Star Trek & Toothpaste

I’m always reminded of mankind’s progress when I buy toothpaste at the pharmacy. There are at least 20 types of toothpaste on any given shelf and all of them differ in some way. You have the paste or the gel. There’s the mint flavored, the bubblegum flavored. There’s the one that looks white and the one that comes in three colors: red, white and green.

More specifically look at Colgate for example. There’s the “2 in 1” (what the 2 or 1 represent I have no idea), colgate tooth decay, colgate tarter control, colgate total, colgate total with whitening, colgate total with whitening and scope fresh mint blast, colgate sensitive, colgate hyper sensitive.

So here I am, a guy standing in a pharmacy aisle looking at 20 different toothpastes trying to pick one as if this decision will affect the next few months of my life. I’m lost.

I tend to find one product and stick with it to the point of it becoming “the old” compared to “the new”. I now understand why so many fathers are still using Old Spice; it just takes too much time and energy to switch to a better product or another brand.

Why can’t they just make one product that covers all the bases?

The problem I have is that a company has the technology but it will break it down into pieces and sell each one on its own and the customer (or mankind) gets the raw deal. I hate how they “improve” a product but still sell the old one: bleach, ultra-bleach, michael-jackson-bleach. Of course from a marketing point of view this is how it’s supposed to work.

What I suppose is work is the marketing reality: is the product sellable? If it isn’t then they don’t make it. Can you imagine the technology or the products that have been invented in the past few decades which were swept under the rug because they were not marketable or sellable? The free market says supply should meet demand, but in most cases the supply creates the demand. No one knew about flat screen TVs but now everyone has to have them and they’re slowly becoming the norm. Same with DVDs. I think this is why I like technology, it makes the older versions of itself obsolete and therefore it makes things a little easier for the rest of us.

But then there are so many products that we never get to see or use because someone in some board room decides it won’t sell. Money.

One of the things I used to like about the future according to Star Trek was that there’s no money. People work for the purpose of mankind’s advancement. There’s no currency or economics or marketing to hinder progress. Supply and demand is fixed to the betterment of the human race. I suppose if Star Trek came out in the 50’s McCarthy would’ve made Gene Roddenberry out to be a communist. But then again in the future according to Star Trek people are not driven by the need for material things.

And that’s why we don’t have flying cars that run on air or teleportation or those computers where you can tell them what kind of food you want and it replicates it for you in 5 seconds.

Bottom line is I still live in a world where it takes me 15 minutes to pick toothpaste.

Beam me up Scotty…


  • Good observation! Toothpaste and yogurt choices are what send me crying from US stores in culture shock. Sometimes I wonder how much human life-time is wasted in the paralysis of human decision over things like too many tooth paste choices.

    Ever tried to find plain, no nutrisweet added, regular fat yogurt? We LIVE on this in Jordan and I can never find it in rural America.

  • Well, I use the toothpaste mother buys, whatever it is.

    At the end of the day I still have to pay a visit to the dentist for a real bleach.

  • kinzi, perhaps there is an upside to the homogeneity of communism 😀

    Shaden, I would ask my mother to do this for me but I suppose the fedex costs would have her slapping my head the next time she sees me 😀

  • so in the end what did u decide? was it colgate or crest? or did u go for the red, white and green multicolored one?? i always go for crest, but anyways, i completely agree.. i was once in a grocery store and i realized that they had over two freezers with a trillion different kinds of French Fries.. for god’s sake, they’re fries.. made from potatoes, its all gonna taste the same.. but yeah this is what this world has come to… and the very funny mahjoob joke at the end just put everything into place… laughed my heart out.. thanks for sharing.

  • A new habit I developped,I scan the boxes real fast and I get the cheapest one out of a very good brand like colgate or crest,so if it’s extra whitening or mint falvored and both are colgate I get the cheaper one,just to make sure it’s a good product from a trustworthy company but not a rip off because the box is all glittery silver.I don’t want to pay for teh packaging,as glamrous as it might be,the crazy thing is kids ones,they force me to buy a 4.5 jd box of toothpaste ,tiny size that doesn’t last 2 weeks just because there’s disney’s princesses on it,to avoid wasting my time explaining the marketing tricks they use to my 5 year old!

  • Nas, I must admit, Iâ??m becoming largely acquainted with the non-news-feed entries of yours, keep the juice flowing!

    I think in the past 10 years, the consumer market have witnessed an explosion in terms of product diversification, for instance:

    We always had the straight forward 4 bar Kitkat (the one with -now Instinct- multiple wraps), gradually; two bar Kitkat was introduced, then three, then they offer mini-Kitkat, then the Kitkat Chunky (a cool concept by the way, realizing many people’s supersized food fantasies) and then they came out with Kitkat-white, along with Kitkat icecream! And this stands true to most familiar confectionaries.

    It’s the elusion of choice that manufacturers try to tangle its consumers with! With the adverse result of consumers wanting to “at least” try each type once (itâ??ll be more than once) until they find the product that “suits” them best, which will always be the plain old old-spice.

  • Being the avid card carrying fan of Trek, i can tell u that they didnâ??t have money, but they had credits that they used to buy things. Platinum was used to make bigger purchases and lithium crystals were used to buy parts for the ship. Watch Deep Space for further info

  • salam, it took me years to get to where you are. i tell ya…those aladdin tubes of toothpaste kept me in a marketing trance right through college 😀

    Basem, thanks. And yeah you may have a point here. I’m remembering when Coca Cola invented “new coke” and named the old one “classic coke” but then no one bought new coke. It was just too confusing.

    Fad, yeah but it was for trade, like a bartering system and on deep space most merchants just got “store credit” from star fleet, except for the ferangi. I saw an essay on this topic somewhere but I refused to read it at the time because it would’ve meant stepping into a totally different phase of star-trek-iness. I’m still living in denial.

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