Midweek Rant #10: Trader Joe’s Detergent Box

I have a particular problem with the poor execution of products with good intentions.  You may remember in the rant about my frustrations with on-the-go coffee containers that I was bothered by a “green” choice resulting in a significant decline in quality of life.  Oh sure, constantly spilling coffee isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly made it hard for me to give a shit about the planet when paper cups are reasonably shaped and ergonomically designed.

I don’t know that there’s much I can say about Trader Joe’s powdered-form Laundry Detergent that doesn’t made me livid.  First let’s take a look at a promotional picture:


Behold the Box

Behold the Box


The marketing team must’ve known I like plants (even if I refuse to appreciate them).  Labeled “Trader Joe’s Laundry Detergent / Plant Based Formula,” the product was placed on a healthy, luscious bed of grass, with some other plants and flowers and some mulch in the background (forgive the poor description, I don’t know how to describe plants, remember?). 

So looking at the box I’m all like, “I like plants…”

The dot-dot-dot is where I decide to buy the product.  What drew me to the product even more than the plants was the price.  I had already bought TJ”s liquid detergent, but noticed that the powdered form was quite a bit cheaper.  The only trade off was that you had to buy one of the big boxes, with 64 loads.  I was sure I was going to like this product, so buying a larger quantity seemed like a good idea.  If anything, it’d save me another trip to Trader Joe’s (granted, this is not much of an issue for me).

Also, buying such a large container would keep me from making an impulse purchase of Tide.  It’s not like I get excited about Tide and can’t help but buy some, but sometimes you find yourself in a bind and you have some laundry that has to be done by 9am and it’s midnight and TJ’s doesn’t open ‘til 9am so you rush to Ralph’s and think to yourself, “damn, the corporations got me again with their convenience”.  And then you’re washing your clothes with a lot of chemicals.  Is this bad?  I guess so.  That’s what they tell me in the green literature.

Feeling good about my plant-based detergent, I triumphantly marched down to the Laundromat to do my first load, holding the box by it’s trusty plastic handle like I’m in second grade on my way to the cafeteria (my mom would from time to time hand me the detergent box instead of my lunch box).  It’s been a while since I’ve used the powdered-form, so I particularly enjoyed the scooping part.  “That’s about enough for one load” I said out loud, quickly realizing that I was in public, but then just as quickly remembering that I was in LA where you can be a bit of a nut and everyone will be cool with it just in case you’re famous or powerful.

I popped five quarters into the machine, pressed the start button, and began what I intended to be a glorious swagger out the front of the building.

I could imagine what the other patrons would be saying:

“Did you see that guy?  He was washing his clothes with Plants!”

“Plants?  Did you say plants?

“Mommy!  I want to wash MY clothes with plants!”

Having grabbed the detergent box by the handle, I only made it one step before I went from the “Green God” you wish you could be to the “Hopeless Hippie” you hope doesn’t recognize you from high school.  Yep.  I’m the Hippie that just can’t get anything right.

“Psst – Look at the guy with scraggly hair and five o’clock shadow.”

“Which one?  The one with the plants?”

“Yeah, that one, the guy just spilled his powdered-form detergent all over the place!”

“Serves him right for washing his clothes with plants.  Sounds like he’s been smoking the plants too.”

“Sure does, Alex.  It sure does.”

“Mommy, mommy, what kind of plants did the hippie smoke?!”

“Quiet Sarah, you’re being rude.”

“Pshh, like the hippie can hear us let alone process thoughts.”

“Oh Alex, always so witty…”

To demonstrate where things went wrong:



The handle is attached to the part of the box that flaps open once you break the seal, gaining access to the powdered-form detergent.  This leads me to either believe that the handle was designed specifically to open the flap and gain access to the detergent, or that the handle was only meant to be used for transporting the box from the grocery store to your home, and then from your home to the Laundromat solely for its initial load.  All other  subsequent transports, you know…for the 63 other loads you’ll be doing, obviously don’t necessitate a handle.  Once you’ve got the hang of this whole “laundry thing,” you’ll in all likelihood be able to manage this box with either two free hands, or the old under-the-armpit trick (Trader Joe’s can not legally be held responsible for any undesirable odors added to the detergent from using this technique).

I’d rather buy the Tide.  They either do the handle right, or they don’t do it at all.

Renowned Playwright Tony Kushner once said that Political Theater must be twice as good as non-Political Theater.  I think the green movement ought to be aware of this concept and stop coming out with idiotic products.

I hope you all had a wonderful Earth Day.

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