David Rodeback's Blog

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Saturday, June 7, 2008
Real Men Don't Smell Like Strawberries

A case study in the free market's shampoo aisles.

Recently, here at the blog, I extolled the virtues of the free market, as I have done before. Let's see how the free market did this week as I tried to buy, of all things, shampoo.

I don't have a lot of hair, but what I have, I like to keep clean. Suave used to have a fairly ordinary, very economical shampoo. It wasn't anything fancy, but I didn't want anything fancy. It worked, and it cost about $0.99, so it was just about perfect. These days, there's a lot of Suave on the shelf, if Wal-Mart has stocked the shelf recently, but none of it is plain or ordinary. Last time I went through this minor economic ordeal, I stumbled upon a Suave for Men. This week it was nowhere to be found, at least not at Wal-Mart.

There is a fun little scene in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks' character is musing on the modern coffeehouse. Here's what he says, as quoted at IMDb.com:

The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what . . . they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.

That movie was a few years ago -- a decade, actually -- and I think a tall decaf cappuccino costs more now, but you get the idea. If you really do get the idea, you understand how I feel on the shampoo aisle.

  • "Cucumber Melon Splash"? I like cucumbers. I like melons. Not in my hair.
  • "Fresh Mountain Strawberry"? I love mountains. I love strawberries. Not in my hair.
  • "Juicy Green Apple"? You're kidding, right? Not in what's left of my hair.

I don't want to smell bad, but I don't want to smell pretty, either. I'm a guy. I'm not metrosexual, even if I do think Frasier and Niles Crane are hugely funny (fictional) guys.

Suave. Men. Shampoo. Is this so difficult? No, not the "Dual Charged Hair + Body Wash." I have soap for that other function. (Not a "body bar" or a "bath bar." Soap!)

I want shampoo. Just shampoo. For a guy.

Well, one of the virtues of a market is that there is more than one brand on the shelf. So I started looking at other brands. Herbal Essences was next, but I won't make that mistake again.

  • "Totally Twisted"? Not really my style.
  • "Dangerously Straight"? Well, I'm straight, but this sounds downright homophobic. Also not my style.
  • "Body Envy"? Have you ever seen me? No one envies this body, no matter what hair product I use.
  • "Long-Term Relationship"? No, sorry, I want to use it and throw it away, not marry it.

Finally, I gave up on Wal-Mart. Thanks to the free market, there's a Target store not far away. It had all of the aforementioned hair care adventures. Maybe it even had "No Flakin' Way," but I didn't look for a dandruff shampoo -- at least, I hope that's a dandruff shampoo. In any case, it took me about five seconds to find on Target's better-stocked shelves the trio of words I sought. Suave. Men. Shampoo.

Now I know where to go next time.

Long live the free market.

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