Sunday, August 05, 2007

Strangely Annoying Trends in Merchandise

In my sometimes role as curmudgeon, I find that certain things in the world around me just strike me as stupid. Some of them, I feel, ought to be universal targets of scorn, while others are clearly a matter of individual opinion. Of course, the utter triviality of some of them will astound the reader, who will wonder why anyone would even care.
Something I imagine few have noticed but more might care about: why have American drugstores apparently ceased to stock heel and toe protectors for shoes? Before I left for Prague, I'm quite sure this was still a normal ordinary drugstore item. I do not always remember to put these on new shoes, and over Christmas I actually had to take two new pairs of shoes in for repairs because I had done significant damage to each of them in under about four hours' wear apiece. One pair had been worn on the tram to go to the Slavia and then was worn on the tram home (I am not sure whether the under-seat tram heaters were on in July or what, but part of the soles appeared to have melted during that excursion). The other pair was worn to a holiday party where I mostly sat down, and then in the morning for a walk around the Mission with John and Cesar. I don't know what I did to those shoes either. The shoemaker was incredulous at the damage I had managed to do to both pairs. Well, now I cannot find heel or toe protectors anywhere.
What is with the current fashion for fat pens? Do Americans feel that their world-famous obesity should be shared by their writing implements? I have always liked my pens and pencils to be svelte. As a small child, I was deeply puzzled by the adult assumption that little fingers would do better with big pencils. No, they were much harder to write with. I recall being overjoyed to discover a miniature pencil of anorexic dimensions in my father's desk (perhaps an election pencil?). Finally (for some brief period until it got lost) I had a pencil suited to my little-kid hands. Well, now I am grown up and have adult-sized hands, although not particularly big ones. I can reach just over an octave on the piano if I stretch, which is one fundamental reason I am not a concert pianist. I suppose that someone with gigantic hands might prefer to use fat pens, but I do not find them comfortable to write with, nor do they allow me to write very nicely. I refuse to buy them, but I do need a new pen.
On the related topic of small notebooks (something I require many of), all right, I do understand that the reason most of them are lined is that most people prefer lined paper. I will not buy a lined small notebook for myself, but I realize that this is a minority preference. What I do not get is why during the past year or so it has been almost impossible to find notebooks that do not have either a magnetic flap closure or an elastic band. Yes, when I first saw these I thought they might be sort of neat, so I tried the magnetic flap. Within a day or so it was clear to me that this was a really flawed design. First off, how many people really have trouble keeping a small bound book closed? Small bound books tend to stay closed of their own accord, and if someone else is prying into your notebook, a magnetic flap will not stop this, you need an old-fashioned diary with a lock and key such as drugstores sold back in my youth. Well, on the magnetic flap issue, I'd like to know how many people actually find it easy to write or draw in the book when there's a magnetic flap in the way. Perhaps it is not such a problem for left-handers, but most of us are right-handed. I was always having to either hold the flap out of the way with my left hand in order to write with my right hand, or let the stupid flap act like a bookmark somewhere else in the notebook. As one gets nearer the end of the book, the flap is harder and harder to keep out of the way. I suppose the elastic bands are less intrusive, but who wants to keep messing with an elastic band? I want to whip my notebook out and immediately jot something down, not have to unwrap it and then, over the next half hour or so, keep wrestling with flaps and straps.
Then there is the question of purses. This is decidedly largely a matter of fashion and individual preference. Still. While I mostly carry a backpack, I've found that it's best to augment that with a smallish purse on a long strap. Aesthetically, I've always seen many nice possibilities, but for practical purposes the said purse has to be large enough for a wallet, notebook and pens, and of late a second or third pair of glasses. (I do not wish to recap the saga of my Czech glasses, but let's just say that for various reasons I now have four recent pairs of glasses, none of them truly multipurpose.) I've had two quite acceptable simple black leather bags. The second is now a bit decrepit looking. I was appalled to find that none of the places where I have previously seen or bought this sort of thing offers it anymore. The store where I found the first one, which was the better one, now has purses that at first glance look similar, but are actually nearly twice as big and partake of the current fashion for puffy bags with excrescences. I have no desire for a puffy bag with excrescences, even if it is masquerading as something smaller and simpler. I was also disappointed to note that stores which for the past several years had been tempting me with very elegant fabric bags (probably all by the same design firm) no longer have anything like them and are offering completely uninteresting products that I would only buy in dire need. I mean, they are a step up from the fashionable puffy-looking junk, but they are utterly uninspired.
Last and not least, I was relying on the Dansko shoe company to keep producing the shoes I wear most of the time. I am on my second pair, and these have been chewed a bit, although not as badly as my Dansko clogs, which Ms. Spots seems to think are a chew toy. Dansko appears to have gotten new management that imagines its constituency will be best served by the same sort of parade of new designs that every other shoe company serves up. I am not opposed to having a few new designs each year, but what has happened to the classic versions that form the basis of a person's footwear? (A visit to indicates that the "Margrete" shoe is still offered, but it is apparently no longer sold by stores in Berkeley. What can these stores be thinking? What will I do when I need a new pair? And have I missed my chance to get them in a fun color as well as in black?)
Well, that is clearly enough trivial complaint for one day.



Blogger Kristen said...

Well then! ;) Only two comments:

(1) What are heel and toe protectors and why are they sold at drug stores? (I'm serious here.)

(2) Large barreled pens are easier on those of us with tendon/arthritis/ligament/etc. issues in our hands and wrists.

August 06, 2007 12:31 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

1) Heel and toe protectors are little plastic pieces that you nail onto the vulnerable parts of the shoe (the nails are provided). They were previously to be found next to the shoelaces and shoe polish, in a couple of sizes and colors. I'm sure some drugstores still carry them, but evidently not those around here. The set on my Dansko shoes is now worn out and ready for replacement, although this is less crucial (since Danskos have thick soles) than getting them onto shoes where the sole wears away immediately.

2) I'm not opposed to large barreled pens being sold, but they've taken over. I have plenty of hand and wrist issues and trying to wrap my fingers around a big barrel is uncomfortable for me... obviously not for everyone. I especially dislike the ones that are supposed to be contoured to my hand and are nothing of the sort. This reminds me that I should have added recent toothbrushes to my list. I find it very hard to use anything but a straight, flat, oldfashioned handle on a toothbrush. But no, the stores are full of toothbrushes in shapes that cause me to drop them on the floor while trying to brush. (A sales tactic, I guess. If I drop a toothbrush on the floor, it goes in the trash.)

August 06, 2007 5:29 PM  
Anonymous bikerbar said...

One thing with merchandise that bugs me is the tops of drink bottles. I long for the days of screw cap glass bottles with nice wide openings (I'm thinking old gatorade jars) ...

but now its long gone, too expensive to produce. Now we have this terrible pop-up caps on plastic bottles which reminds me of dishwashing liquid bottles. I dont want to put a plastic top in my mouth. How unrefreshing. So far I've avoided this crap, but, with my son now, its ubiquitous, even in the Czech Republic. Hate it.

My mom bought me a belt I liked five years ago. Recently I askjed her to get the same, and she sighed and said sorry. Merchandise has a turnover now of a few years. Nothing is the same. Its all about choice, but not about satisfaction.

August 07, 2007 8:16 PM  

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