big business · choices · keep trying · labels · who are we

Losing Perfection – or a story about the perils of choices

I am in the middle of a crisis, of sorts. Well an issue. To be fair it’s barely even that and it is very much a first-world problem, but it’s bothering me way more than it should. I think it’s because I know it is just one little example of the hundreds of tiny things that are more important than I would like. With all of them I took a little time, I did some research, I then tried a few things and I made a decision. I then got to rely on that thing, forget about it, even though it was always there, until it was ripped away through no fault of my own.

You see they have changed my favourite moisturiser. It took me ages to find one I liked; I tried about 25 which doesn’t look like that large a number but that was a number of trips to bewildering displays in chemists and to make up counters staffed by intimidating people who look like an odd combination of air stewards and dental hygienists. That was quite a lot of money spent. That was weeks of slightly greasy skin, or spot breakouts, of applying sticky creams and gloops until they ran out as I couldn’t afford, or bear, to waste any of them.

Then I found it. It was amazing. It was just light enough and yet also rich enough. It didn’t smell weird. It didn’t need some fancy routine to work. It wasn’t sticky or gloopy. I was hooked. Let me just make clear at this juncture that I have no idea if it has made my skin more youthful or not, I just know that my skin felt good and I could ignore that part of my life. They were 12 good years.

After about a year of use, the place I bought it from closed in the UK. As an American brand it became harder to buy for a few years here in the UK. At one point I had to import it from the manufacturer direct and pay a crazy level of shipping and import tax for what was about a year’s supply. But it was worth it. I knew this because every now and then I would try something else – people would be raving about something, I would decide to try and be organic, I just fancied a change – but I always hated them and went back to my old reliable. After a while it became easy to get in the UK again and I just had to wait for a special offer and stock up.

In the autumn of last year I saw adverts telling me that they had launched a new improved moisturiser but I ignored them. I loved my one. I could still see my one on the shelves and buy it, even though they were now tucking the old one a bit lower down and to the left of the display area. I had no reason to worry. Maybe the new one would be even better; I might try it one day but I wasn’t bothered for now. I mean, I loved my one and the new one was more expensive.

Then, just after Christmas, as 2016 dawned, they started reducing and selling off my favourite moisturiser along with the novelty Christmas gift sets that hadn’t sold. I didn’t worry; I was too busy stocking up. I had four more months of supplies at half price. Besides, this company had never let me down; I was sure that the adverts were true and the new moisturiser was even better than my beloved.

So, the day came last month when there was an email with another offer. I needed some other products so decided to get one of the new magic formula moisturisers as a treat to myself. I still had half a jar of my favourite in use and a whole one in the drawer but this was a good offer and I deserved a treat. The new jar, when it arrived, was much nicer to look at; decadent even. The name and font were similar but I knew that this was a much better product. They had waited for years to update the formula so it had to be good. Despite temptation, I made myself wait until the current jar was done before I would try it…

That morning I opened the box, then the jar, with excitement. But, the new one not only feels odd, smells odd and is sticky, it also made my face erupt in a bright red blotchy rash that took a week to disappear. At first I blamed myself for my vanity but then I felt angry. I was a loyal customer. I loved that product. I kept buying it and now they have taken it away from me. When my face returns to normal (fingers crossed!) I will have to start the painful process of finding a new moisturiser whilst trying to eke out my dwindling supplies of the old reliable.

As I mentioned at the start, this happens more often than I would like with other things; I suspect that a different company are about to withdraw my favourite washing detergent as two of the main supermarkets have stopped stocking it. I am considering panic buying and stockpiling that, though it’s pointless as ultimately you will have to become reconciled with your new choice and forget about the old one.

Look, I know that this is a story about something inconsequential but it’s also about how the little things matter, even as we take them for granted. When we first find our ‘perfect’ moisturiser, detergent, phone, whatever, we cherish it. We smile as we use it. We talk about it to others. But then it becomes normal, no longer perfect, and it’s only when it is no longer available that we value it.
We are so lucky with the number of choices that we have available to us and I know that changes are supposed to be good for us, but a part of me would rather be like my late Grandmother who used the same face powder, in the same navy blue compact packaging, from the same company, for all of her 70 plus years as an adult. No decisions, no frustrations, no choices, just something familiar and useful.

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