by wjw on September 9, 2014

So right now I want to go all Andy Rooney on the subject of armpits.

I recently went to a drugstore to get myself some stick deodorant.  You know, the containers that allow you to stuff aluminum into your armpits, so that people around you won’t faint if you’re stuck in crowded elevator.

I like the unscented deodorant because it seems to me that the whole point of deodorant is to be unscented.  Plus, being unscented permits the option of adding the scent of your choice, if scent seems desirable.  (I’m fond of Chanel For Men, myself.)

Anyway, there was no unscented deodorant at the drugstore.  No unscented anywhere, on any shelf, any brand.

So I checked out the scents available, just in case any of them were by Chanel, and I discovered that deodorants now have hip, cool names meant to convey excitement and attract the younger crowd, but which are basically meaningless.  When you had scents like Lime or Bay Rum or Old Spice, you sort of knew where you stood.  But now you can smell like Black Ice, or Fresh Rush.

After popping the caps and giving a quick sniff, I quickly discovered that I did not want to small like Black Ice, or for that matter Fresh Rush.  Despite my enjoyment of aquatic adventure, I didn’t want to smell like Ocean Breeze,  or Ocean Surf.  I didn’t want to smell like a Clean Peak, a Phoenix, or an Axe.  I didn’t want to smell like Anarchy— which you’d think would be no deodorant at all— or an Arctic Refresh, whatever that is.  I didn’t want to smell like a Tropical Paradise or a Long-Lasting Mountain Spring.  And more than anything else, I didn’t want to smell Extreme, which would seem to defeat the point of deodorant entirely.

So I ventured over to the ladies’ section, home of floral and pastel packaging.  Women, it seems, have the good sense not to want to smell Extreme.  But the floral scents, it seems to me, were even more aggressive than Axe.  Sniffing the lilac antiperspirant was like being clouted in the head with a lilac-scented brickbat.

I couldn’t help but notice that, no matter the brand, whether it was Speed Stick or Right Guard or Axe or Dove, there was one row of antiperspirant completely empty.  I began to believe that this was the row where the unscented deodorants lived.  They were all sold out.  That’s what the people wanted.

Apparently nobody wants to smell like Black Ice or a Clean Peak.  They want the unscented, and that’s what they buy, and they leave the rest to stink on the shelf.

Why was the drugstore not giving people the option not to smell like anything in particular?  “Give the people what they want” would seem to be the essence of retail.  Do you suppose they’re given “vendor allowances,” which is what kickbacks are called now, to stock all those smells that nobody seems to want? All those scents are colonizing the shelf for their brand, even if nobody wants them.  Staking out “rack space.”  (It reminds me depressingly of book publishing.)

It took me visits to three different drugstores before I found a Speed Stick Unscented, and it was the last Speed Stick Unscented in that particular store.  Anyone coming after me was out of luck.

As consumers, we should stand by our right not to smell like much of anything!  Why should people stuff a Mountain Spring up their armpits when they don’t want to?

On, my friends!  To nothing-scented heaven!

DataPacRat September 9, 2014 at 5:59 am

… A couple of days ago, I had to look in five different places before I could find my own mass-market unscented de-scenter. There are some jobs which /require/ people to not apply scents, so I knew there had to be some somewhere out there, but I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to resort to the uber-expensive organic/animal-free/gluten-free/etc store.

I bought all the Speed Stick Unscented that was on the shelf, in case the manufacturer stopped manufacturing.

TRX September 9, 2014 at 10:13 am

I use rubbing alcohol. Seems to get the job done…

Here, we’re in a trash bag crisis. Abruptly, the only things any of the local stores’ shelves are scented, deodorant-impregnated, or antibacterial. To me, most of them smell like something developed for mob control. My wife can’t smell them, but I had to leave the house until they were removed and the windows opened to air the place out.

I’ve noticed a similar thing before, with cookies and potato chips. Once, the only cookies of any type available were “chewy.” And with potato (or corn) ships, shelf after shelf of “sour cream and onion.” No plain chips to be had.

Phil Koop September 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I suppose you must be right about the “rack space”. Sigh. I wish they would differentiate on something else though. Color, application format, “flanking brand”, anything.

The bizarre names must be the outcome of a pseudo-scientific process gone awry, involving “focus groups”, whose practitioners now have as much in common with Joseph and the Scientific People as with Skinner. A “Quant Suff”-scented aftershave would hardly surprise me.

TRX September 10, 2014 at 2:58 am

Well, at least it would be a literate name instead of one of those focus-group words…

Doubleplus extrapoints for all customers who know the first name of the Psi-Corps officer “Bester” on Babylon 5…

wjw September 10, 2014 at 4:22 am

Without knowing the answer, I’m just going to guess “Alfred.”

Ralf The Dog September 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Try looking for any bottled tea that does not have sugar or fake sugar. It sells out in a day. The stuff with sugar in it sits on the shelf untouched. I would guess, they don’t track sub brands. They look at the total sales of Pure Leaf, however, they don’t track the, “Sugar with lemon”, “Sugar with sugar” and “Sugar with even more sugar” versus just plain tea that won’t make you fat.

Philip Trask September 10, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I like the “Essence”. It’s a lot milder than the Anarchy that I also keep in my backpack for remote use. Very funny comment about that Anarchy! I consider it an anarchic assault on conservative nostrils. Plus chicks dig it.

TRX September 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Ah, Walter ol’ buddy, I get the feeling you weren’t a B5 fan…

Yes, it was Alfred. Normally busy with reading peoples’ minds, noting down in his little book when they’d been naughty, pulling the wings off flies, and invading the Sudetenland… well, at least he was accused of it. Played by wossname, the guy who played “Chekhov” on Star Trek.

Bester also shows up in “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning,” though played by a Finnish Trek fan. (and what does Star Trek have to do with Babylon5? Think long Arctic nights, lots of vodka, and a CGI rendering farm under someone’s kitchen table…)

> fake sugar

Try finding *any* sweetish processed food substance that doesn’t include “Stevia, ” which is the latest in the long chain of artificial sweeteners that are supposed to be wonder products until they decide they cause cancer or worse.

To most people, Stevia taste sweet. To a microscopic percentage of people, it tastes like licking a 9-volt battery. By the FDA’s statistics, there are probably several dozen peoople besides me who can actually detect the taste ans find it revolting.

And it’s in *everything.*

I first noticed it in soft drinks. I thought the local bottler – known for sub-Soviet levels of quality control – had mislabeled diet Coke for regular Coke. Nope, the FDA allows them to substitute any quantity of sugar for Stevia (I found that on, and since Stevia is much cheaper than sugar… it’s all “diet” now. And nasssty. And then it started popping up in other stuff.

I was a 3-liter-a-day Cokeaholic for 20 years, and went cold turkey when I couldn’t buy it – or any carbonated drink – without Stevia in it. For months, I would cheerfully have committed atrocities to get my fix.

TRX September 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Ah, a point I forgot to make – according to, they’re allowed to replace sugar with Stevia without noting it on the label, where the contents are normally listed. That is, the FDA specifically allows them to lie about whether a product has sugar or Stevia.

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