Woes of a Consumer: Toothpaste Fragmentation

A few days ago I was dragged to a drug store (the legal kind). My mom and sister needed some toiletries, and, after tamping down my frustration of being diverted from my highly rigorous studies and Facebook, I remembered that I too needed an item from the store: toothpaste.

Wandering through the aisles, I eventually found the oral-hygiene section. Voilà.

But then, at this should-be-conclusive moment, a twist presented itself: which toothpaste brand should I select? There were at least a billion options, and I didn't know anything about the scientifically named ingredients of oral hygienics. They all sounded like exotic diseases. However, I did know a thing or two about price comparisons, thanks to fifth-grade math. Moreover, I've had a few flings with graphic design, making me a mere four notches below an authority on packaging.

In the pursuit of selection, I eliminated the most expensive brands. Then the poorly designed ones. Then the ugly ones: I have to see this product each time I use the sink, so it might as well be decent looking. At this point I was left with only a few brands, and I ended up choosing Aquafresh. Maybe I felt bad for its poor location on the shelf -- just above the linoleum floor -- or maybe it was some sort of weird nostalgia (I used to use the brand's juvenile line).

Upon selecting the brand, my next task was to choose a line within the brand: Whitening Action, Deep Action, Pure Breath Action, Freshening Action, or Revitalizing Action. Now I'm no Howard Moskowitz, but I'm pretty sure this isn't good marketing. Does anyone want to choose between white teeth and pure breath, a fresh mouth and a revitalized scent? I thoughtfully and excessively weighed the pros and cons of each line: would I rather have pure or revitalized breath?

A few minutes later -- not nearly enough time to make this historic decision -- my family met me at their last and my only stop at the drug store. I had to make a rash decision. (Aside: this is the true hard-knock life.) I chose Freshening Action, and, to my unwarranted dismay, it tasted eerily similar to my previous toothpaste, Crest Whitening Expressions.

What I realized through this process was that no toothpaste would drastically change the appearance of my teeth -- or at least I hope not (my teeth aren't so horrible to begin with). For this reason, I beat myself up (figuratively) for supporting a company that supports wasting its customer's time through futile and petty decisions. I should have bought a cheaper, American toothpaste, which would support our economy and, hopefully, better-looking packaging.

What I realized is that I just wish companies would tell me the truth, at least to some extent. I don't want to be scared ("Aquafresh will make your mouth tingle, but only because of the sodium fluoride, which the FDA says might kill you"), but I also don't want to be force-fed pearly white lies ("Your saliva will turn into 24-karat gold").

Because I spent a good two minutes weighing the pros and cons of each, I now realize that I was wholly taken advantage of by inceptive (in the Christopher Nolan sense of the word) marketing. I realized that I'm nothing but an average consumer.

Sometimes I lie awake at night: is my breath Pure?