Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sometimes it Stinks Being a Customer

Dear Tom,

I am writing to you in response to your request to share my thoughts with you. You made this request on the back of my deodorant (Tom's of Maine Unscented Natural Deodorant Stick).

First, let me say that yours is a company and a business model I have long admired for its environmental consciousness and likability.
Then we will talk about the deodorant.
My Tom's of Maine Unscented Natural Deodorant Stick says (on the back),

"Dear friends,
Our natural deodorant combines the botanicals lichen and coriander in a formula that is effective at fighting odor, yet gentle on the skin. We've also added a pleasant, mild scent to help mask odor without irritation,
and we never use artificial preservatives, colors, or harsh alcohol. Please let us know what you think!
--Kate and Tom"

My thoughts are plentiful, Kate and Tom. I thought I might share about a week's worth with you. Here's what I think:
  • I think my Unscented Deodorant shouldn't have a pleasant, mild scent added.
  • I think the lichen and coriander in my pleasantly scented Unscented Deodorant were confused, or perhaps incapacitated from their use of some bootleg grain alcohol when you and Kate weren’t supervising them closely.
Your packaging says that “Coriander, an annual herb, kills odor-causing bacteria by disrupting their outer cellular membranes.”
  • I think that instead of disrupting my armpit bacteria's outer cellular membranes, the coriander in my deodorant invited the bacteria to participate in their own little cellular friends and family plan, where they used the power of free in-network calling to gather all their neighbors and relations to start a new colony.  A brave new world; One Nation Under Arm. And another under the other arm.
Your packaging says that “in Lichen’s long history of use, one of its functions has been as an antimicrobial, meaning it interferes with odor-causing bacteria.”
  • In practice, the lichen interfered with my odor-causing bacteria the same way an extra-small pink thong bikini bottom interferes with a very large woman getting some sun.
Here are some highlights of my week with your product:

Having trusted my Natural Deodorant to disrupt my natural odor without poisoning my environment, I made my way into the world in my usual fashion. Bearing in mind I have been under a lot of stress lately, I
figured maybe my body needed some time to adjust to the coriander (or maybe the lichen), because my natural odor was thriving. This is great if I am in the wilderness and wish to announce my presence to wild bears so as not surprise them in their habitat; it works out not so well in the office.

I moved into my weekend more relaxed, but I’ll be darned if my deodorant didn’t seem to be taking the day off with me. Like Red Kryptonite, the absence of an effective deodorant released my previously-hidden powers - like the ability to defoliate my lemon tree simply by raising the pruning shears over my head. As powers go, I would have preferred x-ray vision or super-speed.

The promise of “masking odor without irritation” quickly proved false. My odor was not masked or in any other way disguised; it had shed its glasses, fled its Fortress of Solitude and was shouting to the world,
gleefully revealing its identity. I was irritated.

Your product did inadvertently bring me one moment of extreme joy: while cleaning the garage with my wife, I was convinced for a brief while that her growing nausea was the first sign of a new pregnancy – morning
sickness heralding the arrival of our third child. Alas, her nausea cleared up as soon as she moved farther away from me and into a better-ventilated area.

My dog outright liked my new smell, but she was as alone in her opinion as I was alone on the sofa.

I ended my week by skulking around the office, arms at my sides, gesturing awkwardly with only my forearms during deliberately short meetings in open spaces. More than once I dashed outside to join the smokers by the fire door, borrowing cigarettes and surreptitiously blowing smoke down my own shirt.

On the way home I stopped at my drugstore and browsed the deodorant aisle. I looked at all the manly-looking chemical deodorants that weren't  as harmless for our environment as your product, but offered hope for my own immediate environment. These slickly-packaged wonders offered “Anti-Persperant packed with the maximum level of active ingredient” and the implicit promise of steamy encounters with the fairer sex.

Even if I have to give up my new defoliating power for the realization of that implicit promise, I’ll gladly trade the lichen and Coriander for some Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex.

Best Regards,