Of Shampoo Labels, a Dirty Cleaning
Hoax & Trenton Toilet Paper Shortage

First of all, a useful housekeeping announcement: we have no interest on what anybody does in the bathroom. So if you’re sporting a salacious disposition this morning, or think you’ve spotted a plumbing-inspired fetish hidden behind the headline of this post, you may need to head back to Google, and see if you can find your own kind. As you go, we feel like washing our hands. So where were we? Oh, yes.
In what some reports are so pleased with themselves for calling it a ‘grime wave,’ the news about Tide detergent being increasingly stolen from supermarkets across the land, supposedly to be sold in the black market, remain unconfirmed at this time and may as well be a hoax. What’s no joke is what you’ve been washing your hair with these days, or spending cuts in New Jersey, a dirty business indeed.
Somehow, we’re not surprised. Neither the fact that hair and other cosmetics are increasingly loaded with all sorts of chemicals usually not listed on their labels, nor the possibility that people may be stealing laundry detergent, or fabric softener or toilet paper really impress us. After all, the cosmetics and household products industry moves about $100 billion annually, according to trade research.
We’d be more inclined to believe that someone somewhere found a way to turn powder soap into some kind of speedball than that Tide all of a sudden has become a type of currency for poor families across America, no matter the amount of ecobable offered to explain the trend. We just don’t buy it, but then again, there are people known for having done and believed in weirder things.
About the plight of the no-ply toilet paper and its diminishing stocks in the legislature rooms of New Jersey’s capital, we’re tempted to say, we told you so. It’s not unlike that old saying: first they came for our teachers. Then they close firehouses. Next thing we know, they were chasing us with a water cannon, and there was no janitor or public bathrooms available. Or something to that effect.
The thing about the chemical ingredients in any cosmetics or bathroom products is that, even if they were listed on the label, we wouldn’t have any idea what they mean. The same that happens with food, except that it’d be in a much larger scale. The fact, though, is that the makers of these products are not required to list them. So we tend to pick them for their smell and immediate effect.
We’re not sure that you’ll be glad to know, but as it turns out, there’s some 55 toxic chemicals present in at least 213 different consumer products, from cat litter to shaving cream, sunscreen to dishwater liquid, according to an Environmental Health Perspective study published this week.
The research shows what some already knew: without labels listing its contents, people lack even the most basic tools to make an informed decision as to whether to buy the Aloe Vera-scented conditioner, since it has none of the fragrants, BPA and phthalates associated with asthma and endocrine disruption, or the cheaper generic version that says it’s not tested on animals.
The risk there is that the product may still have diethanolamine, which tends to irritate the nose, throat, and skin. It was proven harmful to lab animals, but you wouldn’t know it because you’d be falling to that particular company’s clever PR department and its sales pitch. Again, not unlike food labels that mention terms such as ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ with suspicious abandon.
Of course, the Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade group, has refuted the findings of the study, which was led by the Silent Spring Institute and partly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The PCPC points at flaws in the study’s methodology of analysis, and the fact that chemicals with endocrine activity are ‘abundant in nature.’ Whatever.
But you didn’t need a whole research to tell you that it’s a buyers beware market out there, and that you need to conduct due diligence before you purchase anything. In practice, though, one tends to grab what seems the most convenient at the moment, including pricewise, and those infamous government budget cuts they all talk about also mean that there won’t be any oversight to protect your choice.

Something weird happens once an invention becomes so ingrained in our daily lives: we tend to forget how could we possibly have lived without it before. And yet, we did and fine. Take the Internet, for instance. How has anyone managed to research urban myths, for example, without lifting their big behinds and going to an actual place, we believe it used to be called library?
We thought about that when we read alarming reports stating that entire stocks of Tide detergent were disappearing from the shelves of grocery stores throughout the country, and that the most popular theory for the reason was that some people were simply stealing them to use as black market currency to buy drugs.
We’re no skeptics but there was something in the language of the news, republished verbatim by many small town papers (and ‘aggregator sites,’ such as the Huff Post), that tickled our funny bone. Next step, we were googling ‘Tide detergent Internet hoax’ on the search field and, voilá, there it was. Chances of it being a hoax are all but certain. So how did they used to do it?
Somehow the sentence, ‘on the black market, Tide is often referred to as “liquid gold”‘ ignited something inside us. And then there was a man (isn’t there always?) in St. Paul, ‘alleged to have stolen $25,000 worth of Tide over 15 months before authorities captured him.’ There were plenty of pictures of the detergent itself (a viral campaign?) but none of the man, though.
But even if there was one, it could’ve been of an unrelated person as well. And we simply can’t picture the detergent locked in a sealed container, as CVS Stores is supposed to have done, to prevent theft.
Soon after, our suspicions were shared by many others (where else?) online and we expect a confirmation coming out soon too. That is, not before Procter & Gamble registers a peak in its sales, which again, may have been their intention all along. Can you blame them? After all, as we said, the industry has an annual average of only $100 billion in revenue, so they definitely need it.

There’s something about budget stalemates that really sucks. On the federal level, lately we seem to be always on the verge of another useless one. But when it happens in a city like Trenton, well, it stinks. This time, the battle pits Mayor Tony Mack against the city council over some $43 thousand needed to buy paper products.
What’s really rotten about all that, though, is the fact that some government employees and visitors to the city’s legislature, the kind that sit down first and look around later, may be up to a really sorry mess. Never mind lack of soap, malfunctioning locks or clogged bowls; what’s threatened by the budget dispute is the supply of toilet paper in city-run buildings.
It’s sort of ironic then that in Camden, not too far from Trenton, over 130 years ago, lived the two brothers responsible for the commercialization of the first toilet paper roll, Edward Erwin and Clarence Scott. Just imagine how puzzled they would be now if being told how their invention, a personal hygiene staple of contemporary life, wound up at the tail end (sorry) of a ruse in local politics.
It’s another one of those things we simply refuse to picture life without it, even though trekkers and modern wild wood explorers strive in conditions when even the mention of such a bourgeois habit being uttered by the self-appointed spoiled brat of the bunch, is greeted with derision and very dirty looks.
It’s a booming industry that has spread worldwide with globalization and the exporting of Western societies’ lifestyle to poorer countries. Americans still use more and outspend every other nation, using an average of 57 squares a day and 50 lb a year, and wasting annually more than $6 billion on tissue.
Wasting is the working word here, because the product does consume huge natural resources to be produced and be packed and ready to be bought. Curiously, a 17th century invention, the bidet, is staging a comeback as a replacement for bathroom paper. In countries such as Japan, some modern apartment building standards already include them and air blowers. It never went out of fashion in Europe and its former colonies though.
So the legislator and the mayor in Trenton’d better come up with a compromising solution, before they turn the fan on (because of the warm weather, you scatological deviant) and the Starbucks across the street start refusing to let people use their restrooms. Or will the seat of New Jersey government prefer to see a comeback of the old bucket and spigot that are still used in the Middle East and Asia?

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