Everything We Buy is Garbage

By Karine Vann for Boston Compass #123

May 28, 2020


Sometimes, I write letters to corporations. In fact, that was the initial inspiration for this column! In general, I’d like to use this precious real estate talking about more than the fact that everything we buy is garbage, and also focus current issues that matter—much more on Covid-19 next month! But I’m still happy to sprinkle in some of these “love letters” to consumerism. For now, enjoy one angry letter I wrote a long time ago to a company, complaining that their product (which used to be high quality) is crap now. It’s been altered for creative purposes, but the response is intact. Enjoy, and may it resonate with your inner curmudgeon.


Dear Corelle Brands LLC,

My Armenian family has been long time lovers of Corning Ware’s products. In the past, they were always high quality, and simply, but well-designed, from the blue cornflower emblem to the architecture of the dishes. So central to the women of my family are your products that now that I'm starting my own family, I’m inheriting the vintage dish sets belonging to my mother and aunts. I’m pretty stoked on them.

My bridal shower recently came around and I was told to create a registry on Macy’s because it is, apparently, the only place the Armenian women in my family will shop. I made a registry, but was disappointed with the options. Everything looked the same. Everything looked like crap. Then, I saw that hopeful cornflower. Though production halted on the model sold during my parents’ generation, Macy’s was advertising a special “60th anniversary edition,” which matched the sets my mother gave me. On the day of my bridal shower, I got the dishes as a gift from my cousin. Later at home, I inspected them next to my old ones.

I guess I just want to say: DID YOU THINK I WOULDN’T NOTICE?

Even the cornflower ornament looks cheap in the newer version—laminated on top as opposed to baked into the pyroceram. So I did a little research. Much about your company has changed since my parents’ days. The company that started Corningware, Corning Glass Works, was founded originally down the street from me in Somerville, Massachusetts. (I actually didn’t know that—fun fact!) By the nineties, Corning Glass sold its consumer goods division to the owners of World Kitchen and, like countless baby boomer, legacy brands still living in the shadow of their former glory, shuttered its US factories and moved production to Asian countries. Slowly but surely, the quality of Corningware’s goods eroded. A common complaint in online reviews I found was that the dishes have a habit of exploding in people’s ovens. One review I read said a glass lid shattered when the reviewer took it out of the oven, sending a shard into his brother’s eye. He had to go to the emergency room. So congratulations, Corelle Brands corporation! Using cost-cutting, shortcut techniques and privileging profit over quality, you have turned a family heirloom into a spontaneously combusting death machine!

Early Corning Glass Works Factory when they moved to NY.

So how did we get here? To me writing this letter? It’s because the cunning Corelle Brand LLC marketers saw that Corningware’s antique pyroceram casserole dishes, like the ones my mom owned, were making a killing on Etsy and antiques dealers’ websites, where women like me were desperately scavenging for a goddamn high quality casserole dish. So what did they do? Instead of bringing back the quality and craftsmanship of the original dishes, they appropriated a nostalgic brand that means so much to so many people and bastardized it under the guise of a "60th anniversary.”

I guess what I’m really wondering is this: Why continue this charade? Who is actually profiting off this? And what does profit really mean in this context? Why not just let the legacy end on a high point? Maybe because the connection between the company and the people it sells to has long been severed. It’s hard to care about the deeper integrity of your product when your sole allegiance is to fiscal growth.

But “fiscal growth” can only tell us so much about the well-being of our society. We’re more than just consumers. We are people. We care about traditions and piping hot meals and we have standards—though some of us may have forgotten about them. I'm sad that the world my mother and aunts live in is clearly gone. I mourn for my generation and what's in store—for the environment, for the economy, and for our poor, little households, for which we have to scour antique shops, just to find dishes and flatware that match the quality of what our mothers once had.

Sincerely Yours, Kari


Response:

Thanks for reaching out!

We're sorry to hear of your disappointment with the stoneware baking dishes. We've forwarded your feedback to our design team for review.

For a current listing of our pyroceram products, please see the link below: https://www.corelle.com/search?qry=Stovetop%20Pyroceram

If you’d prefer to chat with us, we are also available by using the link below. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm EST.

https://www.corelle.com/chat

Sincerely, Alana Corelle Brands

Check out all the art and columns of May's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass