COLUMN: February 16, 2011

I AM becoming increasingly concerned by misleading packaging. By this, I don’t mean outlandish claims on packaging like “Special K: Makes you fit in a slinky red dress even if you are a man”, “Mars: Helps you work, rest, play and see through walls” or “Dr Pepper: It tastes nice.” Legislation has more or less dealt with excesses like this.

And I certainly wouldn’t want us to go too far the other way. Although that is probably already happening.

I saw a packet of cream crackers recently which had a picture of one of the crackers with a piece of cheddar on top along with a sprig of parsley. Underneath the picture was the legend “serving suggestion.”

Really, if you need a serving suggestion for cream crackers, then you probably shouldn’t be allowed the knife to cut the cheese anyway.

No, the problem is with items which should be packaged in a particular way but actually appear in another. As an example, take the cheese and onion crisp.

For years, the cheese and onion crisp was associated with the colour green.

If you picked up a packet of Tudor Crisps, Smith’s Crisps, even Golden Wonder Ringos, and it was green, you knew what you were getting. Blue was for lovers of salt and vinegar, red was ready salted, there was some leeway around the exact shade of mustard for roast chicken crisps but that was about it.

The point is, if you didn’t like salt and vinegar, you knew to steer clear of the colour blue.

Then Walker’s came along with their blue cheese and onion crisps and green salt and vinegar, totally messing up what had been a perfectly good system and turning choosing a crisp from a proffered packet into snack Russian roulette.

I rued the current tendency towards misleading packaging this morning* when I showered. For the purposes of this column, it is necessary for you to be aware of the mechanics of my morning shower. I am as uncomfortable with this as you – and I’d be grateful if you would strike it from your memory at your earliest convenience – but this is for the greater good.

OK, for speed’s sake, I shave in the shower. Only my face, I am not a weirdo.

But, for the sake of tonsorial balance, I have to shave around my sideburns outside the shower and in front of the mirror.

I squirted the shaving gel into my hand, noticed there wasn’t much left, lathered up, put the gel back on the shelf, and all went well. I did get a bit of shampoo in my eye.

As I grabbed the towel to extract the errant shampoo, I picked up the shower gel, squirted it straight onto my rugged manly chest, and realised I’d used the last of the shaving gel. It wasn’t my fault – the bottles are the same size and colour. I was misled by the packaging.

“For sensitive skin,” the shaving gel states. I am sorry to report that that is not entirely the case.

Luckily, I managed to remove it before it caused lasting damage.

I threw the empty shaving gel bottle into the bin, climbed back into the shower, reached out a hand, squirted the shower gel onto my rugged manly chest and discovered I had picked up something suffused with ylang-ylang and lavender.

None of this is my fault. If toiletries manufacturers don’t have the wit or inclination to produce packaging which gives more of a clue as to their contents, then I should be allowed to sue them.

And if you think I am overreacting, then I remind you that you’re not the one who had to go to work feeling like a lady, and strangely peckish for a bowl of Special K. Unless you are a lady, of course.

*WHEN you read this, it will be “yesterday morning”, but I shouldn’t be surprised if it happens to me again today.

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