Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Tissue Issue

Our new home has two bathrooms. They were designed to be very different and thus they have distinctive fixtures. Usually, however, both provide identical basic services.

Last week, we thought the bath near the guest bedroom was being visited by extra-terrestrial beings. Every time anyone reeled out a few sheets of “Quilted Northern,” our favorite tissue, for a bottom cleanup the roll fell out of the dispenser onto the floor--every time. This had never happened before, and it was not happening in the other bathroom.

Yesterday as Sandy planned a shopping foray to replenish supplies, we launched a full-scale investigation into the tissue issue. The dispenser that continued to function normally is a common type where, at roll changing time, one removes a metal cylinder, inserts it in a tissue roll, and returns both to the fixture. In the “haunted” bath, a more modernistic dispenser has no cylinder. Two “ears” retract when the core of an old roll is removed. They spring back out, and you just pop the new roll into place.

We had nine rolls of “Quilted Northern” in the cabinet under the sink. They all exactly matched the one that unknown forces kept bouncing onto the floor. All ten rolls were a half inch narrower than the one in the other bath! We found a slightly older package in our storage room. Sure enough, below all the glitzy, colorful advertising on the package was some finer print proving that the company had started selling less paper for the same price by reducing the width of each roll by a half inch.

We made a brief inspection of products on supermarket shelves. Every major manufacturer represented there had gone to narrower rolls. One cleverly hid the change by reversing the measurement information on the package. Another baffled shoppers by showing the dimensions in metrics incomprehensible to most Americans.  Georgia-Pacific, maker of "Quilted Northern," told me in an e-mail that they also have reduced roll counts "by a few sheets" to keep costs down.  I hadn't noticed that until they fessed up. 

We know the pulp and paper industry has suffered more than most lately as it experienced steep declines in demand from publishers plus general effects of the Great Recession. We support the industry. Having it as a wood buyer is a big plus for sound forest management in many places. Good forestry benefits the environment, and a good environment benefits everyone. However, the mercenary action by tissue producers to provide less for the same price seemed a bit of an underhanded swipe (pardon that pun) at loyal customers like us.

We still like “Quilted Northern.” We just can’t use it in the guest bath unless we want to tear out a dispenser that matches the decor and replace it with one having lesser esthetic appeal.

If we decide to invest in dispenser replacement, we might have to make an even less desirable adjustment. We could have to face the rigors of strict diets, and even some targeted exercise, to reduce the size of our bums. Smaller posteriors may be required if we are to keep our household supply budget sustainable despite higher costs per square foot of toilet paper.

Or, we could abandon “Quilted Northern” and go to coarser, and therefore cheaper, wide stuff. We’re not going that route. Some things are just too important to be constrained by financial considerations. On this issue, comfort is paramount.

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

Indeed!!!! Funny how little things can inconvenience a person. It's one of those things that I tried cutting corners on that didn't work. Quality is usually worth the price.