I went out not long ago to buy a replacement for a product I had used for years. I had purchased a few of them over the years and even once bought a few of them to have on hand so I didn’t have to go to the store when I finished using the old one. When I got to the store, I looked for the product and could not find it in its usual place. I asked a guy who was working there where I could find the product and the guy pointed me right back to where I was and told me it was right in front of me. It wasn’t right in front of me. The item I was there to get comes in a blue box with white writing. The guy was holding a red box with yellow writing.
“It’s the same thing.” he said, “just new and improved.”
I really didn’t think the thing could be improved. It was a pretty good product and I had used plenty of them over the last 20 or so years. There was nothing wrong with the old product. It had been around for about a 100 or so years before I started buying it and there was nothing wrong with it for all that time. Why bother making it “new and improved?” Making it new was like re-inventing the wheel. It goes without saying it did not need improvement. Needless to say, my back was against the wall as the supply of the product I had at home had been exhausted. I bought the new and improved version.
Saying this was improved was like saying the Ice Age was a chilly day. It was akin to saying Abraham Lincoln had a so-so time at the theater. This was not improved. This was cheaply made, flimsy and not at all like the product I had used for decades. It certainly was new, though. It was nothing like what I had known for a long time. This cost the same, but was a lesser product in a garish box.
A couple of years ago, Kraft changed the recipe of their macaroni and cheese. Everyone knows Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was the consummate comfort food. Hot and cheesy, bright orange and easy to make. Embellished or plain, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was sure to please. Well, until they changed the recipe. It was done to make it more health conscious. It was done to make it more nutritious. Well, folks, when I am eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese by the pound, the last thing I am thinking about it how nutritious it is. I want it to taste good. After the change, it was less like mac and cheese and more like mac and yellow pasty water. We had to find another brand or make it from scratch. I can’t tell you the last time there was a box of that stuff in our house.
Remember 1986 and New Coke? Of course you do. It’s a story so well known, I don’t even have to write about it. Everyone remembers it. Everyone remembers what a big flop it was. I don’t know who decides what needs to be improved and why it needs to be improved. A lot of things are good just the way they are. I can understand the evolution of electronic devices, because technology is constantly changing. That’s a no-brainer. However, when your business is chocolate chip cookies and you have been using Grandma’s recipe for 100 years with incredible success, nothing says “good business sense” by using a radically new recipe that no one likes and telling everyone that they like it. You can tell me all day that a raisin is a grape, but I like grapes and I don’t like raisins. Telling me something is new and improved is just another way of telling me you got bored, changed something, and expect me to like it.
My wife has a vintage Yankee Drill. It’s a handheld drill that’s powered by the user pushing down on the top. My wife’s drill finally bought the farm and she went to a local hardware store to get another one. The big box stores had no idea what she was looking for. The local mom and pop store had one, but it was cheap and plastic where my wife’s was metal. The plastic one was “new and improved” and “lightweight.” A drill is not supposed to be lightweight. It’s supposed to be burly and tough.
I can assure you, this column will remain the same. A lot of readers like it just the way it is. There is really nothing “new and improved” about the written word. I might try to be a little funnier in the future. A few readers don’t think I am funny at all. That’s okay, I’ve been married to her for so long that she just laughs anyway.
Contributing columnist and Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.