JournalismPakistan.com September 19, 2017
Do you ever get the sneaky suspicion that these days you pay less for the product and more for the packaging and, what’s most surprising is that you actually believe you are coming out on top?
Look my little buttercup, what lovely stuff I bought.
Yes, fine, my honeybun, looks super, but what about the contents.
Men are more likely to fall for the visuals because they are less practical shoppers than women. For them shopping is aspirational and if the item they have purchased does not match the promise of the packaging, by the time they register that they are home and who the heck is going to trudge all the way back.
How often have we bought something and found ourselves saying - isn’t it beautifully packaged - then we throw the coverings away. Ornamental packaging, based as it is on enhancement, often trips quite casually from design into deceit and just because the purchaser does not consciously realize it, does not legitimize the misuse of the art of wrapping.
I am a great one for getting conned by the labels and the shining, alluring pictures in blazing color that are on them.
For example, do the cherries inside the tin come out looking anything remotely like the big, plump juicy scarlet wonders on the cover? Does your cake-mix aspire to the perfection of that buttery wedge of chocolate and vanilla on the face? Ripe, shiny green peas glistening on a cover photo of a packet pour out as wrinkled as prunes. The luscious peaches in a bowl pictured on a tin are anemic and colorless within - if you had that sort of complexion you’d be in trouble.
Take soup. The hot, steaming concoction stuck on the container with steam rising ethereally which lures you to pluck it off the shelf dwindles to a custardy liquid with little stringy and unidentifiable objects swimming in it.
There seem to be no legal safeguards against the camera’s insidiousness or the manufacturers’ vista visionary imagination. Food is photogenic and the only sanctuary lies in setting your food to angles and lighting at home in an attempt to at least achieve a semblance of the promised excellence. It’s all in the close-ups and fisheye lenses, I guess. See how they guilt you into thinking it is somehow your fault, you plebe that you cannot match the visuals, not to the manner born.
The felony of photography is further compounded by size. Do those measly little crumbs in your box look anything like the huge sun-kissed corn flakes on the cover? Shake your muesli and the raisins are like scrunched up ants. On the cover are gigantic sultanas the size of ping-pong balls.
Jams are a whole, new ball game unto themselves.
Have you ever seen a strawberry in a tin of jam that looks even distantly related to that evidently hormone-treated perfect specimen that shimmers on the wrap-around?
Your instant noodles go on an instant diet the moment they are cooked. The manufacturers’ noodles are fat as worms and have a glutinous consistency. Yours look like threads. His are ropes. What did he do to them, what act of magic that eludes you, the person who’s paying?
It’s not just the size of the contents. It is the size of the packaging that also seems integral to the con game. Just because the weight of the item is marked off in some hidden corner of the packet scarcely justifies creating a covering purely for the illusion of size.
It says 464 grams. Okay. Believe it because you aren’t ever going to weigh it.
The technical ‘copout’ is to say the contents settle at the bottom during transit, where else can they settle - at the top? And they have been shaken to the core in the trolley, when I carried them to the car and when they rolled around in the ride back home.
The more ingenious manufacturer tells us the space on the surface is needed for the contents to breathe.
That would be very impressive if the legend ‘vacuum packed’ wasn’t slapped across the box. And, I for one find it terribly disconcerting to purchase a tin of chocolate powder or energy drink to find it starts half-way down its length with that entire air filled vacuum leering up at me.
When we were kids there used to be an Indian herbal med for upset stomachs called Amritdara and it was a winner in the packaging stakes. Came in a cardboard covering about six inches long and was then wrapped in the instructions but the bottle was an inch high midget and held five to ten drops and was sealed with red wax. Talk about credibility gaps.
Give me the unsettled variety that spills over any day and I’ll give you a satisfied customer. In the realm of size comes a new dimension, Geometric shapes. They give you the concept of largesse and huge luxury but post-purchase examination shows dips, linear taperings, marbled, reflective bottoms and deep glass dimples that knock the initial excitement for a loop.
Colognes and perfumes in opaque shaped sculptured art forms that ensure you never know when it is over.
But I only bought this last week.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
The News, December 28, 2016