as fairly savvy, a former consumer reporter, hip to scams and not overly influenced by marketing. Sure, I buy too many pairs of boots that I don't really need, but this is New England where winters are long and cold. And yes, I just fell prey to this cool new accessory to the IPAD that is both a cover and a keyboard. But I'm a writer, after all, these are the tools of my trade.

But then, the other day in the shower, where all my biggest revelations occur, I had a revelation that completely destroyed any last image I had of myself as a smart consumer. Or even a smart woman. I hate to even admit this, but here it is: I really, really, really, like the shampoo and conditioner to match.

Inside my shower stall, where only my husband and I, and occasionally one of my children, ever see, I actually care enough to prefer medium sized bottles that are the same brand. This has nothing to do with the superiority of the product and everything to do with the symmetry so carefully engineered by those clever marketing people who designed the bottles.

So hopefully, you are all above this particular marketing ploy. But even the frugal among you (Hallie), must have at least one marketing trick you fall for. It might be overpriced wine because you like the sound of the name, a high priced seltzer because you like the label font, or slippers filled with a depth of fleece you'd only need in the Arctic, but somewhere in your closet, your cabinets, or maybe your shower, there is a purchase of which you are not particularly proud.

Now is the time to fess up.

HALLIE: Matching shampoo and conditioner? Sure -- they're the ones my husband filches from hotel rooms.

First off, I don't take showers if I can help it. Baths all the way. It's a form of meditation and inner healing. And I confess that I occasionally shampoo with... soap. Bath soap. It does a great job, and particularly after all that shampoo-and-conditioner gunk builds up. Your hair will actually squeak!

And you nailed it -- food is my weakness. I fall for overpriced smoked fish. The stuff that's twice...make that three times as expensive but it really does taste so much better. And I just need a taste or two to make me very happy.

RHYS: Jan, it makes sense that you use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner. Because if one works well on your hair, the other will too.
But speaking of hair, I have a shameful confession to make. I won a haircut at a really expensive salon. She hyped products and because I wasn't actually paying for the haircut I felt guilty and .... paid $35 for this tiny little bottle of mousse. Got it home and it doesn't even dispense properly.

I am sometimes sorely tempted by infomercials that promise to erase wrinkles and did once send for a device that sends out sound waves to improve the skin.
Can't say I've noticed much difference... but since I'm usually a careful shopper like Hallie I am allowed an occasional goof.

ROBERTA: My weakness is organic and local food. I wait all winter for the farmer's market to open on the town green and happily spend a small fortune there every Friday. To me this is worth it for many reasons--fresh food, no pesticides, support your local, etc--but John likes to feign heart attack when I tell him what I spent. Every week:). Luckily, we are able to grow a good-sized organic garden in our yard, so by mid-summer, we're overwhelmed with fabulous produce. What I would do for some of those tomatoes right now...

ROSEMARY: I'm a very inconsisitent shopper. I just took the $11 Megabus to Philadelphia where I stayed in a rather nice hotel because I love the bedding and they have their own chocolate factory so the chocolates on the pillows at night are amazing. Yes, I did fly to Paris for the weekend...and I spent most of the time wearing a pair of $13 pants from TJ Maxx. So there's no guessing what my purchasing habits are. I don't even know sometimes. What am I a sucker for...good haircuts. I've been known to go without for a year because I couldn't find a stylist I trusted - and you know what - my hair almost always looks the same no matter who cuts it.

DEB: I, too, am inconsistent. I suspect this makes us interesting, right, girls? And I seem to have the same weaknesses as everyone else. I'll buy cheap store brands of some things, but spend a fortune (gulp) at my town's farmer's market (And it opens this month!) I've always been a sucker for good, local, and organically grown food. I started shopping at Whole Foods Market when the first store opened in Dallas--I don't even want admit how long ago.

I'm addicted to a certain type of Toni & Guy shampoo (my excuse for this is that I'm allergic to many hair products, and having found one that works I'm sticking to it) and will pay for a good haircut. Like Hallie, I'm a bath taker, and am easily tempted by lovely things to go in the bath.

On the other hand, some of my favorite clothes came from Target and Costco. I consolidate errands to save a little bit of gas. I carefully plan menus to use leftovers.

JAN: Actually, I'm wearing a fleece I bought at Costco almost six years ago, that's still the best-cut, best looking Fleece I've ever seen (yes, there is a difference among Fleeces!) so I'm with you on the Costco clothes.(sometimes)

DEB: Silliest recent purchase? I ordered a new phone from Amazon, ridiculously cheap, and then a case for it that cost as much as the phone. And I was crushed when it arrived and instead of being the promised orchid color, it was hot raspberry pink. And the worst thing is that I really CARE . . .

HANK: Deb? Can you send it back? Let's see--yes, leftovers. I'm very proud about how I can disguise them. But I have lots of pairs of Wolford tights--hideously expensive, really embarrassing, but essentially indestructible. SO isn't that savvier? I also love Jo Malone grapefruit shower gel--don't even ask how much that costs. HOWEVER! There' also a lovely CVS drugstore brand shower get that's $1.99. It's terrific. And CVS tights, my secret find, $3.98-ish.
JAN: I could be a total sucker for the grapefruit shower gel -- what's the bottle look like? Oh, there it is!

HANK: What I'm not proud of? What makes me wince when I see it? An expensive-but-sort-of-on-sale suit that the salesperson told me fit perfectly, which it did, but it was a color I CANNOT wear, and even when I "tried it with black underneath" as she suggested, it still made my hair look green. You know, I NEVER wore it. And I gave it away. So I wouldn't have to be angry every time I saw it. Grr.

JAN: Hank, I've had a few of those outfits myself. And the really cool keyboard and cover accessory for the IPAD that I dreamed about for weeks -- has to go back. The teeny little keyboard will make me insane.

Come back tomorrow e for True Crime Tuesday, when I'm going to talk about the medical drug dealers (and I don't mean the pharmaceutical companies) who would be great villains for a murder mystery.

Wednesday, I'm interviewing essayist Ellen Waterston, whose latest book, Where the Crooked River Rises will transport you to the high desert in Oregon.

Thursday we will be hearing about Hallie Ephron's new book, Come and Find Me.


  1. For me it's Twinings Tea, Haribo Gummy Bears (my German exchange student got me hooked), and Girl Scout Cookies. The cookies are for a good cause, right?

  2. HOOKED on Jo Malone! Have you tried the new "Tea Fragrances?" oh my.

    I've got to get over it because this is not the type of thing a retired person needs to be spending her money on. for real.

    Was it Dorothy Parker who said "always smell the best that you can?"

  3. Kaye, that's a great line. I'm just wondering of Jo Malone grapefruit actually smells better than Suave grapefruit (or citrus) - but hey, I'm into the bottle anyway.

    I'm with you on Twinings tea --


  4. I can't watch a movie in the cinema unless I am eating Snow Caps. Must have the Snow Caps.

    And yes, I sneak them in from the outside, because I'm not paying $42 for a box of movie Snow Caps, even if they do enhance my viewing experience.

    Now I will wait for the Cinema Food Police to come and get me.

  5. Ramona,
    But that's SAVVY consuming, given the sneaking in. I just recently gave up the popcorn experience which was $12 ingestion of transfats -- but will a movie ever be the same?


  6. I confess to a shampoo/hair product obsession. Mainly because I've yet to find one that doesn't make my scalp break out after 10 or 20 uses. (Any suggestions?) Luckily my lovely husband will use anything left over. (He who will sort through our trash just be make sure there aren't any objects still useable.) So, for all of us with that addiction, I offer the cover page illustration on Corridors Literary Magazine:

  7. AnnOxford, I'm with you on the shampoos. Shampoos started my scalp breaking out a few years ago. After spending a fortune on health food store shampoos that only worked for a few weeks, I discover Toni&Guy Antidotes (I use #1). Of course I buy the big bottle twice a year when it goes on sale :-)

    And Kaye, don't get me started on Jo Malone . . .It's the mix and match thing that is so seductive. Haven't tried the new tea scents, but I did sample almost everything in the Sloane Square shop when I was in London--but didn't buy. Now that's a CHEAP high!

  8. Food glorious food. I even buy my meat from a farmer who comes to our town every week all year long. Expensive, but worth it! I would say that almost all my semi disposable income is spent on buying a better meal.

  9. I completely missed adding to this post because all this weekend I've been wrapped up in the Maine Regional One Acts Drama Festival. (I'm delighted to day my son received a judges commendation for his performance and his high school brought home the silver medal - high praise in such a crowded and competitive field.)

    This directly relates to my irresistible splurge: expensive seats at the theater. I know intellectually the music sounds just as good in the mezzanine, but when I go to the symphony or pops concert, I want orchestra! I know that it's absolutely ridiculous to pay north of $150 for front-half-of-the-house seats to a Broadway show, but I do it every time. I will march into the box office determined to be budget-wise and sensible, and walk out with four tickets that cost as much as a mink coat. (Okay, a mink coat on sale.)

    Dunno if it's falling for marketing - more like my own snooty standards.

    My captcha word: "Epilesse." Sounds like one of Jan's expensive shampoos.

  10. Guys splurge on their hair, too, you know. Why spend $40 at the hair salon when Butch the Barber will do you next door for $12?
    Fredricka, that's why. She charges three times as much, but once you've had your hair cut by Fredricka, you never go back to Butch.

  11. Oh...haircuts. Thanks for reminding me, Austin. I splurge for Gina at Salon Capri. Soooo worth it.

  12. For someone as...frugal... as I am I'm easily swayed - just googled Jo Malone - Heading over to the mall to get a sniff of assam and grapefruit cologne. And hey, I'm celebrating! New book about to come out! So why not? But how do you take it on the plane?

  13. Mr. John cuts my hair, and, yes, it costs more. I’ll skimp on the shampoo but when it comes to my color, "I'm worth it." I just try to buy Preference when it is on sale. Who does the color? Hubby. Why, because he's free. Actually, he does the best color job I've ever had done, so why not. I’ll admit to liking the bottles of shampoo and conditioner to match.

    I like the best in clothes, food, shoes, handbags, etc. However, I do wait for sales, that way I feel like I've gotten a bargain.

    I need good Irish breakfast tea but I savor Hershey’s chocolate.

  14. Hallie, you buy the small bottle. You can carry it on, and if I check luggage I just put a piece of bubble wrap around it. And with the small bottle you'll be more tempted to mix and match:-)

    Or, if you're really frugal, you get them to give you some samples and you travel with those!

    PS You deserve Jo Malone!

  15. So now I'm so incredibly curious, I have to check out this Jo Malone thing....I'll blame it you guys!

    Julia, I'm with you on the good seats. My theory is that I'm going to the theater - I'm getting the best seats.

    Naomi -- you and Hallie and Roberta would cook an awesome meal together.

    Off to find Jo Malone.....


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  17. Yes, samples of course! Jo Malone has all kinds.

    Melissa--yes Haribo are by far the best. And when I lived in Germany-there were...Sarotti Chockolinsen?

    Julia, I agree about the seats. Gotta have good seats. What play did your son do?

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