Sunday, October 30, 2011


Two days ago, I went to CVS, a nationwide chain of chemists (aka "pharmacies"), to get a very specific brand of cream: Aveeno. When I got there, I found what looked like two different types of Aveeno on the shelves, so I compared them and finally decided on one. Back home, my wife asked me, "Why did you decide to get the CVS-brand cream instead?"

I hadn't.

Returning to CVS to get the cream I had really wanted, I realised why I had bought the wrong one: I had fallen prey to the kind of consumer switcheroo that retail chains love to provoke. However, r
ather than the typical tactic of merely placing store-brand products in more prominent positions than third-party ones, CVS has taken a far more insidious approach: it systematically mimics the colour scheme and packaging of the most popular name-brand goods and then places its own products directly next to these.

As a result, the tube of CVS cream was in a white tube exactly the same size and with exactly the same shade of green writing as my Aveeno. Further along the shelf was a larger bottle of Aveeno with a dark green lid. The CVS-brand bottle of the identical size also had a dark green lid - and stood adjacent to the Aveeno bottle. Looking down, I noticed a different brand of moisturising cream with a blue-and-gold logo and a distinctive gold pump-dispenser. The CVS-brand cream right next to it was also blue-and-gold with a gold pump-dispenser.

Amazed at my discovery, I took a step back, and as I scanned along the entire aisle, I noticed that all the products on sale were deliberately arranged in pairs - each one a "real" product and its corresponding CVS "fake", like those blatantly forged Chinese "Nicke" T-shirts and "Adidash" trainers. And whatever packaging the brand-name products came in, whether bottle, tube or jar, CVS had created and stocked a virtually identical equivalent.

Look at the picture below, which I felt forced to take in order to document my flabbergastedness:

As you can see, the only visual difference between the brand-name products and the CVS ones is that the latter have a circular CVS logo - although this is always in the relevant colour scheme of the imitated brand-name product.

Americans justifiably always pride themselves in having a choice. This is not about choice, but a deliberate attempt to fool customers. Shame on you, CVS!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Running the Trails

First light. Leaving the car park, the noise and the fumes behind, I plunge into the trees, the mellow vibes of Incubus Radio setting the pace, the autumn foliage above bathing the world in a warm orange glow and dappling the leaf-strewn path at my feet. Pitter, patter.

Dew-drenched grass licks hungrily at my ankles, and it is good. Mist hangs suspended over a pond like a snug, grey blanket. The path weaves left, then right, then right again, gradually climbing.

A sip of my water bottle and I run on, penetrating deeper, deeper into the forest – my forest, at least for now. A startled deer looks up, further on a chipmunk, and another and yet a third, its striped back waving to me as it darts away. "I really shouldn't," it seems to chirp, "but Hi!"

Higher I climb, ever higher, sharp right and then left, while the sun, radiant, golden, climbs with me. I pass a moss- and reed-filled pond half-lit, half still in slumber, and that also is good. Up ahead an intersection. Which way? The longer way!

My steps are light, and I too dart over the rocks, the stones and the roots, right, right again, now left. Warmed like a snake on a path in the morning, I shed my T-shirt and immediately increase my pace, topless and free, a wild animal finally released from its shackles. I am one with the forest; this is what I do.

The path slopes steeply down and, lifting my arms to soar, I thrill at the sensation of falling, falling. On I go, past a small lake. Pitter, patter. The sun is high now, and the lily pads on the water reflect its rays like myriad silver mirrors.

Another sip from my bottle and I run on, barely touching the ground, right turn, hairpin left, then down again. And suddenly – almost too soon – I emerge from my leafy womb, out into the brilliant light. Now I too am radiant, vibrant, tingling with energy. I look down at my watch: has it really been two-and-a-half hours?

To be honest, who needs drugs, alcohol, caffeine? I ran the trails this morning, and in just a few hours I became the sun.