Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Some Assembly Required

 It wasn't long ago that I had to assemble bunk beds that we bought for visiting friends and family with kids.  One of the dowels that connects the bottom bunk to top bunk was missing, and rather than try to get a replacement part ordered by spending half an hour wading though voice prompts and trying to describe the part to a customer service rep halfway around the world, I opted to drive down to Lowe's, buy a dowel rod for a couple of bucks and cut it down to size.

Then as I was putting together an office chair that I had bought the other day, it dawned on me that there was a time when you could go to the store and purchase furniture and it would arrive already assembled.  I'm sure the furniture companies save a lot of money by using the consumer for free labor, but why do we accept this imposition when we buy a computer desk but not for other products?  Can you imagine buying an iPad or digital camera and getting a box of parts and a soldering iron with instructions in French, Spanish and bad English poorly describing how to put all the parts together to get your finished product?  Am I the only one that thinks we're letting the businesses that sell us components, parts and fittings in the guise of finished products off easy?

I suppose it could be worse.  I mean, the company that sold me a fake Christmas tree makes me put that sucker together every year.  At least I only have to put my office furniture together once.  Although in all fairness, I suppose I could assemble the tree once and just decorate it every winter.  The rest of the year I could pretend it is an evergreen tree growing in my loft.  Hmm, not a bad idea, actually.

Of course the idea of charging the customer full price for reduced services is not limited to cheap furniture from China.  They now have restaurants where you can cook your own meal.  Hey, thanks, but I've already got a place for doing that, it's called my kitchen.  Sometimes I wonder if the world's going crazy or if I'm just missing out on awesome marketing opportunities.  I need to brainstorm some ideas for saving labor by having the customers do what paid workers would normally accomplish.  Jack in the Box put digital ordering systems in their restaurants so they can fire the kid behind the counter making minimum wage to punch in "Sourdough Burger Combo", so I'm too late for that one, but I'm sure there are other opportunities out there.  I just need to keep my eyes open and never underestimate the power of changing the paradigm while nobody's looking.