Website Review: Charmin.com

Regular readers of this blog know that I don’t like to traffic in bathroom humor. However, that may be unavoidable today, so I’ll beg your indulgence in advance. I noticed recently that there is a website for Charmin bathroom tissue, and I couldn’t resist the urge to make it the subject of this week’s Website Review.

Bathroom tissue, also sometimes called toilet paper, is distinctly different from facial tissue, in that it is designed to decompose in sewage and septic systems. Also, without putting too fine a point on it, TP is meant to be used on an area that’s at the opposite end of your face (on most people). The earliest recorded use of toilet paper occurred in medieval China, where a traveler from the West noted in 851 A.D. that the locals “are not careful about cleanliness and do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities but only wipe themselves with paper.” By the time of the Ming Dynasty, almost a million 2-foot-by-3-foot sheets of toilet paper were manufactured in one year for use in the Imperial Court. Outside of China, however, people were known to use wool, lace, wood shavings, leaves, sand, moss, snow, maize, ferns, fruit skins, seashells, seaweed, sticks, animal furs … okay, that’s enough history.

We’ve come a long way since those ancient and loathsome habits. The products sold by Charmin, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, represent the highest evolution of woodpulp-based personal ablutions. The home page at charmin.com encourages viewers to “rediscover Charmin” through two of its premium products: Charmin Ultra Strong, for those who prefer strength, and Charmin Ultra Soft, for those who prefer softness.

It’s the Ultra Strong variety that first caught my attention, in part because it distinguishes itself with what the company calls a “diamond weave texture”. Considering that the diamond is the hardest substance known to man and can be used to cut everything from glass to titanium, it’s not a substance I’d want associated with such a sensitive area of the body. But I’m not the marketing expert.

There are three other products in the Charmin line. Charmin Basic is a “great balance of softness and strength affordably priced to suit most budgets,” Charmin Plus is “the only bath tissue that contains soothing lotion,” and Charmin Fresh Mates are “adult flushable wipes that give you a shower fresh feeling any time of day.” The last of these comes in four different designer series tubs or in a convenient, resealable package for freshness “on the go.” Get it? “On the go.”

Under the Offers and Events pulldown, you can sign up for a free “extender,” whatever that is, or you can read about the efforts Charmin made during the 2008 holiday season to render New York City a more clean and comfortable place. Apparently, the company built a custom-designed portable restroom in Times Square to help visitors deal with certain necessities that most visitors to the Big Apple will admit are too often unaccommodated. Somehow, they were able to record that these facilities were visited 300,104 times through December 31, though the actual number of patrons may be significantly less if they counted flushes rather than individual hinds. There’s an interactive “flush-o-meter” map of the world that will even tell you which states and countries were best represented. (I guess people filled out a dossier during the visit; either that, or there was some kind of funky DNA analysis going on). Of particular interest, I thought, were the 66 visitors from Iceland, the 27 from Cuba, the four from Madagascar, and the lack of any patronage whatsoever from Kyrgyzstan. Also, note that there were five customers from Papua New Guinea and how funny the word “papua” is in this context.

Part of this promotion also included a photo download, from which you could retrieve the pictures you had taken during the event. (Don’t worry about privacy concerns; you have to enter a password to gain access to your bathroom pix.) There was also an official celebrity endorser associated with this effort. The unfortunately named Joey Fatone (the “fat one”), formerly of NSYNC, served as King of the Throne and conducted the ceremonial first flush. And there was an opportunity to sign Charmin’s Plush Potties for the People petition, part of the brand’s efforts to make public johns the “luxurious, dignified lavatories they should be.” If you didn’t sign on to this worthy cause in New York – where tuxedoed attendants escorted guests into bathrooms featuring soothing music, flat-screen TVs and, of course, Charmin tissue – you can do it online.

The site includes an FAQ page, offering advice on some of the dilemmas facing the modern crapper. “The plies on my Charmin Ultra are not lined up, and it’s not tearing in the right place,” writes one troubled user trying to make his way in our complex, modern world. He is told to “hold the roll in front of you with the paper winding over the top, pull the top ply up and drop it back behind the roll, tear away excess and you’re good to go.” (Get it again? “To go.”) This is also where I learn that the previously mentioned “extender” is an extra-large roll holder, and is not meant to attach to your person.

The History of Charmin section starts in the 1920s, when the product got its name from an employee who thought the design was “charming.” Not much happened in the intervening two decades, though 1940 saw a modern typestyle introduced on the product label, a prelude to the great world war that was looming. In the early sixties, Charmin became the first tissue to add perfume (ouch), and soon thereafter brought Mr. Whipple and his classic “please don’t squeeze the Charmin” slogan to international prominence. By 1978, Whipple was the third best-known American, behind only Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. He was replaced (though some claim “eaten by”) by two animated bears who brought the product’s profile into the twenty-first century.

Finally, I have to mention one external link that cannot go without note. This sends you to sitorsquat.com, an online find-a-toilet service. Once here, you simply enter your location and a detailed mapping system pops up showing you all the public facilities in your neighborhood. You can zoom out or in – though hopefully not too far in – and can select from a roadmap version, a satellite version, a hybrid of these two, or a terrain version, complete with elevation listings in case you need a certain height above sea level in order to do your business. Of course, it goes without saying you can also download iPhone or Twitter applications (“What are you doing?” “None of your beeswax.”) This site also has a Humor section featuring posts with highly questionable titles: “Women’s Public Bathroom Toilet Prank/Hidden Camera”, “So You Think You Can PP Dance,” and the obligatory videos of cats interacting hilariously with various plumbing fixtures.

All in all, Charmin.com is an informative and entertaining site and I can highly recommend it. Still, this is definitely one arena where the virtual world will never be able to replace the paper copy.

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11 Responses to “Website Review: Charmin.com”

  1. justsomebloke Says:

    Reminds me of Bear & Rabbit taking a crap together in the woods, whereupon Bear enquires of Rabbit if he encountered problems of poo sticking to his fur. Rabbit replied that he didn’t, so the Bear wiped his arse with the Rabbit.

  2. genebernardin Says:

    Wow… Seashells… ? Wood shavings… ? Holy crap (pun intended). I’m betting those countries went to war… a LOT! I think it is ironic that China… the land that invented toilet paper is a place where it is advised that you travel with your own supply… BYOTP (as it were). AND if you are lucky enough to have some, or find some, or borrow some… you aren’t allowed to actually put it in the toilet! It clogs the pipes (pun intended)… Okay, enough for current events.

  3. jdhays Says:

    That one website can lead to so much information regarding the maintenance of one’s rear end, why, it just points to the endless possibilities of the internet. Well done.

  4. delicate flower Says:

    Can we talk about the bears? I find those ads to be.. offensive? Do we really want to play with ‘does a bear s*#! in the woods? Maybe it’s because I’m aging but I’d almost (almost) like to go back to Mr. Whipple?
    And, in case the Charmin people are watching. I’m a Cottonelle person, I like the lines, they leave pretty marks.. but am considering the switch to Charmin.. unscented please.

  5. Laura Hedgecock Says:

    Two words: Tee Hee

  6. w Says:

    Bwahahaha!!!

  7. Sterling Magnificent Says:

    Hi, Great site loved this information.Just wanted to say thanks for The Read.I have booked marked this page so I can come back again. Thanks

  8. Jenny Nixon Michelson Says:

    Much love for this blog. I am going to get my cousin the Nixon Fluro! I hope he loves it.

  9. Rueben Furn Says:

    I can’t remember the last time I read such a better article than this! Good job !:)

  10. Ann O'Herrin Says:

    Your TV ad for ultra-soft is digusting. Also your double rolls are not truly double as you have increased the size of the cardboard core resulting in a lot less paper.

  11. Loris Rahl Says:

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