I’m an unabashed fan of the free market. It’s an idea so awesome we might get around to trying it someplace other than Hong Kong. However, we as a society are easy marks. There’s nothing simpler than convincing the first world to buy a couple pounds of useless, superfluous garbage. It’s not just the obvious offenders like the Pet Rock or the Shopkins and Beanie Babies of the world though. It’s the endless creams, shampoos, gels, veggie washes, hand sanitizers, kitchen gadgets, exercise crazes, mobile apps, TOMS Shoes, desk organizers, knick-knacks and/or paddy-whacks that we all fall prey to sooner or later.
The problem with these useless products is that, unlike what you’ll find in the “As Seen on TV” aisle, they do purport to solve real needs. We know people need to shave legs, faces, and armpits from time to time. But do we really need the Gillette ProGlide with FlexBall Technology? Shaving a hunk of saltwater taffy never looked so good.
The more threads you pick, the more our tapestry of non-essential consumption unravels. Which brings me to my discovery that my scalp pretty much makes all the pomade I need. As a father and a general man of affairs, I make an effort to look presentable when in public. This means shaving the old face follicles, daubing a dollop of pomade, and parting the unruly hair that sits atop the royal personage. If I grow my hair out long enough, I can easily sustain a respectable Jewfro (I’m in the Seth Rogen zone thanks for asking), but (since I don’t have a successful movie career as a lovable stoner type) I have to keep the mane to a dull roar (see what I did there? mane? roar? lions? get it?). That used to require daily applications of pomade.
Then I stopped using shampoo. I heard somewhere that the only reason conditioner exists is to repair all the damage shampoo does to your hair. So I said, “OK, news story. We’ll try it your way. Shampoo, we need to talk.”
The results were nothing short of pretty good. The natural fluffiness of my hair was subdued and a healthy sheen ensued. And the daily dose of pomade? I hardly need the stuff anymore unless I use shampoo. God gave me all the tools I needed to tame my mane without Procter & Gamble!
The point is, sometimes the thing that proports to help you is part of the problem. Sometimes its worth asking, did this product/program/service exist 500 years ago? And if not, what problem does it solve?