Wednesday, 6 April 2011

'80s Pampers

I only brought one pack of diapers. Remember, half of my checked luggage was devoted to the donated formula, and about 3/4 of the other half was dedicated to Mtoto's food and formula. That left about 1/4 of a checked bag for medicine, toiletries, and my snacks for 3 1/2 weeks. My carry-on was all adoption paperwork, essential meds (Mefloquine and Cipro), mosquito nets, and Mtoto's and my limited wardrobes. When we traveled to Uganda to get Tommy I had been warned about the poor quality of third world diapers, and thus had packed an entire suitcase full of Huggies and Kirkland wipes. This time around I didn't have the luxury of extra space, and knew I would be relying on diapers purchased here.

I was of two minds on this subject. On the one hand, I want to support the economy of Mtoto's country by purchasing things here. On the other, I hate getting ripped off and buying sub-standard items at inflated prices- and this described just about every product available here.

When we went into the store to purchase a set of diapers (I opted for Pampers because they were cheaper), I found it somewhat disconcerting that most of the diapers were covered in a thick layer of grime, as if they had been sitting in that very same place for say, the last ten years. When I purchased them, at the price of thirteen dollars for 36 diapers, I admit felt the price a bit steep, but not as bad as I had been expecting. The diapers are quite clearly imported, as are almost all good because very little is manufactured here. I just checked the package and verified that they were produced in Morocco, which explains all the funny looking writing covering the pack. When I opened the pack I was struck by the resemblance that these diapers have to those worn by my brother Kevin when he was a 1987.

The outer part of the diaper is a thin plastic, and the tabs are the old tape style. I will say one thing for these dipes- they absorb like crazy and rarely leak. That is the benefit of the plastic. The downside? Plastic is not exactly gentle for baby's skin. I can see why Americans have switched to more cloth-like paper diapers. After a long spell in a hot car, and probably three gallons of sweat, Mtoto developed a huge rash where the plastic hits his skin. It was awful. I wish I could switch to a better diaper, but options don't exist here.

As an American, I understand that I have access to many of the best products in the world. Big manufacturers spend billions every year creating and testing products to ensure that they meet the expectations, needs (or wants), and tastes of the American consumer. If a company tries out a new formula, and the public stops buying it, they remove it from the shelves and go back to the old or try another new idea. What do you suppose happens to all those products that American reject as subpar? Or those television sets manufactured in mass quantities right before some huge new technological improvement? I imagine they get sent to a country that is slightly less discriminating than America. If those consumers won't purchase it, maybe it goes elsewhere. Eventually, it will end up here. This place is the dumping ground for all the garbagy products that no one else in the world wants or will buy. And, insanely, to get one of those rejected products here, you have to pay top dollar.

We were in one of the nicer import stores that caters to a wealthy clientele, and were looking at appliances. We ended up in the television section, and saw sitting on shelves "new" TVs. They were the little mini- tvs that are probably 14 inch or so that look like little boxes. They particular TVs had a plastic skull and crossbones affixed to the top and a logo that read "Pirates of The Caribbean." These TVs were clearly an ill-advised marketing ploy from the very first Pirates movie. How long ago did that come out? Ten years? Yet the TVs related to the marketing bonanza for that movie are being sold as new products here. I wish I would have looked at the price, because I'm sure it would have been shocking. We saw about the flimsiest, cheapest plastic slide I have ever seen (a Chinese product) that wouldn't be sold in the US except at maybe a dollar store, priced here at $500, and an equally pathetic "swing set" priced at $1400. Anyone with that kind of money would be a fool to pay those prices, because you could import something of higher quality for about that much, I'm sure, but it was crazy to think that someone might actually make that purchase because they simply had no other options and those were the best toys they could find.

You can purchase most American or at least European products that you want here, but, you never know what quality you will be receiving. Yes, I got my hands on some Pampers, but they were not the quality I would get from the same brand in the US, and they were more expensive (Not much more, I know, if I were to buy Pampers in a small pack at full price, but most Americans have access to sales and coupons, which does not happen here). The same is true of food products and toiletries. You might find a familiar brand, but you never know if the quality will be good or poor. Buying products here puts the gamble in Procter and Gamble (sorry, couldn't resist).

Let's be honest, very few people here or in most of the developing world can afford American products. But it is very sad to think that those who can don't even have the option of buying real goods- instead they are consigned to shopping a dumping ground of outdated and subpar items. Even if you had all the money in the world you couldn't get the same quality meat, produce, and medical goods sold in every single Walmart in the US. It is sad to say, but even food and products that many wealthy Americans turn up their nose at (like meat treated with antibiotics or fruits and veggies sprayed with pesticides) are far and away better quality and nutrition than the foods available in this city.

The one exception to poor quality products our group has found? Potato chips. We can get excellent potato chips, thanks to Simba of South Africa and their partnership with Lays. They are very expensive, but nothing says home like a bag of Doritos..even though I never ever buy Doritos. Also, Lays and Simba both produce very interesting flavors. A few examples: Caribbean Onion and Balsamic Vinaigrette, Smoked Beef, and Mrs. H.S. Ball's Chutney. The fruit jellies aren't bad either, but don't get me started on the peanut butter...

1 comment:

The Knudsen family said...

What a fantastic—albeit disappointing—POV. Thanks for sharing. There's an upside to living in the land of American innovation, and a downside—clearly all the crap we produce. I do *hope* Mtoto's country comes out ahead when you consider all of our contributions.

Prayers and joy continue for you and your family, Amy!