COLUMN: Present purchases based on packaging

NANAIMO – It's not the thought, but the packaging that counts.

I wonder what kind of consumer I’d be if it weren’t for creative packaging.

I received some oddball presents this Christmas, mostly because of the packaging that caught my eye – like on the Philips electric face and body trimmer.

The recharger plug was wearing out on my old one and it’s easier to buy a new one than fight with  it.

I spotted what I needed while my wife and I were in the big box electronics store a couple days before Christmas. (We often know what we’re getting one another because we know what each other needs, but not exactly what will fill the other’s bill, so we pick what we want, wrap each other’s presents – creatively sometimes so we can’t tell if it’s, say, a bottle of perfume or a stuffed parrot – and pile them under the Christmas tree with everything else.)

I picked out the trimmer partly because it was cheap, it was what I needed and for the packaging graphics, which included a silhouette of a man with five circled numbers on the areas of the body the appliance is designed to trim. Now, I think anyone with even marginal intelligence could look at the body bits where the numbers were and name them, but just in case, the package designers added a numbered list below the silhouette. Sideburns, beard, chest, legs and groin.

In the big box book store I found a book on photographer Edward Steichen’s work and another book listing history’s worst weapons with a picture of a rickety looking, propeller-driven First World War armored car on the cover that caught my eye. I think my wife picked them up the minute after I wandered off to another store.

Later that day in the chain novelty gimmicks store I spotted a big coffee cup with the words “A Giant Mug of I Don’t Give a *****!” (let your imagination fill in the blank) stenciled on it. It found its way under the tree too. I think I’ll bring it too work.

Something, perhaps the packaging, prompted two separate sets of friends to give us portable lights. One is a Snap-on LED trouble light that I’ve already used to help diagnose a problem in my stepson’s car. The other is a Black and Decker 2 million candlepower rechargeable spot light. My wife had it out last night and I swear she could fry small animals at close range with the thing. At the very least she’ll be able to freeze in place the deer that gather in our back yard every evening.

My stepson, in Vancouver shopping for a present for his mother at the same time I was in downtown Nanaimo, texted me looking for suggestions.

I texted back that I was in the same boat, but he’d never believe what I was standing next to in the big box pharmacy.

My apparent joy at my discovery landed the Dr. Dreadful Alien Autopsy kit with “lifelike motorized guts” under the tree as well. The packaging that caught my attention features a colourful cartoonish caricature of mad scientist Dr. Dreadful and an alien on a autopsy table. The body cavity flips open so you can pour coloured, sugary gel into bug-shaped molds in the alien’s body parts, which heat up and solidify the gel into edible candies. It’s reminiscent of the Creepy Crawlers bug maker sets that came out in the late 1960s.

“Each Autopsy experiment offers delicious tasting treats that look gross and taste great!” according to the advertising on the box.

I’ll likely never open it, but it’s worth having just for the box graphics. I’ll might re-gift it to some kid next Christmas. Then again, who’s to say a grown man can’t play with anything he wants?