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Saturday, April 7, 2007

If It's in English, Read the Label

Since coming to the UK, I’ve tried to be a careful shopper. I spend much longer in stores than I ever did in the US, more because brands are unfamiliar than because I’m trying to get the “best deal,” but often I also try to convert measurements (lbs to kg, for example, or doubling the price for currency conversion) so I don’t get too cheated, so this takes extra time, of course. Still, while portions and brand names differ here, products tend to look generally the same: grocery stores typically sell the same foods (apples, oranges, potatoes, celery, dried prepackaged pasta, frozen and plastic-wrapped meats, chips—excuse me, crisps—etc.), clothing stores sell the same clothing (skirts, blouses, shoes, purses, belts, etc.), book stores sell…books, and so forth. Therefore, since I never bought many things at home specifically by their name brands, I’ve simply picked many items here that tend to look the same. This works well with the most obvious items: fresh produce and clothing you can try on are good examples. Unfortunately, it does not work so well for items that come prepackaged.

Yesterday, I went to the 99p Store to buy some laundry detergent, because is almost all used up. As I was scrutinizing my options, trying to determine which bottles included caps that measured the liquid for you and which ones simply expected you to guess how much 75-100ml would be when you poured it into your washing machine, I made an astounding discovery. There, in very small print below the brand name on the label of one bottle I was holding, were the words “laundry fabric softener.” Fabric softener? I looked at other bottles on the shelf. In the same small print, most of the large bottles that I had been inspecting said “laundry fabric softener.” However, on two of the smaller bottles I had glanced over, the small print differed slightly. On those labels, the words read “laundry liquid.”

Without delay, I located the bottle that matched the brand of “detergent” I was currently using on my laundry. Sure enough, there were the words “laundry fabric softener.” No wonder my laundry has never seemed completely clean ever since I arrived here!

1 comment:

Julie said...

I love discoveries like that. Like the time my sheets felt kind of weird when I took them out of the dryer, only to realize an hour later that I hadn't put in any detergent at all...

I found stores in Guatemala kind of daunting because everything just looked different. The layouts and displays were unfamiliar, most of the brands weren't even in english, and I didn't want to look stupid in front of the owner (most places were too small to really have employees). I didn't need to buy very much since I was living with a family, but when I did buy something, I took longer than normal because I was trying to figure out what everything was. Fun times.