The Single-Ply Debacle

My wife says there are two kinds of people in the world – people who divide everything into two categories and people who don’t. No, just kidding. She says there are “over-buyers” and “under-buyers.” My dad was a classic over-buyer. A quick visit to his bathroom (a perilous journey, to say the least) would have revealed something on the order of 15 cans of Gillette Foamy Shave Cream, 17 tubes of Crest Toothpaste, and easily 25 canisters of dental floss. When he passed, I inherited a lifetime supply of Baby Powder (which for me, it turns out, is one can). It’s like he lived in constant fear that Colgate Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, and Proctor and Gamble were going to all go bankrupt on the same day. I suppose with the way Team Obama is running the economy, that’s now possible, but I digress. Suffice to say that my dad was always well stocked with durable bathroom goods.

He also had some concerns, occasionally realized, that various soda pop (don’t you just love that word – soda pop) companies were also going to go belly up. Back in the early 1970s, there was a particular cola called Sport Cola (raise your hand if you remember that one). This was back in the day that my sister, Amy, had a very limited diet, consisting, as I recall, of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts and Sport Cola. A rumor came about, soon proven to be true, that Sport Cola was going off the market. My dad bought like 10 cases of the rot gut and put them in the basement so Amy could wash down her Pop Tarts for years to come. It was a prescient move.

But, this wasn’t the only time he entered the cola futures market. Back in 1985, in easily the biggest marketing blunder in history, Coca Cola decided to stop making Coca Cola and in its place make something that tasted like a mix of rat piss and sewer water (I’ll leave to your imagination whether I’ve actually tried either of those delicacies). I was traipsing around Europe with a backpack when that happened so I kinda missed the story, but in retrospect, I still can’t believe some brilliant Wharton MBA (no way a Harvard MBA would do something that gallactically stupid) walked into a meeting and said to the top brass at Coke, “Hey, I have a great idea. We’re the number one drink with the number one brand on planet earth. Let’s change all that and sell rodent urine under the same name.” Mind boggling.

Anyway, my dad already had experience with stocking dying soda brands so the day Coke made the announcement, he rushed to the store (stores?) and bought about 25 cases of Coke and lined the walls of the basement where the cases of Sport Cola had stood years before. This was looking for a while like a brilliant move. As the world bemoaned the loss of a great beverage and retched trying to suck back the new formula, my dad sat quietly in his basement and guzzled down real Real Thing. Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t the most financially savvy guy or he would have sold the stuff for $100/can. But, then a little problem came up. The Wharton MBA got fired and the stooges at Coke brought back the Real Thing under the name “Coke Classic,” while, for a time, continuing to sell the rat piss as “New Coke.” 

By now, you should have the clear picture that I have just a few double-helixed strands of “over-buyer” DNA in me. My wife, on the other hand, is an under-buyer. Example: we go through OJ in my house by the gallons. It never fails that when I have my late night snack of Frosted Mini-Wheats and OJ, there’s only a drop or two left and I feel guilty if I take it, leaving none for others to drink with breakfast. So, I pour myself a scotch. Just kidding. But, seriously, when my wife goes to the store, she buys one jug of the smallest size they sell. When I go to the store, I buy like 3 gallons of everyone’s favorite citrus drink and we don’t run out for weeks. It just means that when I get home from the store, I have to throw out a few of the aging leftovers in Tupperware bins to make room.

The one that really bugs me, though, is running out of toilet paper. Sorry, folks, but if there’s one thing your household simply cannot run out of, it is toilet paper. The consequences are just too dire. Yet it happens all the time in our house. The result is a box of tissues next to the john and, without getting graphic, the mechanics of that just don’t work very well. So,  it is with great pride that I over-buy toilet paper when it’s my turn to shop. However, this caused a bit of a problem recently and, is, I suppose, the real reason I’m posting this blog. I need to publicly thank my family for quietly enduring the single-ply fiasco.

I can’t pinpoint the date, but I think it must have been about 2 months ago. Once again, the household had run out of toilet paper. After making the rounds, looking to steal a roll from one of my children’s bathrooms for the master bath, I gave up and went with the tissues. Next day, I went shopping and filled the entire cart with TP…….single-ply TP that  is. Uh oh. And, I mean like a 2 month supply of single-ply TP. Again, I will avoid the graphic discussion, but single-ply TP was invented by the same folks that came up with water boarding and pairs figure skating and none of the three are allowed under the Geneva Convention.

When I realized my mistake, my first thought was to take it all back to Giant, but then I heard myself saying the words, “uh, yeah, I’d like to return this toilet paper” and realized it was a non-starter. I thought about just loading it all into the big green garbage can in the garage, but I’m just way to environmentally conscious for that. I even considered standing in front of the toilet unrolling it one roll at a time, flushing every now and then. But, that seemed like too daunting of a project. So, without anyone ever saying a word, my family and I used it. Just this morning, I unrolled a few squares of the new roll and, to my surprise and delight, I felt the soft cushy sensation of 2-ply TP. The single-ply disaster was over! My wife had been to the store and restocked us with 2-ply. I’m sure she opened the pack of 6 at the store and only bought 3 of the rolls, but at least for a day or two, we’re back in business. Even if we run out tomorrow, it will have been a wonderful 2 days. To my family, thank you all for suffering through this difficult period in silence.

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About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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7 Responses to The Single-Ply Debacle

  1. We may disagree on football, religion, and politics, but on 1-ply TP we are in 100% complete and total agreement. Also definitely an over-buyer, but then there’s that shared DNA. Have you discovered Costco? All I can say is we need to be very thankful that Dad never did, or there would have been 500 cans of shaving cream instead of just 15. Remember the socks and shirts? He evidently never ever wanted to have to shop for either again in his life, a goal he, sadly, appears to have achieved. And what is the one thing you *never* run out of in the FoxRob household:
    http://goo.gl/miByq

  2. BlueLoom says:

    There must have been something in the air. David does most of our day-to-day shopping (I do Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods–the fun shopping), and the last time he supplied us w/ TP, it turned out to be (uh oh) single ply–or in the words of some marketing genius “Charmin Basic.” We’re still working our way thru it, but D has sworn that he won’t make that mistake again.

  3. Ed Wright says:

    Bruce….You may be interested to know that Sport Cola bombed in the States , I believe, because , after spending millions ( by Canada Dry) to create a market for a ” non-caffeine ” cola, they were beating a dead horse trying to sell a negative as a positive. So much for my opinion..BUT…few people know that Yours Truly, while operating British Columbia , Canada’s western operations ( and later, National Brands Marketing Manager, Canada , I was asked to test-market Sport Cola, using any and all of my own ideas and methods.I DID NOT attempt to delete the caffeine, and I created a whole new slogan, package, approach, etc. We became # 2 cola against Coke and Pepsi within ONE YEAR. The product had no resemblance to the thing I see on the net, but if you have any historical interest, you could get in touch and I can elaborate. Oh, P.S…….I created a marketing programme to encompass all of Canada Dry’s operations in Canada. You didn’t see them…..guess why…..Coke bought the Division because I was “such a nasty fellow” …….Ya gotta love the truth dontcha ?

    • Ed, thanks so much for reading my blog and providing some historical background on Sport Cola. Ya know, I had totally forgotten that Sport Cola was “decaf Coke” or course in the days before Coca Cola realized it could sell more brown sugar water by taking things out like sugar and caffeine (though I suspect caffeine-free coke is a low volume product to this day). I think my wonderful sister also had a bit of an issue with caffeine as a kid; as in she would be awake for 3 days if she had one coke. Ironic in light of her near total addiction to coffee as an adult (just waiting for her reply here….). So, I think the over-stocking on Sport Cola was because my sis would have been completely without cola options had we ever run out. Thanks again for the comment!

  4. Dan Grabois says:

    I am raising my hand. We were almost never allowed any soda EXCEPT when we were sick. Then, it was Sport Cola. There was a little gem of paradise even inside the worst head cold.

    • You know, Dan, now that you mention it, I seem to recall visiting you guys in Williamstown as a kid and being surprised to find your house to be a non-soda house. We have never kept soda in our house. Our kids have always been able to order it in restaurants, etc., but we never buy it (full disclosure: Terri gets a diet coke at the local deli every morning). Now that Christian has a car and is driving, he has quickly discovered that he can drive to 7-11 and buy a soda anytime he wants.

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