The selection of a single tube of toothpaste can leave a grown adult quivering like a deer by the tobacconist at the exit of a supermarket.
I’d like to open, for you reader, a very small window into obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD, not to be confused with obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD; often stereotyped as excess hand washing)
First, I see, as part of an end of the aisle display, Colgate branded multi-purpose toothpaste reduced as end of line, to £2 (£2.67 per 100ml). I know that I am in need of toothpaste and this; all though not in the self-care product aisle; focuses my full shopping attention to that need.
As it’s branded, and even at this reduced price, I assume over priced; I head straight to the dental hygiene section aisle to compare against other deals and own-brand equivalents.
There I see the cheapest, plain white design, own-brand product at 75p. (35p per 100ml).
I’ve got sensitive teeth, my gums have receded, and I’ve worn off the enamel with night time, stress-based, jaw-grinding. I need to factor this into the decision.
There’s two further levels of own-brand options. One is plain toothpaste that comes in at £1 (75p per 100ml). Then there are the toothpastes with ‘functions’. ‘Sensitive, charcoal and whitening’ £1.50 each; £1.67 per 100ml. Each level fancier fonts; wrappers and shiny colours.
Colgate was all at £4; so the reduced one could be a good deal on the discount. (If you didn’t compare to own brand). All at £4 apart from the standard ‘cavity protection’ Colgate at £1 (£1.67 per 100ml).
Posh brands. Pronamel; £4 (£5+ per 100ml. Didn’t pay attention to exact price as it’s ludicrous). Then there was Sensodyne reduced from £4 to £2 (£2.67 ish per 100ml). Now these are advertised for the problems I have. But, do they actually fix the problems? Or are they all the same but with ‘branding’?
I read the ingredients of the cheapest and second cheapest own-brand. Everything the same apart from one item with slightly different latin spelling, and a touch more fluoride (a hippy once told me the fluoride is useless for teeth and bad for the health, but subdues the populace. I’ve had a strange irrational bias to fluoride since). Up to the higher own-brand range and one additional item is added to the ingredients. (Note; this is not my first rodeo comparing toothpaste ingredients; including those of own-brand and ‘branded’ brands).
Own-brand baked beans are just as good as ‘branded’ brands for my taste. My logic is that toothpaste must run along the same lines. But. Here; we are talking about my health (all though diet is also health; but in food I can directly compare sugar amounts etc, also, a bean is a bean (unless it’s organic)) yet in toothpaste I cannot discern the components.
So the debate here consists of -
- lack of trust as to whether I am paying for actual content and useful components or solely being tricked by design and presentation
- the strong desire to part with the least amount of money possible against the knowledge of how long I make a single tube of toothpaste last (squeezing out the empty looking tube for a further fortnight at least) and so the relative cost in my life (which is minimal)
- wanting the best product for maintaining minimal teeth sensitivity and not believing any product actually can restore enamel once it’s gone (sure I read that online from a reputable source somewhere)
I have already dismissed anything mentioning ‘whitening’ as I’m sure that’s what contributed to the dissolving of my previously abundant enamel. ‘Whitening’ seems to be featured in 60% of the offered products.
Twice I walk the three isles back to the reduced section to check the brand/specialism/price/price-per-100ml of the reduced Colgate tube there. All prices written here are from memory, days after that shopping trip; yet at the time of reading and re-reading each display tab; it’s easy to slip up and self-question.
I’m not sure anyone is actually aware of the time I have been crouched down to the bottom shelves (where this supermarket chooses to house ‘dental care’) but there is a creeping doubt that staff are talking about me. This feeling brings fear of future embarrassment and mocking laughter.
Second pressure is from the constant barrage of mental-self-abuse at the fact that I’m now wading into thick mud on one small element of a multi-element ‘big-shop’ and as we quickly tick past the ten-minute point; I’m very aware it’s slipping out of control.
There’s a nagging doubt throughout this episode that ALDI will have cheaper options. That I am stupid not to just stop there, and it’s only the fact that I have cycled to the shop and don’t fancy unlocking and re-locking the bike and entering another supermarket with a full backpack of food (security might get jumpy) to cue again to pay. But ALDI is definitely a strong factor in the confusion.
I consider for the second time if I can scrape more toothpaste out of the clearly empty tube at home and possibly delay this choice, so ‘future-me’ can deal with it. Future me hates past me.
There’s a lot of internal self-cajoling/abuse to ‘MAKE A DECISION AND MOVE ON’.
There’s a heated internal debate about my self-worth compared to the value of money.
There’s an awareness that I am trapped in a situation caused by an actual problem I have and that I need to be forgiving and patient and try to let rational logic win out.
My head feels like the laptop when the fan starts to make that really loud noise and I know I’m seconds away from the mouse pointer becoming unusable; or just an all-out ‘restart’ and losing all work progress. I’m clicking madly.
I managed to internally argue that I could afford a toothpaste that caters specifically to my needs. That even though I had picked up the cheapest on offer, repeatedly, as a “fast” solution; that I should override one last time and the “fast” solution should now, and in the near future, be amended to cater to needs and spend money ready and waiting to be spent. To live the reckless and dizzy ‘high-life’ like other adults of my age. And buy fancy toothpaste without second-thinking.
I walk away in under half an hour with the own-brand, branded, ‘sensitive’, £1.67 per 100ml compromise. Sensitive teeth is what I have. I’m buying into wording and colours; but not actual ‘brand’ material. The price matches per 100ml the branded toothpaste that promises ‘complete’ protection without actually specifically mentioning sensitivity.
Retaining niggling doubts that I have been slightly-conned, but with satisfaction that I’ve got more than a month before having to have this debate again, and that I have actually pushed through to making a final “snap” decision, I try to casually go back to finishing the shop.
Now try, if you will, to imagine my face, 20 items in, self-scanning at the till, bag half packed, when the toothpaste comes up at a marginally higher price than the out-dated display tab showed; jolting it upwards into a now new and wholly different bracket of price-per-100ml.
(I’m writing this here to procrastinate the process of trying to buy myself a car online. My sincere apologies to future-me.)