Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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Jaded Consumer Reports

July 29, 2005

My mother would be shocked, shocked, by my dedication to store brands, bulk bins, and the thrift shop. I vaguely remember an advertising campaign in the days of my long-ago childhood that pushed not a specific brand but name brands in general. The pitch was that with name brands you got Better Stuff, because the companies behind the names had reputations to uphold, whereas (this part was by implication and innuendo only) unbranded stuff could have come from anywhere and if the beans have stones or fly turds or germs in them, who you gonna call? How you even gonna know?

I tell you, those advertisers have been prepping us for the War on Terrorism for a very long time, since long before the World Trade Towers were built even. But that's another story.

This story is about contact lenses, specifically the contact lenses I got from my optometrist less than two weeks ago. They're different from my old lenses: they're disposable. These lenses are easier to take care of than my old ones, which lasted till they got lost or ripped or I needed a new prescription. Those lenses required a little gear-like disk, a cylindrical container with lens-holding insert, bottles of two different and expensive liquids, and lots and lots of saline solution. The new ones require only one product, ReNu, an 8-ounce bottle of which costs $10.49 at Leslie's Drug Store in Vineyard Haven. This product is produced by a company whose name you certainly know if you live in the U.S. and have contact lenses. I have not yet discovered a cheap(er) generic version of this. The instructions included with this product warn against replacing this product with (relatively cheap) saline solution at any step in the cleaning process, so of course I have started to do exactly that. When I first got contacts (at around age 40), it took me at least a year to discover that I didn't have to do the whole cleaning regimen every day: once a week was plenty, and sometimes I even went for two.

Big Eyecare Company wants me to use Their Stuff, and to make me use as much of Their Stuff as possible, they are happy to imply that anyone else's stuff could ruin my eyes. I'm smart, I'm skeptical; I'm going to do a little experimenting and see how little I can get away with.

I'm not really sure that my mother would be shocked. Since I was a kid we've come round full circle: now the generics, the bulk bins, and the thrift shop have as much credibility as the name brands, at least in smug liberal circles. (Martha's Vineyard is smack dab in the center of several smug liberal circles.) And my mother got smarter and less credulous as she got older. Most women do.


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