Our Man Tests The Water
The logo of Sukhoi Co. is clearly visible, center, among the wreckage of a Sukhoi Superjet-100 scattered on the mountainside in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Friday, May 11, 2012. The crash of the new, Russian-made jetliner into a jagged Indonesian volcano during a flight to impress potential buyers has thrown doubt on dozens of plane sales just as Moscow seeks a comeback in foreign markets. All 45 people aboard were feared dead. (AP Photo)
Everyone who has seen "Erin Brockovich" knows that not all water is safe (and that not everybody should wear a push-up bra). However, assuming that the water in your area is not poisonous, why buy the bottled stuff? There is the assumption by the consumer (and the impression by the advertiser) that somehow bottled water is healthier for us than regular water or other drinks. Considering that the most popular bottled waters are sold by Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and Nestle, it's hard to think of them as health foods.
The various brands try to appear as healthy as possible. Descriptions on their bottles include, "spring water," "pure spring water," "natural spring water," "mountain spring," "natural artesian water," "crystal fresh," "naturally filtered," and "purified drinking water." And at least one label boasts my favorite label slogan -- "arsenic free." Is this bottle just telling me that it contains no arsenic, or is it also implying that those without this disclaimer may be loaded with arsenic? I mean, Krispy Kreme doesn't label its donut boxes, "Plutonium free."
There is a huge range in price and snobbishness among bottled waters. In case you haven't gotten your copy of "Beverage Digest" lately, let me remind you that no less of an authority than its editor and publisher, John D. Sicher, says they are all basically the same and "all hydrate equally well." The most popular brand of water is Pepsi Cola's Aquafina. And the most amazing thing to me is that this bottled water actually costs more than Pepsi! So, it's conceivable that the following conversation could take place: "Want some water?" "No, I don't want to spend that much. I'll just have a Pepsi." Evidently, when it comes to water, the higher the price, the more people buy.
People are very proprietary about their favorite brands, claiming that theirs tastes best and helps keep them in good shape. Bottled waters can cause all kinds of arguments – and not only about taste or health. My neighbor was recently buying some Evian in the grocery store when another customer chided him for not buying American products at this time. Then the angry "patriot" drove away in his Porsche.
When it comes to water, I don't have a very discriminating taste. Yesterday, I bought eight different brands of water -- varying in price from 34 cents to about $2. I conducted a blind taste test, and even included tap water. They all tasted pretty much the same to me. Maybe I should have had a sip of wine in between each taste to cleanse my palate. I know that some people -- maybe even most people -– are better than I am at distinguishing the different brands, but is all this clear liquid worth the hype and money? If you tell me that your favorite brand tastes better than all the rest and makes you feel healthier than the others, I believe you. But I can't help thinking that those in the bottled water business are laughing at us consumers and thinking that we're suckers -- especially when you consider what Evian spelled backwards spells.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver