Same As It Never Was

by Amy Zidell
This appeared in print in its original form in July 1994.
Added to Web Site 09.16.05

The following story is based on true-life experiences. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Last week, I was helping a friend finish up some earthquake repairs. These were just minor repairs: cracks and chips in the walls. The sad thing is that the cracks had been fixed before, but one of those significant aftershocks re-cracked everything again. To make matters worse, the so-called painters brought in to complete the repairs the first, time didn't match the paints up.

My job was to get the paints. We dug through the house records and found the original slips indicating what paint had been purchased and from where. What could be easier? I marched into Winwere Paints and asked for a gallon of Pearlescent Rouge. Sort of a faint peachy-pink-off-white-thing. I walked out of the store with a bucket of the pinkish stuff.

Next, I was off to Tom & Nelson. I told them the colors I needed. Gave them the identification numbers and even waited. The clerk asked me what my intentions with the paint were, "For touch-up? Well," he droned, "the color's a little different now." He explained they mix it different than they did two years ago when the original painting was done. He suggested that if the paint was too far off, I could bring in a paint chip to match. Now, if the same paint color isn't going to match, is it really going to help me to have these guys try to match it? I said, "How much better can I do than getting the same paint color that has the same name and I.D. number?"

It seems logical to make colors match. After all, isn't that the point of naming paints in the first place? If paints were nothing but consistent, then we would witness a sea of building, homes, and structures that resemble graffiti-removed projects. I'm surprised I wasn't forced to describe the paint as a "blueish grey tint." What genius decided that it would be a good idea to change the formulation of a paint color? If there is the potential of that happening, I think there ought to be a clear, explicit warning stating that danger and suggesting methods of protection. I think that the least thing a paint company could do is throw in a gallon or two of "touch-up protection," if they're going to go and change colors on us. Would a pharmaceutical company be able to get away with that? "Oh, by the way, your anti-depressant medication, we've mixed it up a little differently than before. It might not work exactly like it normally does. By the way, you don't have my home address, do you?"

It's a world gone mad, I tell you. Now, I can understand if a can of 55-year-old paint has been discontinued. If they change the colors, why don't they just discontinue it? Why try to pass it off as the same thing? It's not the same thing. It's a different color entirely. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be forced to rename the paint and re-label all the paint cans by hand. That probably costs too much money, they'll say. Well, try dealing with your cash flow when people stop buying your ill-matching paint! Changing the formula. Is that somehow supposed to placate me? Should I feel better because they make it differently, or because they use the word formula? I don't care how they describe what they've done. It's different. That's the problem with change. We see it everywhere on packaging: New and Improved, New Formula, Better Than Ever. I find I usually stop using a product when it becomes "New and Improved." It's just not the same anymore.

© 1994 Amy Zidell

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