I’d Like to Know: Why? #6. Excess Packaging.


This is the sixth in an intermittent series of posts asking sometimes awkward questions. Some topics are trivial, some serious, and others vital. I’d love you to join in any ensuing debate using the comments at the foot of the post. Enjoy!

Recently, my wife’s laptop mouse decided to play up; the scroll wheel sent the cursor in any direction other than that intended! I ordered a new one for her (Valerie’s the first to admit her IT knowledge is a little lacking). This, remember, is a PC mouse; a small, lightweight object that would fit into a carton big enough to house a…well, a mouse.

So, what arrived? The picture says it all.

The cost of this is irrelevant to me: it was a ‘post free’ deal. But I have this inbuilt ‘excess meter’ that bursts into life whenever I’m faced with the unnecessary waste of resources. I mean, look at it. All that for a mouse! It could’ve so easily been packed for sale in the shop, and for post, in a small cardboard box with the minimum of protective packaging in the form of recycled, moulded coarse card. Plastic waste is a major problem and this bubble pack was totally unnecessary. A smaller cardboard carton would’ve made the device easier to display on a shop shelf, cheaper and easier to transport and to post, and would’ve reduced the purchase costs. An idiotic waste of resources. I wish they’d use common sense instead of excess packaging.

junk mail

And, whilst I’m having this rant, I must mention the junk mail that arrived today. We get very little, as we’re signed up to the mail preference service, so I’m especially sensitive to rubbish pushed through our letterbox. The stuff in the picture consists of two leaflets. One’s from a property company offering high end (and expensive) retirement properties. Printed on premium paper the thickness of light card, it’s an example of ott marketing guaranteed to make me averse to the product. The other’s an 8-page leaflet about spectacles; another wasteful use of paper (not the recycled type) bound to get my goat.

I don’t know about you but, if I want to buy something, I go looking for it. Sending me unsolicited garbage in an attempt to get me to buy something I’m unlikely to buy is simply going to alienate me. I can’t believe I’m alone in this reaction, so why do these companies do it? There surely must be better, more efficient, less wasteful systems of advertising than sending millions of leaflets randomly to people with no interest whatever in the products, mustn’t there?

This stuff goes, unread, into the recycling bag. I’ve never bought an item or a service as the result of receiving junk mail. Have you?

What a waste of time, effort and resources. High time this practice was made illegal, I think. What about you?

2 thoughts on “I’d Like to Know: Why? #6. Excess Packaging.

  1. Only one thing worse than the junk mail and that’s the junk door knockers. We have two signs on our front door announcing our unwillingness to host sellers on our doorstep. Does that stop them? Nooooooo! As you said Stuart, If I want to buy something I’ll go looking for it. I simply don’t transact business in this manner.

    To clarify, I’m not just talking about the bible bashers. The most regular sellers we have in our street are people wanting to offer a free roof inspection. When I tell them I’m not interested, the usual feigned shock response is “You mean you’re not interested in your own roof?” The easier guise to adopt I’ve thought before is to just tell these people I’m renting but I refuse to have to concoct a bald-faced lie on someone else’s account in circumstances such as this.

    The close-cousin-bugbear are the over-the-phone sellers. A number of years ago I bought some tickets to win a car where proceeds went to the Deaf Lottery. Now apparently I’m on their list to cold call every month asking if ‘I’m right for tickets?’

    In a number of ways I pity people who have to earn a living by selling. Not an easy existence by any means. So from that point of view I try in many instances to be tolerant and empathetic, yet this is all too often mistaken for softness which just seems to encourage their persistence.

    My old man used to tell me the story of a vacuum cleaner salesman who once knocked on the door of my old childhood home. My father told him up front he wasn’t interested and stated that it wouldn’t matter how good the demonstration was he wanted to do in our living room, he was not going to buy the product. Still the man insisted and pleaded for a chance to demonstrate at length the purported incredible cleaning prowess of this machine. After the demo, that had gone for some time, the salesman enquired what my father thought, to which my father replied “I told you at the beginning I’m not interested.” The story goes that the salesman became quite hostile that his time had been wasted in such a blatent manner and had to be escorted off the premises by two adult sons.

    As to junk mail, the only thing I’ve ever received worth keeping from that quarter was a pack of playing cards (which I promptly gave to my young daughter) emblazoned with the face of our local chemist. Oh, and the magnetic calendars from the all and sundry real estate companies which we stick on our fridge. Could I even tell you from memory right now the name of the Real Estate company on those calendars? Not a chance ’cause I don’t even ‘see’ it.

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    1. Ah, the door knockers! Fortunately, we live in a small cul-de-sac at the top of a steepish hill, will few homes in a small village, so the only ‘knockers’ we see are the ubiquitous Jehova’s Witnesses. I know I shouldn’t, but I do so enjoy teasing them with feigned interest before I introduce myself as an ‘evangelical agnostic’ and smile at their confusion before sending them on their way. Like you, I never buy on the door.
      The mail preference system stops us getting most junk mail and a similar scheme protects us from the worst of the cold calling covens.
      I used to sell for a living. It nearly killed me. Did a year as a travelling salesman selling a ‘developing and printing’ service and travelled 55,000 miles that year! I was manager of a shop for a couple of years and I spent some terrible months selling by cold-calling during a spell between more worthy jobs (I’d been made redundant and had to find some way of earning a living until something better came along!)
      In fact, it’s my experience of selling that has caused me to be so poor at marketing my books. I feel a blog post emerging…
      Thanks for your story. I can just imagine the salesman’s feelings, but he wouldn’t listen, would he?

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