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July 16, 2004 12:02 AM

Broken: Coffee or sugar packet

coffee-or-sugarIs it just me, or shouldn't a sugar packet actually mention sugar somewhere? This packet only said "New England Coffee." I understand that the sugar is intended for coffee, but it's still not coffee.

After all, you don't see ketchup packaged as "Heinz Hamburger", or mayonnaise packaged as "Hellman's Tuna Fish Salad."

There's a long tradition of products being labeled what they are, not what they're used for. Why stop now?


Give me a break. For something as universal as a sugar packet? This seems to be a really, really, lame posting.

Posted by: Mark Asiden at July 16, 2004 06:19 PM

Gee, I wonder what is on the other side of the sugar packet?

Posted by: mendel at July 16, 2004 07:36 PM

Is it a rule that the first post must always question the validity of the submission?

Posted by: Rob at July 17, 2004 12:01 AM

I've seen coffee and tea in packets like this, so yes, it should state sugar on it somewhere.

Posted by: Alden Bates at July 17, 2004 02:52 AM

Wait... are you SURE that packet contains sugar? It is more logical to me that the little packet should contain powdered coffee creamer!

Most of the time, sugar bowls contain three different packets. A vaugly 'EQUAL'-looking blue packet, a vaugly 'SWEET-N-LOW'-looking pink packet, and your generic white sugar packet.

So, I was quite confused when I found a bunch of green tube-shaped sugars, that seemed to differ ONLY by the tiny colored registrations marks on the end crimp. I held them up to my friend, and cried "How are you supposed to tell which is which?!"

He looked stupidly at me and said, "Uh. The color?"

You see, I'm a little colorblind. On regular sweetener packets, the large, bold, saturated colors are easy for me to detect and tell apart. On these 'designer' packets, however, there are a number of problems.

First of all, the color part isn't presented to you. If you stick these tubes in a cup, all you can see are the white end-crimps -- not the colored tubes.

Secondly, the colors are blended to match the decor of the restaurant. So instead of Pink, Blue and white, you have green, greenish pink, and greenish blue -- which are much more difficult for me to discern.

Add this up with the smaller area and the dim lighting typically found in a designer restaurant, and I'm often at a loss.

On a similar note, I never knew that Microsoft Word put GREEN squiggles under grammar errors, and RED squiggles under spelling errors. I assumed they were all red. It wasn't until another usability site pointed it out to me that I even saw a green squiggle! That same site strongly advised against using color to communicate for just that reason.

Finally, before someone gets the wrong idea, colorblindness does NOT mean an inability to see colors. Not the type I have, at least. Traffic lights look red, yellow, and green to me. Colorblindness means that a number of 'close' colors are indistinguishable. I have a difficult time telling the difference between orange and brown, for instance. Plenty of light helps, as does making the colors brighter and larger.

Posted by: Michael Dwyer at July 17, 2004 05:05 AM

I disagree with the first couple of posters. This is broken. There is no reason why, in at at least small type, they could not have put the words sugar. Or, is it Equal? Or Sweet & Low? Or Splenda?

What if I'm a diabetic?

What if it is creamer? Do I really have to open the package first to test it to see what's inside, thus potentially wasting the package?

It's just a simple omission, but nonetheless, it's broken.

Posted by: Michael at July 17, 2004 09:55 AM


Posted by: kwyjibo at July 17, 2004 10:12 AM

Sugar packets regularly have a design on one side, and a label on the other side. See these hundred or so examples:

I bet I can take pictures of thousands of things that are "broken" based on what I leave out of the picture, but it wouldn't make for a very interesting website.

Posted by: mendel at July 17, 2004 01:41 PM

There are a few different kinds of colorblindness. Ten percent of men (and a few women) are red/green colorblind: If I recall it correctly, to them red and green appear to be the same color (maybe slightly different shades depending), and they see just blue, yellow and brown where we see purple, green and red. There are also other rarer colorblindnesses: e.g. some people don't see blue or yellow, or don't see any color at all.

But because red/green colorblindness is so common, it's generally a bad idea to use a red/green contrast alone for important information (like Word's spelling and thesaurus squiggly lines. Maybe they diddn't want to use blue because hyperlinks typically use that, and they wanted to use primary colors... ). (Traffic lights can be distinguished by their position).

Posted by: reed at July 17, 2004 03:18 PM

What you have is color weakness, not color blindness. I've got the same thing. Just a couple of days ago in a store I had to ask the person next to me whether this (what I was pointing to) was a purple dot. (It was a sale where the dot color told you the price.) Unfortunately, I picked another man with color problems to ask, also--he couldn't tell, either! (There was also a blue dot. If I can put them side by side I can compare them and tell, but the offending dot was far from the edge of the item, I couldn't get it close enough to the dot on the sign. Blue vs purple is by far the worst pair for me.)

As for the frequency of it--in the admittedly small sample of new hires at our factory the flunk rate is 20% on a color-weakness test. (There are two jobs that can't be done by someone with color probelms--we test everyone to know whether they can be put on those jobs or not.) Most of them had no idea they had color problems.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at July 18, 2004 02:13 PM

I took the picture myself. Both sides of the packet bore the same label - neither made any mention of sugar, creamer, or any other descriptor. Broken!

Posted by: Mark Hurst at July 19, 2004 08:44 AM

Food labeling is tricky business, but probably not as tricky as I thought it was before finding out that the African baby food anecdote is urban legend:

Posted by: Nils Jonsson at July 19, 2004 09:16 AM

ok, so after you took the picture, did you actually look INSIDE the packet to make sure it was sugar? because it could've actually been creamer or something like that

Posted by: lane at July 19, 2004 12:44 PM

Colorblindness: The worst for me is red and green LEDs. I can see they are different, but I can't tell which is which. The yellows are not any better. I loved the advent of blue LEDs. :-)

It's more of a color *resolution* problem. Across a room, a red and green LED will look similar. If I put my eye right up to them, I can see the red and green fine.

This is why traffice lights are red-orange and blue-green.

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at July 21, 2004 10:20 AM

Good point, Lane... no, I never actually opened the packet. So I guess I really don't know *what* was in that packet. Who knows, maybe it was coffee-flavored Pop Rocks!

Posted by: Mark Hurst at July 21, 2004 05:24 PM

_@_v - that link to snopes was broken the ''." you stuck at the end made all the difference between this

_@_v - and '404'-land

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at July 26, 2004 06:53 PM

Coffee-flavored Pop Rocks? Sounds like a good idea. No mixing, spilling or burning. Prep time, zero.

Posted by: Wal*mart Security at August 10, 2004 04:14 PM

Someone should really find out what was in that packet. I think most of us are dying to know.

Posted by: wal*mart Security at August 10, 2004 04:18 PM

If, on either side, it did not tell the consumer what is actually in the package, it's broken! Yeah, from experience, we can surmise that it's probably sugar, but it should still state what is in the package. It could be dessicant for all I know... who the heck is "Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc" anyway?! Hmmm, lemme check that on the web while I enjoy my evening coffee. Waitress! Bring me my internet connection!!

More realistically, what if someone is diabetic? They need to know what kind of sweetener it is. Bah-roak-ennnnnn....

Posted by: for christ's sake at August 29, 2004 04:43 AM

See.. what really bothers me here is that a product called "New England Coffee" not only contains sugar, but also has Savannah, GA on the package. It's been a while since I was in school, but last I heard Savannah was no where near New Englad.

Posted by: Kaity at August 30, 2004 03:24 PM

Citizen of Trantor: Yeah, that seems to be the case with me as well-- I have a much harder time telling colors apart when they're farther away. It's not really color-blindness-- it's more of a weird neuro-perceptual quirk for me...

Posted by: codeman38 at December 2, 2004 06:56 PM

Loren: I've found that I have a hard time telling orange from red from pink.

Posted by: codeman38 at December 3, 2004 01:20 PM

Everything looks brown to me

Posted by: brooser at February 10, 2005 02:27 PM

"a product called "New England Coffee" not only contains sugar, but also has Savannah, GA on the package. It's been a while since I was in school, but last I heard Savannah was nowhere near New England."

If you know ANYTHING about American history, you should know that Georgia is one of the 13 original "New England" colonies. What are they teaching in these schools?

The New England Coffee company may also get its sugar packets from Diamond Crystal sugar company, based in Savannah, GA.

Either way, the sugar (?) packet is still broken, but the Savannah, GA location reference is not.

Posted by: Kathryn at May 21, 2005 04:28 PM

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