Creamer Schemers

A couple weeks ago, my Nespresso coffee maker sprung a leak. As it brewed a cup, it also “espressed” a small river of coffee from the base of the unit. An online chat with the good people at Nespresso determined, a) the maker really was broken, b) the one-year warranty covered the repair (whoo-hoo!), and c) the fix would take up to ten business days. Well beans; ten business days meant regressing a full two weeks on drip coffee instead.  Hold the phone; did I just label myself a coffee snob?

Nespresso

Nespresso – for those of you not familiar – is one of the many capsule coffee systems on the market today. Unlike the Keurig K-Cup, “Nestle-Espresso” capsules spin as the water passes through the grounds (7,000 RPMs – vroom vroom!), adding a light-colored frothy cap of “crema” on top. The crema enhances the aroma, but more importantly delivers the mouth-feel of a latte, as if you stirred something in from the dairy family. But call me fooled; Nespresso’s nothing more than coffee in the cup.

Bunn’s coffee-monster

Coffee snob? Parvenu, perhaps. It wasn’t that long ago I contentedly drank “joe” from one of those big metal Bunn machines, flavor-boosting my Styrofoam cup contents with a sugar cube and powdered Coffee-mate. Then, I spent a year in Rome and my world was forever coffee-rocked. I returned to the States armed with words like cappuccino and espresso and caffe latte. But America didn’t even know the word Starbucks yet. A “coffee shop” was still a greasy spoon diner; forgettable joe in a forgettable cup.

Mind you, not having Starbucks didn’t mean I was gonna crawl back to the Bunn, especially after a year of Italy’s la dolce vita (look it up). Eventually I dropped hard-earned cash on one of those early model home coffee/espresso/steamed milk contraptions – a machine requiring twenty minutes, twenty steps, and a phone-book-sized operations manual to produce a small cappuccino. The birth of the American barista did not start at Starbucks, my friends. It started in the frustration of orchestrating an overly complicated home-brew system in search of pseudo-Italian-style coffee.

Sometime after Starbucks opened its first doors (but before Nespresso), Keurig developed the K-Cup. The Keurig coffeemaker felt like a huge step up from standard drip (and ushered in the concept of single-serve coffee at home). Keurig opened a seemingly new world of coffee to me – exotic names like Green Mountain or Paul Newman’s or Donut Shop – but let’s be honest. Keurig was basically glorified drip, and I still wasn’t taking my coffee straight, like I did in Italy. And that’s where Nespresso shines. If the K-Cup is a step up from drip, Nespresso is the entire staircase.

Ironically, the same company producing Nespresso markets a line of oil-based creamers sugary enough to make your coffee taste like Easter in a cup. Nestle already offered creamer flavors like Peppermint Mocha or Italian Sweet Creme or Toasted Marshmallow, before recently adding Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Funfetti. Not to be outdone, International Delight augmented its own coffee creamer line – REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup, Cinnabon, and OREO Cookie Flavored, with – no joke – a PEEPS flavor. Better check for bunnies before you take a sip.

For the record (if the Pulptastic website is to be believed), I’m not even close to being a coffee snob. I can choose from any of their twelve defining characteristics and come up short. I don’t read about coffee. I don’t speak the lingo (“Robusta?” “Arabica?”). I don’t know what “cupping” is. I do enjoy a Starbucks coffee every now and then. Finally, I’m half-tempted to check out the PEEPS creamer (maybe I won’t even need the coffee in my cup). See the Pulptastic list for yourself. Maybe you’re the coffee snob instead of me.

I’m still waiting (im)patiently for my repaired Nespresso coffeemaker to come back. I’m barely surviving on my backup K-Cups. But I’m no coffee snob. And I was just kidding about wanting to try PEEPS in a bottle. On the contrary, those creamer schemers can keep their product far, far away from my Nespresso.

Some content sourced from the 2/3/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “Rich Sales Boost Coffee Creamers”.

Cruise (out of) Control

Ever since the Ferris wheel debuted (at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago), there’s been an unofficial competition to design and build a taller version.  The original topped out at 80.4 meters all those years ago, while today’s leader – the “High Roller” in Las Vegas – rotates over twice that high.

The “High Roller” in Las Vegas

To complicate the matter, there’s great debate about what defines a Ferris wheel.  The tallest wheels for example – including the High Roller and the London Eye – are labeled “observation wheels” because they’re more than just an amusement.  Newer designs eliminate the spokes and hub to give the illusion of a free-wheeling ring.  Whatever.  Thanks to my acrophobia, even a kiddy amusement park Ferris wheel is thrill-ride enough for me.

Go figure – I enjoy the highest, fastest roller coasters anywhere, but I wimp out when it comes to a standard Ferris wheel.  Why?  Because Ferris wheel gondolas are neither enclosed nor replete with safety bars.  You’re just sitting up there in the open air, 250 feet off the ground, realizing nothing is preventing you from falling (a peek into the mind of an “acrophobe” – you’re welcome).  Conversely, when the roller coaster safety bar ratchets down to the waist, almost taking your breath away, there’s a sense of being one with the coaster, like you can’t possibly fall out.  Much better.

I will never be this guy

Let’s change the channel and focus on big ships.  If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you should be able to name one or more “amusements” you didn’t expect to find in a floating hotel.  Golf driving ranges.  Skeet-shooting.  Water slides.  Again, it’s an unofficial competition.  But what about a roller-coaster, traveling up to 37 mph, with an elegant sweep out over the ocean?  Yep; coming soon to a Carnival Cruise Line ship near you.

I hereby retract my earlier statement about tolerance for roller coasters.  Riding the rails, plunging down towards the ocean and back up to the sky, two hundred feet above the keel of a moving ship – Carnival’s “Bolt” is too much for me and my acrophobia.  Almost a little too much for the coaster’s engineers, too.  They faced a pile of challenges with the design.  What would be the impact of a moving vessel on the gravitational requirements of a roller coaster?  Will the weight of seven hundred feet of track twenty stories above the water tip the ship?  How will the vessel’s structure tolerate the forces of heavy cars speeding here and there?  And what about all that noise?

Put the cart before the horse – as Carnival did – and things get easier.  First design the coaster; then design the ship.  Make the roller coaster cars self-propelled so they don’t depend on gravity.  Eliminate the chains and sprockets in favor of small booster engines to reduce the noise.  Then design a ship keel three football fields in length.  Reengineer the structural elements – from the water up – to accept the distributed forces of the coaster.  Overweight the whole thing so coaster cars can go almost vertical and still not tip the ship.  Behold Carnival’s Mardi Gras – a virtual floating amusement park – breaking the champagne bottle next winter.

I still think a roller coaster on a ship is nuts, but I seem to be out of touch with the latest amusements.  You can already partake in “Sky Pad” – also on Carnival – a bungee-jumping-trampolining-virtual-reality mash-up.  Or Royal Caribbean’s “RipCord”, a column of air for skydiving simulation.  Or Norwegian’s “Ultimate Abyss”, a four-story sort-of toilet bowl, where you’re flushed in circles and dropped down a 200-foot water slide.

If you’ve ever seen Katy Perry’s music video, “Chained to the Rhythm”, you probably laughed at the outlandish amusement park rides, like the coaster with the heart-shaped loop-the-loop, or the pseudo Ferris wheel catapulting riders out into the air.  But considering Carnival’s “Bolt”, maybe Katy’s got a keen eye on the future after all.  As for me, I’ll stay grounded in my local kiddy amusement park.

The future of amusement?

Some content sourced from the 1/8/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “They’re Putting a Roller Coaster on a Cruise Ship”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Identity Crisis

Whenever I go for a workout, I face a choice as I walk through the front doors of my gym. The welcome desk gatekeepers scan the barcode on the back of my membership card to a) make sure I’m really me, and b) keep track of my visits (a motivational data point reported back to me at month-end). Recently, my club gave me the choice to scan my mobile phone instead, using a barcode produced by their app. And there you have it: the emergence of the virtual ID badge.

Please don’t steal this

Given the myriad uses of phones these days, you’d ask why I wouldn’t shred my physical gym card and embrace virtual identity.  Alas, what works at the welcome desk does not work beyond it.  My gym’s lockers still use the physical card as part of their securing mechanism.  Insert card, close door, release key.  Yet I still need my phone to collect heart monitor stats or listen to music.  My identity therefore remains physical and virtual for the foreseeable future.

Workout facilities are a basic example of what’s going on here.  The more sophisticated virtual ID installations reside at the offices of large companies, where hundreds of employees pass through secure doors morning, noon, and night.  Forget “keycards” – how would you prefer to be ID’d in the year 2020? Facial recognition? Iris scan? Fingerprints?  Even those technologies seem dated with what’s being tested in the lab.  How about gait recognition (the way you walk)?  Or microchips – a grain of rice if you will – implanted gently between the thumb and forefinger?  Everyday security is about to advance to a whole new level.

My first couple of office jobs were environments too small to worry about real security.  The front desk attendant could greet every employee who stepped off the elevator by name.  But then I joined Hewlett-Packard (HP) – 50,000 humans worldwide – and even HP’s smallest offices demanded more than a casual glance at those passing through.  In the early years I had a simple name badge, to be clipped on the shirt and worn at all times.  Then I graduated to a photo ID card (w/ lanyard, as dress codes relaxed).  Finally, HP added magnetic stripes to the back of the cards, so we could self check-in the way you now self check-out at grocery stores.

The new identity technologies are rooted in biometrics: your sui generis body measurements and calculations.  With that in mind – and body – your ID is just the tip of the data iceberg.  As long as your heart rate, steps, and movement are measured, wouldn’t your employer want those data points as well?  It’s like having a giant Apple Watch lording over an entire workforce.  In theory your manager could use this information as a gauge of your “wellness” (i.e. stress), but more likely they’ll be interested in how it relates to your productivity.  They’ll also know where you are, when, and for how long, all the day long.

If microchip implants become the norm (something I wouldn’t have fathomed even a decade ago), the benefits are endless.  Swipe your hand at a conference room door for access/reservation.   Swipe your hand in front of the vending machine for a snack.  Check your resting heart rate.  On the other hand (ha), consider; the microchip is always watching, including your taps at the keyboard.  No message – even the one you deleted before sending – is safe from scrutiny.

When my wife and I joined our church last year, we were issued name badges. Wearing them is not so much an expression of membership as it is a convenience to greet fellow parishioners by name. But what if we start using biometrics someday?  Will my pastor know when I’m at church and when I’m not? More importantly, will He know? Ah, let’s be real; the Almighty doesn’t need an ID system.  He already knows when I’m in church and when I’m not.

Some content sourced from the 1/6/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “The Humble Office ID Badge Is About to Be Unrecognizable”.

Heavy Metal

The most appealing aspect of my slim bi-fold wallet is – slipped into my front pocket – I sometimes forget it’s even there. Between the couple of credit cards, insurance cards, driver’s license, and the wallet itself, you’re talking about an item less than a half-inch thick, weighing just a couple ounces. That suits (pants?) me just fine, since I don’t want to be weighed down (or bulged) any more than I have to be. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand the fuss over trendy credit cards made of metal. Then again, my “vanity score” probably wouldn’t qualify me for one anyway.

I guess I missed the memo on metal credit cards. They’re in circulation to the tune of 32 million these days, which sounds impressive until you stack them up against the four billion plastic cards out there. Less than 1% of any total is never impressive, but the forecasters say metal cards will quadruple in the next two years. One reason for the increase: some financial institutions issue metal cards as a replacement for expiring plastic ones. Another reason: consumers are willing to pay an annual fee for the privilege of metal vs. plastic.

The demand for this sort of thing fascinates me. If my financial institution wants to gift me a metal card (whose hefty feel apparently makes me feel special and therefore inclined to spend more), so be it. Just don’t charge me an annual fee. Speaking of annual fees, here’s the extreme example with metal. A by-invitation-only American Express Centurion “Titanium” card will set you back $5,000/year, just so you can carry it in your wallet. You’ll also be tagged with a $10,000 initiation fee. I know several country clubs who’d let me in the door for less than that.

Honestly, I have no problem with holders of metal cards. Those same 32 million people probably pay for vanity license plates and gold-colored trim on their cars. They also pay to avoid standing in line, whether at the airport or at Disneyland. Maybe there should be a website to purchase “vanity fair” in one place. We could call it IFeelSpecial.com

Let’s get the drawbacks of metal cards out of the way up front. They’re high-maintenance. Apple has a titanium credit card, complete with care guide, which advises “… against keeping it in a pocket or bag with loose change… or other potentially abrasive objects”. Metal cards also demand a cleaning solution (like rubbing alcohol), though I suspect that’s more to make them look pretty than keep them charging. Finally, metal cards destroy your shredder if you try to get rid of them when they expire. Buy a pair of tin snips instead.

I’ll own up to having an American Express Platinum card and a Visa Platinum card, but both are plastic, and “Platinum” simply means they have a rewards program. Which brings me to a point of missed opportunity. If issuers are trending towards metal cards, why not make them out of whatever material they’re named for? A platinum card should be made of platinum. A titanium card titanium. Citibank’s Diamond Preferred card? Oooooooo.

It’s not the craziest idea. Metal cards weigh up to five grams. If Amex issued my Platinum card from five grams of pure platinum, they could charge me $600 (current market value). A Gold card made of gold would be worth almost $1,000. A Silver card made of silver? Okay, that’d only be worth eleven bucks. But think about it. Your card gets declined? No problem. Just surrender it and say, “I’d like the current market value in cash, please”.

[As usual, someone beat me to the punch with my great ideas. If you live in the Middle East, Singapore, or the Czech Republic, you have access to a company called CompoSecure. CompoSecure makes its credit cards out of pure gold.]

Counter to the forecasters, I think metal cards will be challenged by no cards at all. Meaning, pay-thru-phone (i.e. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo) is on the rise, and the security of these transactions – not to mention no need to carry cards and cash – may trump the “special feelings” metal brings. Can you imagine – plunking down your country-club-rate Amex Titanium after dinner, and one of your guests goes, “Really? You still pay with a physical card? How old-school!”

Pretty sure I’m going to miss the metal credit card movement completely (even if they do make better ice-scrapers than plastic). I’ll be jumping straight from my plastic Amex Platinum to digital one of these days.

It would probably help if I set up Apple Pay on my iPhone first.

Some content sourced from the 12/5/2019 Wall Street Journal article, “Once a Tool of the Elite, Metal Credit Cards Now Turn Up Everywhere”.

Media Meltdown

Nope, not that media.

A few weeks ago, I gave Legacybox a try.  Heard of ’em?  Legacy converts old home movies – the ones you may have on VHS or 8mm tapes (or even reel-to-reel) – into clean, digitized formats. I sent Legacy a heaping box of my tapes (reel-to-reel was slightly before my time), and a month later received a single, tiny thumb drive in return. Remarkable really: dozens of hours of precious video memories packed into a bits-n-bytes “box” the size of a fingernail clipper. If I’d chosen a digital download instead of the thumb drive, I wouldn’t have received anything (physical) in return.

We’ve flash-landed into a digital, live-stream, can’t-hold-it-in-your-hands world of multimedia these days.  Phonograph records, celluloid film, audio and video cassettes, and optical media like CD’s and DVD’s spin firmly in the rear-view mirror; collectables reserved for only the most nostalgic.

[It’s not a stretch to say print media – books, newspapers, magazines, and photographs – aren’t far behind, but that’s another post for another day.]

For those of you born in the last century – literally, not figuratively – let’s eulogize some of these once-upon-a-time physical media formats.

The “8-track”

I’m old enough to remember 8-track tapes, are you?  Before I owned my first “LP” or “45” record, I was regularly subjected to my dad’s music choices on his car stereo 8-track player.  In hindsight, there’s something endearing about the bulky, inefficient format of the 8-track tape (except when your only memory is your dad’s music).

The smallish 45 “single”

Before the 8-track tape gave way to the compact cassette, I built up a pretty good collection of 1970’s 45 rpm records (“singles”) – 100 or more.  My older brother – who built a sizeable collection of 1970’s 33 rpm records (“LP’s”), understandably disdained my choices in music.  His flavor was “classic” rock (ex. Rick Wakeman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) while mine was “bubblegum” (ex. Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow).  Appropriately, I have Olivia’s “Let’s Get Physical” re-running in my head as I cover today’s topic.

The cool thing about compact cassettes was – of course – you could record things (birthing the concept of the “playlist”).  Just as noteworthy, you could play cassettes in your car’s “deck”.  Your records had to stay home.  It wasn’t long before my 45’s were stashed in the closet and I was all-in on “tape”.  I spent countless hours recording and listening as I hugged my very first tape recorder.  I spent countless weekly allowance dollars on the Columbia House Record and Tape Club.  When the ultra-compact Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, cassette-tape music went everywhere you did.

Right about the same time as the Walkman, JVC (VHS) and Sony (Betamax) figured out how to put video on tape.  My early memories of movie rentals at the video store include renting the video player too.  After all, the price tag on first-generation “VCR’s” ran into the thousands of dollars.  I can still picture myself lugging a bulky VCR down the street to my apartment, with a pile of cables, an instruction booklet, and a stack of videotapes to watch.  Then, twenty-four hours later, I’d pack it all up and lug it back to the store.

The colorful “laserdisc”

Compact discs (CD’s) and digital versatile discs (DVD’s) felt like space-age technology in the ’80’s and ’90’s.  But press the Pause button for a moment.  Did you forget laserdiscs (LD)?  LD’s were the first optical disc storage medium, and man did I buy into the hype of those rainbow Frisbees.  By the time I invested in a (bulky) LD player and loaded up on (pricy) LD’s themselves, DVD’s were beginning to take over the home video market.  Sadly, I still have my LD collection today (along with my no-longer-functioning LD player).  I figure the whole setup isn’t even worth the time to advertise on Craigslist.  In hindsight, laserdiscs were the very definition of unwieldy.

Finally (for physical media), I never graduated from DVD’s to Blu-ray discs, but “cinephiles” claim Blu-ray looks and sounds even better than its digital successors.  Regardless, Blu-ray should be considered the final frontier in a history of physical media dating back to the 1800’s.  Check out Wikipedia’s timeline of audio formats (player-piano rolls!) here.

Thanks to companies like Legacybox, Netflix, and Spotify, digital media is here to stay.  But I must concede, there’s little pride in perusing a collection of utterly un-physical files and folders on my laptop.  Maybe Olivia Newton-John knew what she was singing about after all.

Or maybe that’s why I’m still hanging onto my laserdiscs.

Some content sourced from the 10/11/2019 Wall Street Journal article, “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media.  Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Smallest and Innermost

Mercury

Last month, I spent an entire post lavishing love and affection on Earth’s beautiful space neighbor, the planet Venus (see here). I was quick to point out – from Earth – you can occasionally see the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn as well. Turns out that list is, ahem, incomplete by at least one planet. Clearly miffed by my post, our solar system’s Mr. Smallest and Innermost – the planet Mercury – decided to speak up this week.

Don’t burn yourself, little one (image courtesy of NASA)

For those of you who missed it, Mercury passed in front of the Sun on Monday.  For five hours or so, Mercury looked like a little black mole on the bright cheek of a much larger creature.  His orbit took him almost directly across the center of the Sun.  You may think Mercury’s show is no big deal; after all, he circles the Sun every 88 Earth days.  However, consider Earth, Mercury, and the Sun must be exactly lined up (put a ruler on it) for humans to witness a Mercury “Sun transit”.  We only get fourteen Mercury transits every Earth century.  The next one won’t happen until 2032.

I missed Monday’s Mercury transit myself, because a) I wasn’t up at sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere (when it happened), and b) I didn’t have the necessary eye protection to give it a direct look.  Instead, I enjoyed the online photos and videos from NASA and the world’s other space agencies (like this one).

Mercury’s the tough little guy on the left

The truth is, you don’t have to wait for a Mercury transit to observe the first rock from the Sun.  On several early mornings last month, you could’ve seen Mercury rising in the east (same as Venus), and you’ll see him again early next year – no telescope required.  Guess I got caught up in the allure of Venus and completely ignored her nearby brother.

If Mercury and Earth were side-by-side

Mercury – like all the planets – has some interesting facts.  He completes three rotations about his axis (days) for his every two orbits of the Sun (years).  Pretty slow for the smallest orbit in the solar system.  He has no moons.  He’s only about a third the size of Earth.  He’s pretty beat up, with the most craters of any planet, and “wrinkles” caused by the cooling and contracting of his iron core.  Only two of Earth’s spacecraft have ever visited Mercury, and even those stayed far away from the surface for obvious reasons (800.6°F on the sunny side; -279.4°F in the shade).

The Roman god for which Mercury is named is a lot “cooler” than the planet itself (ha).  Young Mercury wears a lot of hats, including (god of) financial gain, eloquence, and divination.  (Side note: perhaps Mercury should’ve been my blog mascot.  “Eloquence” was the theme of my very first post).  He also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld. Curiously, all these responsibilities take a back seat to Mercury’s most commonly known role – as speedy messenger to the other gods.  This role explains the naming of the planet, the fastest of the eight to circle the Sun.  Maybe we should also consider Mercury as messenger to the other planets, in case something gets weird with the Sun.  After all, Mercury will be the first to know.

I can’t talk about Mercury without a reference to the late, great Ray Bradbury.  Of all his wonderful science-fiction short stories – and there have been at least a hundred – my Bradbury top five includes “The Golden Apples of the Sun”.  “Apples” followed an exploratory rocket ship heading past Mercury to the Sun.  The crew is tasked with collecting a sample of the Sun’s golden fire.  I can still imagine the ship’s giant scoop as it extends from the hull and grabs a bit of the Sun.  The story’s real drama comes just after the collection, as the ship overheats and the life-support systems begin to shut down.  With respect to Bradbury, I won’t give away the ending.

Well then, enough about Mercury (probably too much).  I’ll conclude with a great tweet from Katie Mack, who was quick to note about Monday’s Mercury transit: “The official song of #TransitOfMercury is, obviously, ‘King of Pain’ by the Police.  But please note that the ‘little black spot on the Sun today’ referenced in the song is a ‘sunspot’, not Mercury, since ‘it’s the same old thing as yesterday,’ and (Mercury) transits only last a few hours.”

Keep on a-circling the Sun, Mercury.  I won’t forget ya next time.

Some content sourced from the BBC.com article, “Planet Mercury passes across the face of the Sun”, the Space-Facts.com article, Mercury Facts – Interesting Facts about Planet Mercury, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Cardinal Roll

A paper towel, a napkin, and a facial tissue were chatting at a paper goods party one day. The towel spread himself flat and declared, “I’m the biggest one here, not counting the tablecloth under the dessert buffet.” The napkin glared at the towel and said, “Think you’re so important? All you do is clean up messes. I’m part of every place setting at every dinner table in the land!” To which the tissue sniffled, “Sorry boys, but I’m more important than either of you. No bathroom or lady’s purse would be complete without me”. Just then a roll of toilet paper wheeled by. Glancing at his paper pals, he grinned confidently as if to say, “No contest”.

It’s true, isn’t it?  If I dragged you to the same paper goods party and said, “Choose one, but it’s the only one you’re allowed for the next twenty-four hours”, toilet paper wins every time.  Paper towels, napkins, and facial tissue come in plenty of sizes, quantities, and pretty designs, encouraging us to put them on display in our houses.  TP gets no such fanfare and frankly, we’re embarrassed to be seen anywhere with those virgin-white rolls.  When was the last time you proudly displayed your 24-pack of Quilted Northern or Angel Soft as you waited in the grocery store checkout line?  If you’re like me, you jam those rolls into the lower part of the cart.  You want them invisible.

Cute, huh? It’s called “Cloudy Day”

Here’s where you’re probably thinking, “Toilet paper?  He’s writing a blog about toilet paper?”  Damn right I am.  When Procter & Gamble (P&G) comes out with a “bathroom tissue” product called “Charmin Forever Roll”, I’m all over it.  Imagine if you will, a roll of toilet paper one foot in diameter (actually, don’t imagine; just look at the photo below).  This bad boy’s three times bigger than your standard roll.  He’s the equivalent of the 24-pack you were trying to hide in your shopping cart.  It’s like putting a tractor tire next to your toilet.  The “Forever” comes with its own sturdy stand, and the idea is, it never runs out.  Well, almost never.  The Forever lasts twenty-one days on average.  If you told me my job was to change the toilet paper roll only once every three weeks?  I might actually do it!

The “Charmin Forever Roll”

What, you ask, inspired P&G to create a quarter mile of rolled toilet paper the size of an LP vinyl record?  Human nature, that’s what.  No matter how easy the task, people refuse to change the roll (on top of whatever else they’re doing in the bathroom).  In fact, a survey of 2,000 bathroom users – as if the survey-takers had to screen out “non-bathroom users” – found 85% agreed to the phrase, “An empty toilet paper roll is one of the most frustrating bathroom scenarios”.

Don’t you just hate this?

You should’ve seen this coming and beaten P&G to the punch.  Toilet paper has been rolling out in ever-bigger sizes since those 4″ originals hit the shelves.  We’ve graduated to “double”, “triple”, “jumbo”, “mega”, “mega plus”, and “super mega”.  It’s getting grandiose.  Even the Forever isn’t the biggest anymore.  Last month Charmin debuted the “Forever Roll XL”, which gets you 50% more than the Forever.  You can go a whole month without changing the roll.  Not only that, P&G lets you subscribe, so your XL tractor tires show up at the front door all by themselves.  Order a dozen and you’re good for a year!

There’s no end to the madness, if shopping habits tell the truth.  When P&G first offered the Forever, they gave us a choice of an 8.7″ or a 12″ round.  They figured we’d want to ease into the idea of super-sized toilet paper.  Wrong.  Consumers went straight for the 12″, which is why P&G fast-tracked the 13.2″ XL (and promptly dropped the 8.7″).  Just how “XL” is a 13.2″ roll?  3.2 pounds – or 2,550 squares.

Clearly, the sky’s the limit when it comes to a roll of toilet paper.  I can picture it now: a roll the size of a Ferris Wheel.  Laugh all you want – homebuilders are probably already redesigning bathrooms to accommodate one.  And then – maybe then – toilet paper will get more attention than just who was supposed to change the empty roll.

Some content sourced from the 10/16/19 Wall Street Journal article, “The Empty Toilet Paper Roll Torments Families.  Procter & Gamble Has an Answer”.