Water And Oil Mix – If It’s Snake Oil

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22176 – 746:

From prior to the 1800s all the way to the 1950s and even today, there is a group of people who hold many titles, but are basically all the same; unscrupulous salesmen called, “Snake-Oil Salesmen.” (See I didn’t even mention politicians.) In the Old West, they were called “drummers,” banging on a large drum to get everyone’s attention then hawking some vile elixir called a Patent Medicine to the unsuspecting public, which promised to cure everything from baldness to female troubles; from nervous sleeplessness to rheumatism; jaundice to partial paralysis. They contained mostly alcohol but in the early days, they could also contain opium, morphine, or cocaine.

And the drummers and snake-oil salesmen are still around. If you have ever looked at the titles of some of your spam e-mails (some of them may cause blindness) you will see the veritable plethora of medical impossibilities that are to be achieved just by giving up your money. Some schemes are very elaborate and some are just inane, but they will all take your money. I received one at an account I never use for business, talking about my attempt to log in to my Pay-Pal account. Except that my PayPal account is under a different name and I haven’t tried logging into it. This is called “PHISHING” and is very dangerous because the e-mail you get looks so legit and then takes you to a site that looks exactly like the site you want, pay-pal, e-bay, or a bank but is not. This is called a “spoof” website.

A couple of good rules to follow:

1) As the Russian guy in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein said, “You must always remember old Russian saying of ‘TANSTAAFL’! There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2) Don’t go to a website like PayPal or E-bay or even your bank, from a link in an e-mail. Navigate to it from your favorites or a known source, like the back of your credit card. It may be an extra step, but it’s a good habit.

3) Don’t give out your phone number if you don’t want to get calls. One correspondent of mine when I was doing the scambaiting was worried that the scammer had their full name and e-mail address, but really that is not that big of a deal if you haven’t given them anything else.

But I can’t help everyone so easily, I’m afraid. There is another snake oil salesman going around everywhere and his name is Bottled Water. Okay. I admit. I too have been duped on several occasions into paying a dollar for a drink of water I could have gotten from a tap, but for the convenience and the coldness, I forked over good green money for something that is, essentially, free. We even keep a case in the trunk of the car.

I know a guy who would rather dehydrate than pay for water and when you work on a crew with him you can drink Gatorade or Powerade or Kool-aid, anything but bottled water. He hates to pay for something he already has a bill for sitting at home.

When I started this article I did learn a couple of things. Did you know that besides the FDA, which regards bottled water as a packaged food product, there is an entire professional organization devoted to bottled water and even including their own code of ethics? The site is the International Bottled Water Association. It’s a pretty comprehensive website that answers a lot of things, like all the different types of bottled water. I found this all interesting because the 2019 bottled-water per-capita consumption level was 43.7 gallons. You and, I confess, I drank a lot of bottled water. The wholesale revenue was $19.4 billion and the retail revenue was $35 billion. Someone is making out like the proverbial bandit. Snake-oil salesmen. Yep. Raking it in hand-over-fist. That’s our consumer frenzy generating all that cash. Now I won’t go into all of the various types there are, but here again, you need to think about it. Even though they have criteria for what can be labeled as what, sources can include, “Protected Springs, Wells and (my emphasis here) Municipal Supplies!” That’s right, folks, you are, as likely as not, buying glorified tap water. Water from protected springs and wells is just what many municipalities use, isn’t it? Depending on the factory it does go through any single or combination of processes like ozonation, reverse osmosis, de-ionization or distillation. The slogan of one company could easily be, “Drink Our Bottled Water. It’s still Denver tap water but it tastes better.”

Just because it has a picture of a mountain stream doesn’t mean that is where it came from. Unless you live in or near the mountains and that’s where your water usually comes from. They (Marketing gurus in Mad Ave, of course) would like to give you the image in your mind of some hardy mountain man filling his canteen at the mountain stream (Was there no such thing as Giardiasis back in the olden days or was there an immunity to it or what?) but in reality, they could be drilling or even piping in water from the exact same source the tap water comes from. The Government has a detailed chart showing what to look for in water filters and when buying bottled water on a CDC page where I was surprised to learn that not all filters and not all bottled waters and other drinks filter Giardia and another icky little microbe I had not heard of, Cryptosporidium.

So, what to do? Am I telling you not to buy bottled water or water filters? Nope, and like I said, I have fallen prey myself and bought a little plastic bottle of water when I was thirsty, but you know what I did? I saved the bottle, refilled it with tap water, and put it in the fridge. By doing so I did something Conservative and smart, I saved money. It’s a conservation wise thing to do as well if you are concerned about the impact of plastics on the world which is something to look into if you feel like it. Around the house, we have reusable water bottles or Gatorade or Powerade bottles.

Remember, as the good book says, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”


  1. Bottled water is shockingly popular in Belgium and I really struggle to understand why. It’s no better than the stuff that comes out of a tap — it’s just more expensive and environmentally damaging.

    The only time that I will consider buying bottled water is if we are on a long journey and getting thirsty. Even then, I’m more likely to go for something like Powerade or an energy drink than pay for water.

  2. When I’m in TN I drink well water— it comes out of the tap and tastes divine. The tap water in Charlotte NC (my mother’s home) tastes like chlorine so I do not drink it.
    In FL the tap water smells and tastes terrible— I even bought a very expensive filter but still the taste is unbearable (TN mountain water probably has me spoiled) so I am that sucker that purchases copious amounts of bottled water while in FL…

  3. The best water I remember drinking was from a very deep well at a friend’s farm in eastern Minnesota. The water is so perfect it would be sacrilege to bottle it.

  4. Several years ago I got a summer job staining decks. The guys I was working with would stop at the gas station and by a few bottles of water on the at 2 or 3 bucks a pop. I realized that I could go to the the grocery store and buy a 24 pack for about the same price as one bottle at the gas station. The guys thought it was hilarious that I had a huge pack of water in my van, I thought it was hilarious that they were spending several times what I was spending for the same product. Nowadays I would just fill up a couple jugs before leaving home in the morning.

  5. At church I would refill my bottle at the water fountain but the fountains are in lockdown still. I was very thirsty so resigned to getting water in the bathroom sink figuring they came from the same source. I was wrong, the water from the sink is lime tasting, awful stuff. There must be a very good filter on the fountain.

  6. Interesting stuff. I can’t drink tap water. I know if what I’m drinking isn’t filtered by kidney response.

  7. This discussion jogged my memory about reports of unsafe drinking water in the US. Apparently “in 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards.” – Src PNAS – Small, poorer communities are struggling to maintain their aging water infrastructure. Old lead service lines owned by municipalities are part of the problem and this is true in Canada too. Water filters are an important temporary solution, but in the long run, what these people need is the same access to good water that most of the rest of the country has! (Hard to say whether they use much bottled water – might be too expensive a solution for them.)

  8. Hi! Welcome to my blog. That is a really interesting comment. I have heard of that, but our little suburb has a small community water system that is actually a higher standard. Local people in areas like that should educate themselves so they can bring these issues up with powers that be. Our little system is required to give an annual report which they send out with our water bill. That’s how I know our system is above average but I am certain it’s not the case everywhere.

  9. I carry a water bottle with me at all times. Like your friend I refuse to buy bottled water. There is more. Look for the letters FTW somewhere on the label. They actually stand for Filtered Tap Water. There are at least one French name and a few Asian names that have it on the label

    You may as well laugh

    • Wow! Did not know that one. Now I’ll be looking for it. I’ve never bought any of the french or asian sounding ones but I will look at the labels now.

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