Content advisory 16+ I recently dug up some interesting texts to prompt my students with, and one of them was called “Bottled Water: The Marketing Trick of the Century.” The title pretty much says it all, and the article went on to support some suspicions I have held for a long time. Basically, it attacked the premise of plastic containers full of H2O and sold to the public as representing our salvation from the supposed poison flowing from our taps. You can check the link here. I don’t know if “scam” is too hard a term, but neither would I exclude it entirely from the conversation.
In case you don’t have time to read it, the article addresses two main points: (1) the water in these containers advertising Arctic freshness and mountain stream purity is by no means sure to be healthier than tap water run through a simple filtering system which can be bought cheaply and installed with minimum effort; and (2) the mammoth accumulation of PLASTIC from these containers (one three-liter bottle takes 700 years to decompose) is filling our oceans with potentially diabolical consequences.
In short, I am in agreement which the conclusion that bottled water is predominantly no more than a gimmick. Liquid food for YUPPIES (Young Urban Professionals) to increase their status among their equally vapid and shallow friends, and a scare tactic employed by marketers to frighten and intimidate the generally gullible and uninformed public.
It deserves a place right alongside organic food and bottled air. (Yes, BOTTLED AIR — a coming attraction in the marketplace for sure — and subject of my next blog). I think it is somehow part of our ‘gadget’ mentality as a whole. There are many people nowadays, for example, who have been convinced by the geniuses and gurus of the marketing industry that they cannot survive without the latest updated gizmos. For example, they feel that they need wrist-watches that tell them how many steps they took that day, what their heart-rate is at any given moment, and how deep and efficient was their sleep.
And I say, OK, OK, OK, if you want it, feel you need it, and have the money to spend, go for it !!
It doesn’t change the fact that you have been brainwashed from the get-go. As for me, I walk enough so that I don’t have to count steps, assume my heart is still beating or else I would be dead, and know how rested or tired I am from how I fucking rested or tired I FEEL.
But I border on a digression. Let me go back in time a little for the benefit of those of you were really WERE born yesterday. Alas, I cannot speak for Russia (or Bulgaria, for that matter), but when I was a kid in America — and for many years after that — it was taken for granted that plain water from the kitchen tap was perfectly safe. Sure, we heard terrible stories about the aqua in Mexico and places like that, but in God’s country, there were no such worries. In God’s country, we pissed nothing but the best vintage ginger ale. So the WATER just had to be, without a doubt, beyond reproach, right?
In fact, for many years, when you went to eat in any sort of establishment outside the home, the first thing the waitress did (usually it was a female unless you ate in a fancy restaurant in New York City and were treated to service from some arrogant, nasty fairy imported from France) was plunk down a big frosty glass of ice water in front of everyone. It was simply protocol, no ifs, ands, or buts. A lot of the time we didn’t even bother to drink it, but it was there every time.
The other thing I remember was water coolers, otherwise known as drinking fountains. Every office had one, no matter what kind of business went on inside, and so did all the schools. It was automatic, and usually the water was cold and delicious. (Americans have always liked their drinks to be ice cold, unless you mean coffee. Then it should be hot enough to boil a lobster.) Moreover, in business settings, the drinking fountain was more than just a water trough on the way to the urinal. People would meet there and linger, sort of like a makeshift break-room. So the drinking fountain was a place for socializing and even exchanging bits of business. The only problem could be if, as I said, the water wasn’t cold enough. (“What the hell’s the matter with this goddamned water fountain??” they would cry.)
But then came bottled water. All of a sudden we were informed that our health would surely collapse without it (never mind that the life expectancy in America was rising so fast that the insurance companies and people running the Social Security system were losing their minds. “Why don’t these bastards D-I-E anymore like they used to???”). And so, very much like cell phones (mobile phones), they started to appear. Innocuous at first, kind of like a novelty or curiosity-item. You would be walking along the street and suddenly you would see someone with a bottle of water. Someone else would have a cell phone. Sometimes it was the same person. Then the public phone booths started to disappear. (“Wow, where did they go? I need to make a phone call !”). And so did the water fountains. At first, of course, you had a choice: bottled water or the drinking fountain. Then….there were no drinking fountains. It was bottled water or nothing. And that’s where we stand now.
There are numerous companies with various names such as “Alpine Stream” or “Glacier Fresh”, but all of them follow the same strategy. They come up with a slogan (what would life in our world of mass communication be without slogans? — here are a few that I looked up: )
West or East …We are the Purest
It’s your happiness..the way you drink.
Youthfulness in every Drop
Beautiful inside, Outside
Water with Muscles
Water, Approved By your Spirit —
— accompanied by some bright-white-and-brighter-blue label of a mountain side flowing with aqua so sparkling and glittering that you just want to get naked and dive in right then and there.
The reality it this, folks::
You have NO guarantee that what you are spending your money on is any better than was you could find in the bathroom sink. Or the toilet, for that matter. Again, I make allowances for the different quality in different parts of the world. My dogs prefer rain water that fills the ditches to any cocktail I pour them from the bottles of water my wife insists on buying. Maybe I should join them? Kidding, of course.
Actually — lending credence to the old adage that “there is nothing new under the sun” — the concept of bottled water goes back a long way. It came first in the now– the UK in 1622. Back then it was thought to have healing and therapeutic effects. Then in 1783, the famous Schweppes company was founded in Switzerland, followed by the advent of carbonated water in the USA, stimulated by the fear of cholera and typhoid, and millions of bottles were sold until chlorine was introduced in 1905 as a way of killing dangerous bacteria, after which the bottled water industry waned. But in 1973 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was introduced. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles were patented, resulting in plastic bottles that could contain the pressure of carbonation. The secret was in the plastic. The industry has never looked back.
I once had a job in Florida with a company called “Rainsoft” which sold filtering systems. My task was to go to homes where appointments had been made for me (beat the hell out of cold-calling) and demonstrate the must-have system. First I would get two clean glasses from their cupboard. In one, I would put straight tap water. Into the other, I would pour water from the same tap which had been run through our filtering system that I had meanwhile hooked up. Then in both glasses, I would put a chemical of some sort, a kind of water-activator or something like that. It was supposed to detect what chemicals were in the water that came out of the tap. Then I would cover both glasses with a towel and go on to make my sales pitch, educating the potential customer about all the impurities and noxious agents that were befouling the St. Johns County water supply. The show took about 40 minutes. After that, with the gusto of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, I would unveil the two glasses. The Rainsoft glass was as pure and transparent a Russian oligarch (I jest again). The untreated one — the water from the tap which the family had been drinking for years — had been transformed into the color of a madman’s dream or a piss-smoothie concocted by 20 sailors. It was frightening.
“This,” I would beam, “is what you have been drinking!”
They would look like they had seen a ghost and ask for the contract. It was that easy.
If I could have offered them a plastic bottle full of the stuff, I’d be a rich man today.
It was all based on playing to people’s ignorance and fear, you see. Pitted against the cunning of sophisticated marketing, even the staunchest common sense can falter and disintegrate.
Moreover, drinking bottled water OF A CERTAIN KIND now has acquired a kind of social status.Because, well, supping on plain old dull, listless tap water is not very…SEXY, now is it? There for we have acquired some of the following: raw coconut water, locally tapped maple water, artesian alkaline water, and non-GMO aloe water. Some of the water is rainbow colored just to enhance the effect. And celebrities such a Beyonce, Gloria Beckham, and other such goddesses have lent their fabled names to it. Who am I to argue with THEM?
But, you know what? I think I’ll stick to beer and follow the dogs to the ditch. I trust that the alcohol can kill the germs on the one hand, and, on the other, the dogs look pretty healthy to me.
===Eric Richard Leroy===