Posts tagged “container”

Adventures in Consumption

Here’s a bunch of examples of surprise, delight, dismay and beyond from my recent interactions in the consumo-sphere.

From the travel section at The Container Store. Lots of fun little bottles for packing your unguents and potions for travel. Nalgene bottles are guaranteed not to leak, even in the unpressurized airplane cargo hold. Given that the most you can carry onto a plane under TSA regulations is 3 oz., that seems like a likely size. Nalgene doesn’t make that size, despite sufficient demand that The Container Store has printed up a special sign to try and deflect the inevitable inquiries. What are those conversations like between the Nalgene sales rep and the buyer from The Container Store?

Paying online for the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition to the cost of the paper, I can also add a tip for the carrier, or donate some money to NIE. Not a misspelled Monty Python reference, it’s Newspapers in Education (I Googled). You’d imagine they’d get more uptake if they told us what it was they are asking for money for.

From the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “No peeking” (and “come back”) is so much nicer than “keep out.” And so knowing; of course when you see an installation-in-progress you are curious! The SFMOMA acknowledges that curiosity and harnesses the energy behind it to encourage you, rather than discourage you.

The menu at Oyaji in San Francisco. We see the risk of software that uses default form entries when you end up with Spider Roll that consists of “Give a brief description of the dish.”

At Crate and Barrel, shoppers can send a text to the manager to give feedback about their shopping experience. I hadn’t heard of this service (from recent Google acquisition TalkBin) before.

A travel poster advertising Alaska. And bears. Funny, friendly bears. Who, if you read the news, keep eating people.

A poster from a local cafe advertising Elizabeth’s range of services. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more tangible demonstration of the importance of specializing in your positioning. While I’m sure Elizabeth is wonderful and if I got to know her I’d trust with everything including yard maintenance and meal preparation, but to a new customer, someone who is qualified to look after precious offspring isn’t therefore qualified to look after precious animals (and in fact my be less qualified…do you want your toddler in a house full of someone else’s dogs?). Pick what you are good at and sell the one thing. If you need to diversity, create a range of separate messages.

Rooms at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle have lovely specialized bottles of hair care products that reflect their brand and overall attitude. Unlike most hotels with their tiny (3 oz.) sample bottles, these are big, easy-to-handle bottles like you might have at home. A sign warns you that it’ll cost you $25 to take them home, so you know it’s good stuff. Mind you, on the housekeeping cart are these ketchup-and-mustard-evoking-bottles with stick-on labels that are used to refill those lovely bottles. Delightfulness denied.

Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. Past the faulty grammar (How the elephant got in my pajamas, I’ll never know!) the motivation for this extreme warning is clear enough.

The ice cream menu at Cold Stone Creamery. Random, unfunny, unintegrated product name puns. One evokes James Bond, but why? None of the others do. Other names are silly but decidedly not clever. My favorite is Cookie Minster, made with mint, so you’d think it’d be Cookie Mintster but no. Not that.

Crock Addict

I’ve developed a taste for expensive yogurt.

It started as a lark a few days ago, in a natural foods store near my home, when I saw Saint Benoit Yogurt for the first time. This single-serving yogurt comes in a miniaturized stoneware crock, colored and shaped like (what I imagine to be) a traditional European crock.


I figured I’d throw down the $3.99 for a Saint Benoit once-it seemed luxurious, and worth doing for the experience.

But lo, the Palmetto Organic Grocery has just opened directly across the street from our office, and guess what they carry?

As it turns out, Saint Benoit only costs $2.49 if you return one of the used crocks. Compared to the usual $0.99 for many other organic yogurts, this price is still awfully high, but if the reusable crock and local, sustainable production are an ecological improvement over the usual disposable plastic container and cross-country transport, that’s one inducement to pony up.

The bottom line for me is sensory, though. There’s something about the “old world-like experience” of holding that little crock and hearing the spoon clink on its side that is proving to be quite seductive.

It’s a triumph of interface design.

The little touches that mean so much

We did an unplanned meal shopping thing at Safeway the other day – went in for that night’s meal, thinking “let’s get some fish, and maybe some vegetables.” We check out the fish and choose Dover Sole, relatively bland. We think about some spices and I go off to the spice aisle for something from Zatarains or whoever has that silhouetted dancing chef (anyone?), but then we see this pretty cool display right in front of our noses (there’s so much crap on display in these stores that I guess we tend to look past it when possible) – a variety of spices and marinades.

The fish-prepping man was incredibly nice, very genial, and asked lots of questions as he prepared our food (“how spicy do you like it?”, etc.). We could get the spices on the fish, or on the side. He pointed out another flavor they had but didn’t have room for in the display. We went from ingredients to meal with an enjoyable and custom bit of service (yeah, you can buy flavored/spiced fish and chicken, already done, but this was done at that moment, just for us).

Of course, there were no ingredients on these containers and if you’ve ever read the packages on marinades and flavoring spices you’ve probably noticed the ridiculous amount of salt they contain. We usually comparison shop at length until we find something that is not going to drown us in NaCl. Well, as you can imagine, the fish was spicy and really really really really salty. Each bit was like someone held your tongue with a pair of tongs and held a container of free-running salt above your head for a full minute.

Interestingly, I don’t blame Safeway for that. I take responsibility – caveat emptor – for purchasing a likely-to-be-salty product without finding out more. I compliment Safeway for providing a value-added experience (with the quality of the service – the human – really making it work). I guess we won’t do that next time, and will take the prep burden back on ourselves.

also: I thought the design of the marinade dispensers was kinda cool, allowing you to measure and presumably prevent overpouring.


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