I had a rather frustrating experience this weekend at one of our local retailers: I was in dire need of lip balm. Finding lip balms in many stores often requires orienteering skills, complete with a supply of breadcrumbs, the patience of Job, and a strong appreciation for the ridiculous. I have yet to find a consistent (let alone logical) place where lip balm is displayed from store to store; even within the stores of the same chain of stores, lip balm never seems to be displayed in the same place. Granted, I’m a self-professed lip balm junkie, but as a metadata specialist, lip balm poses an interesting challenge. How is lip balm to be categorized? In both virtual and brick-and-mortar stores, I’ve seen lip balms displayed with make-up, with skin care products, with sunscreen products, and in the first-aid section. Who would have thought that the humble lip balm could have so many homes? Lip balm is one of those categories that defies traditional classification theory whereby categories in which one places an item should be mutually exclusive; if ever there was an item that cries out for cross classification, it is the simple lip balm.
From a practical perspective, the hunt for the elusive lip balm is problematic. My friend and I (we are both proud metadata geeks) spent several minutes trolling up and down aisles and different sections of the store to find lip balm. We nearly resorted to texting each other from different aisles to keep track of our progress. We eventually found a display of lip balm by the checkout aisle; a logical place if every I’ve seen one. Naturally, once we found them here, we then came across another display of lip balms at the end of the aisle that sold vitamins. At this point, I was prepared to scoop up the entire display so that I would not need to engage in this endeavour again for a very long time.
Consistent metadata really does affect everyday life.