What America Buys


My wife has maintained for several years now, if someone spread the word that eating corrugated cardboard lowered cholesterol and lengthened lives, there would be a cardboard shortage within months. First it would be sold by the pallet, then by the pound, working it’s way down to small packages. Last but not least, you would only be able to pick it up at your local pharmacy for a hundred times the cost of what it was only a month or two ago. I won’t even speculate what the cost would be if the FDA made corrugated cardboard a controlled substance. We’d all be dreaming about the good ole days when we tore up boxes and threw them into the recycle bin. Yes. It seems like Americans will buy just about anything that’s for sale.

Last week I was in my favorite store, Barnes and Noble. I was standing at the customer service counter ordering a book and chatting away with the customer rep, because talking to people is what I do. And as always, my curious gene was fully active and I began looking at the odds and ends strewn about the counter. You know, like tiny two inch tall novelty books that have titles like, “Smile, It’s…” and you open it up to page one and it says, “It’s Monday!” with a goofy quote and a sun flower beside it. For only $5.99 you can get a book with 120 words not worth reading. What a bargain. And it cost less if you have a discount card that costs only $25 per year.

I looked around at the counter stuff and I saw a small box with a plastic window on the front. Inside the box was a miniature bottle of sand with a pair of half-inch tin flip-flops hanging from a string around the neck of the bottle. Last but not least the words “Footprints In The Sand” were written in curvy pink letters just above the little window. Awe! Isn’t that sweet. I’m in Florida and I can buy a miniscule bottle of Florida sand to send to my snowbound friends, and it can be had for the bargain price of ONLY $2.99. I stress the word “only” because $2.99 might be considered to be worth a bit more money if the word, “only” did not precede it. What a deal.

So I picked the box up and began to look it over, and, Shazam! The magic words, “Made In China,” appeared before my eyes. My mind began speculating without hesitation. I could see a couple of dirt covered Chinese guys cleaning crusty residue from the inside of an industrial furnace in a factory just outside of Beijing. They scrape the stuff into buckets and then dump the buckets into barrels to be hauled away. But do they take it to the pit and dump it out like we would here in the USA? Heck no. They take it to the “Make Something And Send to America Factory. (MSASAF)

At MSASAF, two marketing geniuses open the barrels. One of them says, “Looks like sand,” in Chinese of course. The other one says, “Put it in little bottles and sell it as beach sand in America.” The first marketing guy is younger and new at the, Market it to America, thing. He naively responds, “Don’t they have their own sand?” The old one answers, “Yes they do. But we can bottle it, package it, ship it over the ocean, haul it across America on trucks, get it on the shelf and market it cheaper than they can. We’ll even throw in some tiny flip-flops.” And then they do it. I can only presume that the little bottles and corks were left over from some other factory where the bottles were used for who knows what. The tiny flip-flops? Who knows where they came from.

A year later a sixteen year old girl in Bangor, Maine is giving her cousin a big hug because when cousin Darlene went to Daytona Beach on vacation, she brought back a tiny bottle of Chinese furnace residue in a cute little bottle with a cork in the top and a pair of tiny flip-flops, all in a box that says, “Footprints In The Sand” on the front. She never notices it says “Made In China” on the back. Then she instinctively sets the box on her shelf full of nifty, cheap, ‘Made in China’ stuff that she has collected over the years.

By the way, did you hear the rumor if you eat an ounce of corrugated cardboard everyday it might lower your cholesterol? I hope this marketing ploy works because I’ve got a whole garage full of cardboard I’ve been stock piling. I wonder if I should hold on to it until the FDA gets involved? It’ll be worth more than gold.

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© 2015 by B.M. Simpson