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QOTW: What are the most unnecessary human inventions?

Hello Kitty scented toilet paper

This weekend let us examine those applications of human ingenuity and enterprise that are mysterious, inexplicable, and basically make us go: Wow, someone spent their life making this a reality. Could anything be sadder than that?

What are the most unnecessary human inventions?

I must choose scented toilet paper. Which, to be fair, is probably not the result of someone’s life’s work but more likely the ghastly outcome of a corporate marketing brainstorming weekend, but it’s an idea that is completely unnecessary even as a marketing idea because it’s not like people need any sort of extra incentive to buy toilet paper. And what sort of competitive edge does it offer? Who wants to rub some of their most sensitive bits with chemicals? I wish I knew where this came from… but Japan is probably a good guess, what with the extra disgust the Japanese seem to have about all things related to the toilet. I don’t recall ever seeing scented TP in supermarkets in the New York area — though I certainly wasn’t looking, either — and I don’t see it offered on any U.S. shopping sites, such as Amazon or Peapod (the grocery-delivery service I used in NYC). The product is definitely a must-avoid in U.K. shops, however… though now that I think on it, I’m not sure if it was as ubiquitous only two years ago, when I first arrived in London. So maybe it’s new here, too. Let’s hope it goes the way of New Coke and disappears from shelves soon.
Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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  • beccity98

    Yes, I hate scented products. Scented feminine hygiene stuff, scented trash bags, scented cat litter. it doesn’t actually cover the smell it’s supposed to be covering, it just adds to it. So then you just have something that smells like flowery poop.

    I just recently saw a potty-training toilet made so you can fit your ipad in it. http://iwastesomuchtime.com/on/?i=65824 That is so stupid. I really just have no words for how stupid that is. I despair for our society. It goes along with tv’s in the grocery store lines and at the gas station. Really? We really need to be watching tv THAT much?

  • Ryan

    My mum used to buy this scented tube thing that you place onto the toilet roll holder before the toilet roll. I guess the idea was that it was similar to something like air freshener, but bizarrely localised to something that’s about to be flushed away?!

  • http://twitter.com/GrubStLodger Adam Stevenson

    It is conceivable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be done.

  • Patrick

    The iPad, for people who find the MacBook Pro too cumbersome, too inexpensive and not expensive enough to repair.

  • Tim

    Breast implants-dumb-I’ll say no more

  • amanohyo

    I was going to mention that peanut butter that has the jelly already swirled into it (PB and J is such an exhausting dish to prepare), but all the toilet talk reminded me of the Numi from Kohler. Please google the commercial and try to keep a straight face while you watch. It is $6000 and it isn’t even comfortable – also supermodels install them in the middle of their living rooms apparently…

  • Paul

    It’s not that the Japanese have especial disgust for the toilet. It’s just that they have a fanatical hygiene culture, which links hygiene to spirituality. Although it has its downside in weakening resistance to infection, overall it seems to have had positive health benefits.

    Much of the toilet paper here seems to be unscented. I don’t think Japan is significantly worse than the UK in the scented-toilet-paper stakes. More importantly, I think the Japanese have come up with other, more unnecessary, creations. On the other hand, what at first appears to be ‘unnecessary’ often turns out to have a point. A button in a toilet that produces the sound of a toilet flushing is a means of sparing the blushes of women embarrassed by the sound of bodily functions, and saving water in the process. At first sight it seems unnecessary, but then many social interactions involving shame do seem that way to those who don’t feel that particular shame.

    I’m suspecting the scented toilet paper is in a similar category: it’s there for people who are embarrassed by the smell of their waste matter, and want to mask it somewhat.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Most unnecessary? The Tzar Bomb, I hope.

  • Tim

    Best sound bite today- greatest advance for human kind since the remote control toilet.( I’d put an emoticon here if I didn’t think they were also superfluous)

  • Paula

    Why is there such a fervor to make the perfect toothbrush? I think that in many cases, the number, shape, and distribution of bristles, as well as different kind of ergonomic handles, really makes no difference at all. I just ignore the electric toothbrush entirely, so maybe that says something about its importance, at least to me. Unnecessary: designer toothbrushes.

  • http://twitter.com/keaplin Kirk Edgar Aplin

    Facebook

  • http://reformamendment.blogspot.com/ Paul Wartenberg

    instructions for the operation of toothpicks. I’m with Douglas Adams on this one.

  • LaSargenta

    Loverman says the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  • Patrick

    Facebook: If you’re not the seller and you’re not the buyer–you’re the product.

  • RogerBW

    Combined things in general. Particularly scented deodorants. If I want to deodorise and perfume myself, I’d rather do those things separately.

  • Danielm80

    I would include the AROUND THE WEB bulletins at the bottom of this page. At the moment, I’m seeing a headline about Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe malfunction.

    (Tangentially: My computer’s spellcheck doesn’t recognize “Kardashian” as a real word, which makes me feel good about the way I’m living my life.)

  • LaSargenta

    This is funny…I just hit “send” on an email to MAJ with a couple of screen shots of those around the web thingies. It was the link to Jane Seymore, 61: Too Old for Bandage Dress? that bugged me.

    Edited to Add: There’s a “What’s This?” link on the upper right of the Around The Web shit that has a link to a Disqus feedback page. I went and complained. Maybe we could make it go away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.dalmas Rebecca Dalmas

    Being able to share photos and messages with friends and family on other continents is up there with the good stuff, IMO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.dalmas Rebecca Dalmas

    Sugar-free ice cream. Come on, what’s the point?

  • Gee

    Most products in infomercials. Like this thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyCrRrw-rc4

  • teenygozer

    Anything at all with a scent added.

    Scented toilet paper has been around in the USA since the 70s. I’m highly allergic, and I remember the rash. You don’t forget *that* rash.

    Similarly allergic-reaction producing and unnecessary was “Feminique” a “feminine” deodorant spray (and, yes, you were supposed to spray it on your vagina) that was popular in the 70s. Hideous product, invented by a man who decided to convince women they smelled bad and then sell them the overpriced cure.

    Febreze has caused my husband and I to have full-blown asthma attacks. My mom helpfully doused her guest room with it and we had to sleep on the cold floor in the basement on Christmas eve, then leave the next day after Christmas dinner instead of staying over until Boxing Day as we planned.

    Scented makeup, esp eye makeup… WHY?