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By: Wayne Brown
I made my customary morning stop at the local 7-Eleven up the street a ways from my office. I grab my morning cup of coffee there every day that I am in town and not traveling. Some days, I grab a doughnut from the display case on my way to the cash register with my coffee. Today was a doughnut day so I grabbed a chocolate one to calm my nerves for the day.
As I reached into the case, I noticed that all the plastic tags which were used to label the individual baskets of pastry were lying on top of the case all askew. Normally, when I go up to the register I attempt to get a laugh out of the store manager who is usually tending the register. Today was not different. I told her that I almost did not purchase a doughnut today. When she asked why not, I told her about the labels on top of the case and kiddingly said, “Without the labels, I was not really sure which one was the chocolate doughnut…so I had to guess”. She laughed.
Out in the car, I began to think about labels and how we do respond to them. Sometimes labels are truly necessary but too often they are overused and seem rather stupid. Take for instance the doughnuts this morning. Do I really need labels to tell me the difference between a “glazed” doughnut and a “chocolate-covered” one? Not really. At the same time, does it really make a difference when the customer sees that mass of deep fried conglomeration sporting a label of “fritter”? Oh, so that’s what a fritter is…well I want one now! If that had not had a label on it, I would have probably had to ask, “What is this thing?” The reply would have been, “it’s a fritter” and I in turn would have declined to purchase it because I don’t like to find out about fritters in that fashion. I think you might be starting to get my drift here.
For those who have never had fritters, the sign means little or nothing because they probably have not been looking for a fritter in the first place. It goes unnoticed by the “fritter-eater” who is quite accustomed to the appearance of the fritter and totally ignores the sign labeled as such. So, the label is simply for that curious individual who is wondering around looking at everything, sees a fritter, and has no idea what the hell it is. So the y ask which means someone in the store has to stop what they are doing and given an answer…thus the label.
We have those labels in grocery stores as well. The sign on the shelf says, “Diced tomatoes with cilantro” 95 cents per can. There is a price and a description. The label on the can says the same thing except for the price. But, without that label on the shelf, some idiots takes a can to the information desk and asks, “What is in this can labeled diced tomatoes with cilantro?” Again we return to the doughnut logic as to why these labels exist.
Of course, some might argue that labels are there to keep things from getting mixed up. I can see me now skipping happily out of the 7-Eleven with my coffee and chocolate-covered doughnut in hand only to take a quick bit and discover, “Hey, this is no chocolate doughnut. It’s a fritter!” Imagine me having to return to store and complain to the manager that I was duped into buying a fritter with my chocolate-covered doughnut money. Imagine the managers alarm when she discovers the fritters have accidently been mixed in with the chocolate covered doughnuts and no one has noticed because there are no labels. Now this is starting to cost the store money and create customer dissatisfaction all over the lack of labels in their proper place. You see the potential seriousness of this now I suppose.
Another place we run into labels is at gatherings like town hall meetings or your high school class reunion. Neither one seem to make any sense except that it adds an air of familiarity to the affair. “Well, hello, I see by your label that your name is Fred. Gosh Fred I am so happy to be here at the town hall meeting with you. You know, Fred, isn’t it great that we live in such a great little town where everyone seems to know everyone else? Why I recognized you as soon as I came in the door, Fred but I didn’t want to say anything because I saw that you had your nametag label pasted over your shirt pocket. That’s great Fred, why don’t we sit together for the meeting?”
Then there’s the 40 year high school reunion where everyone wearing name tags. They all recognize each other but the organizers are afraid someone will forget the other's name even though they recognize them. Then they’ll go, “Who the hell is that?” and end up distracted other activities while someone in the know answers them. I can hear myself whispering to my wife, “Yeah, over there’s that dumb-ass Fred Tucker with his name tag over his pocket. He is the one who wore his sister’s panties to school our senior year, “but then again, one would not want to mistake Hank Johnson, the high school football team fullback for the likes of Fred Tucker and go asking about those panties. So maybe there is something to these name tag labels at the reunion. I’ll have to give it some thought.
How about the dessert tray at the local buffet, do we really need labels there? There is Peach Pie, Pecan Pie, Apple Pie and on and on. Get those labels mixed up just once and you have chaos at the Luby’s. “Hey Joe, that looks like some great Apple Pie you have there.” “Oh, sorry, but this is Pecan Pie. There was a label right there where I picked it up that clearly read ‘Pecan Pie’. It might resemble Apple in some ways but it is clearly as the label says simply ‘Pecan Pie’.” Never mind that it looks like Apple Pie. It’s what the label says that counts. Thus we can conclude that if we use labels there is no need to apply common sense in most situations.
Over in the toilet paper section at Wal-Mart, the label on the giant package of toilet paper rolls states, “Giant Economy Size”. Woo…glad to know that! I could have looked around this store all day long trying to decide which package of toilet paper was the big economy one. It just goes to show you that you cannot go by appearance alone for you could be easily fooled by the first package you encounter marked “economy size”. You would quickly snap it up and run home only to be told by the little woman that you had purchased the wrong one. Had you been paying attention and reading labels you would not have had to depend on common sense to make this decision, a difficult one I might add.
Of course some labels don’t tell the whole story. For instances, let’s say you go into the store and want to buy a camera. Three cameras are lined up in a row with labels below them stating “Good, Better, and Best respectively. Now these labels in and of themselves are terribly misleading because you have absolutely nothing to compare but these one word descriptions posted by the store. So, to correct this error, the store adds the prices, $29.99, $39.99, and $49.99 to correspond respectively with the descriptive words. Now the scenario is in balance and you can easily decide which one is the best camera for you. You happily head home with your new camera in hand confident that you have used your comparative skills to select the best product for your needs. Thank God for labels rather than the need to depend merely on common sense.
No doubt my morning visits to 7-Eleven are creating some high level intellectual thinking on my part. Some might think it only a stop for doughnuts and coffee but I know that many questions of the universe will be considered in the course of my many visits to this haven. Einstein might weep if he were to visit a 7-Eleven and realize the number of intellectual challenges faced on a daily basis by the casual shopper. He might even look at me differently and consider me as a peer as opposed to just some cretin gnawing on a chocolate-covered doughnut.
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