Black Cat

Going not gentle into that middle age.

The Toilet Paper Chronicles

Filed under: Car-less,Expat,Shopping - Preplanning,Shopping - Transporting the Goods — 15 October 2006 @ 9:47 am

Happy End Toilet PaperThe Name
This is part of an on-going series about how a car-addicted American has managed to live happily for 11 years in Germany without owning a car. Today’s story is about the purchase of one of those products that defines civilization.

First, I ask you, how could I not keep my cupboard stocked with a product that has such a fine name? I expect such names from Japan, where they take the great pride in the labeling of their products. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an example of Happy End toilet paper at, but I did waste spend a lot of time amusing myself at their website. When you’re ready, we’ll resume… back yet? OK…

Yes, I buy this toilet paper for its name. It’s the house brand at Penny Markt, one of the major discount retailers here in Germany. It is available in a variety of types, including recycled paper, and several thicknesses, such as 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-ply. After a couple of years of virtuously using the recycled variety, I decided that I’d done my bit for the environment, and settled on 3-ply as a compromise between cost and comfort. This is the variety that you see in the picture.

The Search
Because Penny Markt is a discount retailer, they keep their prices low by paying for staff only during regular shopping hours. This means that deliveries and stocking of the shelves occur during regular shopping hours. This means that the aisles may or may not be clogged with pallets of products waiting to be stacked on the shelves. This also means that products may not even have arrived at the store to be stacked on the pallets in the aisles so that they can eventually be stacked on the shelves. In the search for replacement supplies of my dwindling stock of Happy End toilet paper, I frequently find empty shelves where certain products are normally stocked. It can take sometimes a few weeks for products to arrive at the store so that they can be stacked in the aisles on pallets so that they can, in the due course of time, be stacked on the shelves.

Since having products in the store, let alone on the shelves, does not appear to be an important aspect of doing business at Penny Markt (indeed, at quite a few retail businesses in Germany), I have adopted the policy of putting TP on my shopping list as soon as I open a 10-pack of my favorite Happy End toilet paper. That is, I hope to have a replacement 10-pack before I run out of the currently opened one.

The Hacken-Porsche
I shop normally twice a week, on the days when the farmer’s market is open in our little city. On some shopping forays I wind up with too many purchases to fit inside the roomy trolley bag (the Hacken-Porsche is described in this post). The more fragile items (such as tomatoes and bananas) must hang on the outside from the handle bars, competing for limited space with the bulky items (such as paper towels). Sometimes there just isn’t room to hang a bulky package of TP on the outside of the trolley along with everything else.

The Weather
I am greatful that we have a thriving downtown in our little city, and a thriving farmers’ market, but it does make for a lot of walking out in the open in my quest for Happy End toilet paper and other necessities.

It rains a lot here in northern Germany.

Putting it All Together
Let us say that today is a shopping day. Let us say that TP is on my shopping list. What needs to come together in order that my dwindling supply of Happy End toilet paper is replenished?

Question 1. Is is raining? If yes, then no toilet paper today. On rainy days I can wrap a large sheet of plastic around the shopping trolley’s bag, and I can protect myself with raincoat and umbrella. But the TP is too bulky to trust that I can keep it dry on the trip home. Wet toilet paper is just too icky to contemplate. If it isn’t raining, then TP is a possibility for today.

Question 2. Is Penny Markt stocked with any Happy End toilet paper? If no, then forget it for today. If yes, then see the two other two questions.

Question 3. Do I have enough space to hang a bulky 10-pack from my shopping trolley? If I’ve already purchased a lot of other things that are hanging from the handle, then TP will have to wait until another shopping day. If there’s room, then consider the other two questions.

Thus, I need a dry day, stock on the store shelves, and room on my trolley. All at the same time.

Michael gives me a bad time for keeping extensive stocks of items in our cupboards. He still often forgets to tell me when he’s used something up. He still thinks that if he needs something he can just go to the store and get it. Old habits from Silicon Valley die hard. Did I forget to mention that the stores here are not open on Sundays? Or evenings after 7 or 8 p.m.?

When I am in control of the shopping list, we rarely run out of anything. One reason is that I’m a hoarder. All right, packrat. All right, neurotic. On one visit to Penny Markt a few months ago, in search of Happy End, I watched a woman take the last package from the shelves. I contemplated ripping it out of her hands and rushing to the cash register before she could react, but thought better of it. There were too many witnesses. I added it to the next shopping list, hoping that Questions 1-3 would next time be answered in my favor.

The other reason we rarely run out of anything is that I don’t have the luxury of being able to hop into my car and drive to another store to find the desired item. I have to plan. I have to put the item on my shopping list long before I’m about to run out of said item.

Running out of toilet paper isn’t civilized. Isn’t it better to have a smile on your face looking at the delightful name of Happy End toilet paper?

The ToiletRoll FamilyThe ToiletRoll Family
A couple of months ago I was laid low with the flu. One day in my delerium I noticed the ToiletRoll family. I saw two large parents, two medium-sized children, and a baby. I had to take a picture of this family. I was vaguely aware that I might not have been in full possession of my senses.

Later I explained to a visiting friend why this photo was magneted to my refrigerator. He suggested that I might have been mistaken in identifying the family members. He said that perhaps the two smallest ones were the parents, as they obviously were the oldest and had more experience in life. That meant that the largest two were twin babies. It also meant that he invested serious thought on this topic without the excuse of virus-induced delerium. I’m not sure what this says about my choice of friends.

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1 Comment »

  1. Redzilla:

    Found your blog through pooflinger. Welcome to blogland.

    Love the toilet paper name, and concur, it is suspiciously Japanglishy. When I lived in Japan (and walked home on rainy days protecting the TP with my umbrella), I bought a brand called “Holesome Good Feering.” I just always hoped that they’d just misplaced the W on wholesome, rather than removed it on purpose.

    Oh, and after an inordinant amount of time considering the TP family, I think I agree that the small rolls must be the parents.

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