Archive for November, 2011
There is a class of products out there that exist because they are products, barely. They are usually the cheapest products available of a certain kind and are from a brand most people have never heard of. People buy these products because they need XXX and this product happens to be XXX. These usually are not high-function hi-tech products like mp3 players or cellphones but simple products like clothes racks, garlic presses, ice cube trays, etc. sold in large retail stores like Walmart or Target. The user experience is often miserable, the manufacturing quality terrible, and many don’t last over few uses or years.
Look around you. Do you have barely products around you? Did you get the cheapest trashcan from the store instead of spending the time and finding the one that fit your life best? Did you comparison shop for the cutting boards in the kitchen?
Barely products are side effect of the incredible diversification of products we’ve had over the last few hundred years and the industrial production and consumption that accompanied it. When the average person could purchase and own only a few dozen kinds of products, they spent a lot of time thinking about them and getting the right ones. They also knew the people making and selling the products that if something went wrong, even if the notion of warranties didn’t exist, the producer and the seller would lose social currency within the community.
I’m not arguing against the centuries of progress that we’ve made in bringing new and more products to the masses, but I do wonder if we are on the right vector when many of the things we buy go from the store to landfill so quickly. Do we need a mechanism to establish minimally acceptable products even if that means more expensive products? and if so, what will this look like?
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