Musings of a Matriarch: Once again, fooled by the packaging

Sharon Kennedy

My Legacy Box arrived last week. For a year I listened to ads assuring me all my photos, slides, DVDs, and VCR tapes will be preserved for posterity through the efforts of the company. For $50.00 they promised to transfer 75 slides to a disk. I finally took the plunge and ordered the box. Then I got to work and numbered the slides so they would be in a logical sequence and ready to go when the prepaid return container arrived.

Thursday the mail lady dropped off the box. It measured 10-by-9-by-6-inches and couldn’t have weighed more than a few ounces. When I opened it, the return box inside was smaller, yet still quite large for my needs. All it held was an information pamphlet, shipping label and barcode stickers, and a piece of cardboard directing me to go to their website and create custom DVD titles.

The folks at Legacy were aware I was sending in 75 slides. If any of you have taken slides, you know they measure 1-inch by 1-inch and easily fit into a box smaller than what a typical Lean Cuisine frozen dinner comes in. So why would I receive something large enough to hold a dozen VCR tapes? Legacy’s logic was lost to me through overkill. Only the forest knows how many trees were sacrificed for my 75 slides.

But that’s the way things are today. Overkill is the norm. We oldsters purchase low-dose aspirin. I buy mine at Walmart. It comes in a plastic bottle containing 120. The bottle is large enough to accommodate at least 500. It’s the same with vitamins. Most bottles are half full. Many come with a piece of cotton shoved into the bottle so we don’t hear the vitamins rolling around like marbles in a tin can.

I’m aware stuff settles once it’s packed. When we open a box of cereal, the oats, bran, or Lucky Charms are half way down the box. The first time Mom purchased some no-sugar Jell-O, she returned it to the store and informed the clerk the product was defective. There wasn’t much more than a teaspoon of granules inside. The clerk explained because the sugar had been removed, the box appeared almost empty but company policy dictated the outward appearance mimic the box size of “regular” Jell-O.

Some food items are so full of air that when they melt they resemble a deflated balloon. Consider, for example, a quart of ice cream. If left on the counter and forgotten for any length of time, the contents will be a soupy mess. You’ll wonder where the ice cream went when it’s replaced by a milky mixture with tiny pieces of nuts or miniature peanut butter cups or sprinkles sinking to the bottom.

The flavored salt some of us buy to shake on our bowl of popcorn is more than deceptive. It’s downright maddening. I purchase the Nacho Cheddar flavor in the 2.85 ounce size. What I don’t understand is why it’s packed into a five inch shaker when there’s less than three inches of salt inside. Does salt settle that much?

And consider the 40 ounce cylinder of Carnation Malted Milk mix. Every now and then I feel the need to treat myself to a malt so twice a year I buy that mix. I’m always disappointed when I pull off the foil wrapper and find a quarter of the product missing.

The items I’ve mentioned are just a few on the long list of things packaged in containers gigantic compared to what’s inside them. Maybe I’m way off base here. Maybe all that extra space is needed. Perhaps the vacuum seal on products demands room or the box would explode. I don’t know. I’ve never been to a plant other than years ago when my husband and I toured the Vernors Ginger Ale facility in Detroit. We all know when we open a bottle or can of any beverage, we’re getting our money’s worth. I can’t imagine buying a bottle of soda pop and only getting two swigs of the sugary concoction. Even bottles of fancy craft beer are filled to within an inch of the top.

But outward packaging has always been deceptive whether we’re discussing food products or people. We’re all acquainted with folks who are lovely to look at, but often their exterior is their only beauty. It’s the old saw about not judging a book by its cover. In the short term, we might be mesmerized by a handsome face, a smooth talker, a slick dresser, a snazzy sports car, or a stunning residence. I guess it’s human nature to be attracted to pretty faces and shiny personalities. We might overlook the lack of empathy, kindness, or honesty in our new friend but as time wears on, we realize we’ve been duped.

When I send my 75 slides to the Legacy people, I’ll wad up a week’s worth of newspapers as filler for the return box. I could make a dozen copies of this column and stuff them in, but that would mean wasting more paper and I’m fairly certain nobody would read what I’ve written. Thrift in our modern world is an uphill, losing battle. Maybe we really do need overkill. I’ll remember that the next time I see a mosquito. I’ll replace my fly swatter with a 12″ stainless steel frying pan.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.