Soap and change

by Steve Brock on June 27, 2012

Last time we looked at how staying at fancier hotels usually results in getting fewer amenities like free parking, Internet access or breakfast. One other thing you also don’t get – or at least I haven’t yet – at the more expensive hotels is body wash in a dispenser.

In the last six months or so, I’ve stayed at three different moderately priced hotels for work. In each, they now have dispensers in the shower for both shampoo and body wash.

I understand that getting guests to use a squirt of body wash is far cheaper than having them use a whole bar of soap for a single shower. But here’s the rub (pun intended) with body wash: It’s a hassle to use.

You have to get that blob of liquid in your palm, carefully cupped to prevent undesired dilution before it even reaches your body. Then you have to try and smear it over your skin before the oncoming water washes it all away. I usually have to make a half dozen trips to the dispenser just for one shower, head to toe.

With a bar of soap, you have the little rectangle or circle or oval right there in your hand. You don’t have to huddle over it like you’re protecting a meager flame in a gale force wind. You don’t have to turn away from the stream of water to lather up. It all works exactly as nature intended. Soap up, rinse off, be clean.

With a bar of soap, you never get confused over which liquid is for your body and which is for your head, though once, I intentionally did swap the two.

On a trip through Western China, I lost my bottle of shampoo on the last leg of the journey. On the final day there, I figured that using a bar of soap was better than not washing my hair at all.

I figured wrong.

After lathering my hair with soap and rinsing, I almost broke a tooth of the comb trying to run it through the glop that was now my hair. Then, I spent the rest of the day obsessed with the substance on top of my head that felt like waxed cardboard. I learned that soap and shampoo are like dogs and cats. There’s a reason you don’t interbreed them or confuse or combine the two. It’s downright unnatural.

But with body wash, all that is shifting. The two are becoming potentially interchangeable. And the consequences of this?

I’m not implying that the world’s going to end, but if we start seeing an increase in disasters or wars or panic in the streets, don’t say you haven’t been warned as to the cause.

Ok, so this may be a bit melodramatic about a seemingly small shift in consumer personal care items. But the problem is that this shift has been introduced by someone other than me.

Even those of us who travel a good deal and travel precisely to encounter the new and the novel don’t like it when that novelty is forced upon us. We like change when we’re the ones orchestrating it.

So if you haven’t figured it out by now, this really isn’t about bars of soap versus body wash. It’s about how we handle change, on a trip or at home.

I once had a Dilbert pen that summarized this issue far better than any silly discussion about soap or body wash can. On the side of the pen it read this:

“Change is good…You go first.”

Even if that means using body wash.

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