Friday, November 15, 2013

Recession Taking a Toll on People's Backsides: Toilet Paper Use Down

OK, so I am standing in the toilet paper aisle at the Harris Teeter staring at a wall of white rolls clad in all sorts of colorful packaging claiming all kinds of benefits for my backside. Of course that is how toilet paper is marketed...either because it feels good (which makes it more expensive) or it doesn't (but is a much better deal). I figured that if people wanted to save money, their butt was always the sacrificial lamb of sorts, and they would still be using the same amount of toilet paper, just a cheaper brand. But I have just read that people are using LESS toilet paper of all kinds because of the recession, and I am trying to figure out how to do that.

According to Advertising Age Magazine "People long have taken for granted that some categories of consumer goods, such as toilet paper, truly are recession-proof. Turns out that, like many assumptions, is wrong. As a result of the recession, consumers went beyond trading down to cheaper, private-label products and actually bought less toilet paper of any kind. The recession has turned bad enough that people bought less toilet paper — about 5.5% less last quarter in the U.S., according to Kimberly Clark Corp. Chairman-CEO Tom Falk, who blamed the economy for disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and a weak forecast for 2009."

Whilst standing there trying to work this out, I pulled out my trusted iPhone and searched Google for "how to save toilet paper" I was led to a site called These were their suggestions.

"1.Use less. (Duh) The standard frugal guide is three or four sheets. If you fold it instead of grabbing a bunch and crinkling it up, you will need less. A wad of toilet paper will have more sheets in it that a fold." (this is a known scientific fact)

"2. Buy a lower priced brand. I think this works only to a point. If the paper is too thin, you'll wind up using more of it. Some people swear their family uses the same amount no matter which brand they buy." (and your butt will hate you for it.)

"3. Separate two-ply paper into two rolls. A friend of mine swears this works. When she gets home from the store, she and the kids go to work separating out the two ply roll so that there is a layer or "ply" per roll. She uses empty toilet paper tubes to roll the separated toilet paper and keep things neat." (Freud called this "Anal Retentive Syndrome" which is a precursor to "Obsessive Compulsive Syndrome" which is supposedly caused by kids being potty trained too soon. I know a lot of people with this affliction but would not even think about consulting them for this article, knowing how wound up it would make them.)

"4. Use something else. Beside newspaper, frugal people use all sorts of things as a substitute for toilet paper." (The chick that is now famous for buying a PC instead of a Mac in the new Microsoft ad says she uses leaves from her yard to save money...)

"You can make your own flannel wipes to dry yourself. Flannel can be bought for less than $1 a yard sometimes, especially if it is a seasonal flannel. Cut the flannel into squares and you are all set. You will need a bucket or wipe box to store the used flannel until you have enough to wash." (Yes flannel...not terry cloth...not silk...not old cotton tee shirts...must be flannel)

"You can also just rinse with a squirt bottle and use a washcloth to dry. You might even get cleaner with a rinse instead of wiping with toilet paper." (In other words go buy a bidet. Men...get used to it.)

Truth in Marketing?

Although toilet-paper marketers are promoting more sheets, more layers and the added sanitation of wet wipes, the promises don't always hold true. More plies aren't always stronger according to Consumer Reports. (speaking of Anal Retentive Syndrome, a magazine that caters to those types)

To test toilet paper Consumer Reports technicians measured how much lead shot dampened sheets could hold before they broke. "The strongest sheets were thickest and typically had two plies compared with just one for rolls that scored lower. However, Quilted Northern Ultra Plus has three plies and it was neither thickest nor strongest, and Scott Extra Soft proved about as strong as many two-ply rolls, despite having just one." According to CR, "Scott 1000, (my favorite brand) at 6 cents per 100 sheets, delivered the most sheets for the lowest price, however its individual sheets were thinner than that of most other brands tested."

In our family we test our toilet paper not with lead shot but with a high fiber diet that is recommended by People Magazine and many of the famous inhabitants of Malibu, California. While we have found this diet almost useless for controlling our weight, it day in and day out provides a great testing ground for toilet paper.

What we have discovered is that we use the same amount of toilet paper every month, no matter what the brand, so the only way to save money is buy the cheapest and most hardy brand. Again, let me suggest Scott 1000, or the "Endless Roll" as my son calls it. (He is a surfer and loves that movie, "The Endless Summer" and movie allusions are encouraged in our house.)

You cannot go wrong with a toilet paper brand that's name sounds more like a racing bike, and touts strength, performance and longevity over comfort and gentleness. Use Scott 1000 for a month, and your butt will feel just like you road The Tour de France on said racing bike as well. But you'll save serious money.

True story, I went on an adult Outward Bound kayak trip in the Bahamas where 12 people, men and women had to share one roll of toilet paper for over a week. There simply wasn't the room for more toilet paper after we had stuffed the boats with food, water, tents, sleeping bags and other provisions. Well, as you can imagine, the roll didn't even last a day. Let me just say that the palm trees down there do not supply a natural alternative. The next thing you know, people are standing on the shoreline, looking longingly at the water, and not because the wanted to go snorkeling. Everyone sort of had to make do (do) with what was available which was an entire ocean serving as sort of a natural bidet.

It was gentle and soft as a Caribbean breeze. Sounds like a great tag line for a new toilet paper brand.