A Letter to Nivea
The story of this poem dates back to 1997, when I returned home to my native Britain after a period of six months living and traveling in Austria, Switzerland and former Yugoslavia. While away I had used Nivea shampoo, mainly because it was inexpensive. I looked for it at home but Nivea in the UK seemed only to sell skincare products aimed at women. I decided to write to them to complain, and because I’ve found that a poem tends to brighten the day of often beleaguered customer service staff, I wrote them the following:
In recent times in Europe have I traveled,
Where many a fine adventure has unraveled.
I have sampled of the fare and dwelt among
Folks of the German, French and Slavic tongues.
Their culture and their customs are diverse,
Yet all agree that few things can be worse
Than the abuse, or the inadequate care
Of the strands that crown our heads – our hair!
O excellent mop! Thou glorious plume!
We all delight to wash and style and groom.
Though dead, you decorate and display.
I always wash you every other day.
Yet such is the fussy nature of today,
Confounded by the frightening array
Of haircare products – someone help!
I merely want clean hair and healthy scalp.
Not ‘Pantene protein penetrates profound’!
Wonderful! That on my travels then I found
Your Nivea brand! To my great delight,
Packaged in a stylish blue and white,
Classic yet simple, honest and demure,
And well-priced too – that instant I was sure
Here was a shampoo of a noble distraction,
Not just aloe, jojoba, or henna extraction.
And thus it proved – thereafter, months on end,
Nivea shampoo was my constant haircare friend.
Yet now to native climes do I return.
And now do native chemists cause concern.
Yea, though I seek and search the shopping strand,
Alas! No more, no more my favored brand!
Were I a lovely lady I would rub
Your lotions and your toners from a tub.
But no! Young man am I – as such
I cannot but spurn the glaze and silky touch
Of creams and salves and firm foundations.
It took no leave, yet vanished from this nation
Is your shampoo! Your products condition
But you have cast your head soap to perdition!
Please, kind sir, I feel I must insist:
Did you really feel that nobody would miss
Your fine shampoo? Am I doomed to delve
In dated crates or dig at backs of shelves
In hopeless quest that one day I might find
One bottle to ease my greasy hair and mind?
Dear sir, I find it hard to act my age
In the face of such a farce and gross outrage –
But to remove from sale your Nivea shampoo
Is more than just a sham – it’s poo!
(In response, Beiersdorf, which owns the Nivea brand, thanked me for my “charming” letter and confirmed my fears that Nivea shampoo was no longer available in the UK, though they were kind enough to enclose a bottle for my trouble.)
Charlie is from the UK and currently works as an editor in Taipei. He also hosts the comedy quiz show Charlie Storrar’s Death Panel. You can find him on Facebook or add him on Twitter @CharlieStorrar
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