Generally speaking, I’m fairly pessimistic when it comes to expectations from commercial products. Quality has been in steep decline since long before Ford laughingly trademarked the phrase “Quality is Job One” and then filled the streets with shitty cars. Their competitors got into the game too, so now they all compete to see who can build the worst automobiles while altering their business model so that most of the real profits are made on repairs and maintenance. Such is capitalism. Soon the automobile makers, taking their cues from the makers of computer printers and toner, will be selling cars for $39.95 but charging $17,000 for fan belts.
It often seems that pretty much everything is crap these days, including the designer brand crap. Recently I bought a small hand trowel from a large home supplies super–discount-mega-store that shall remain nameless. It’s a metal-bladed trowel, with a heavy, hefty plastic handle. After just a few uses – digging small holes in soft garden soil – the blade snapped off of the handle. It seems that those two heavy-duty parts were joined together with a piece of plastic of such quality and robustness that it might alternately have been used to house a small plastic gold ring in a ten cent bubble gum machine.
None of this is new, of course. So why am I griping about it now? Sometimes I find a product of such exceedingly low quality I just have to talk about it.
For the past few days I have been undertaking a few upgrades to my living room. Specifically, I’ve been repainting the walls and ceiling and covering the the old floor (comprised mostly of a hodgepodge of plywood, cedar shingles, and mortar) with new laminate.
In order to facilitate these upgrades, I purchased a few devices to make things easier. One was a pole to extend my paint roller. While using it to roll paint onto the ceiling (a perfectly reasonable application of the tool, I’m sure you’ll agree), the flimsy plastic joint that holds the pole to its threaded end snapped, in the same manner as the trowel. Except that the trowel did not bounce off of my head and leave a paint smear across my forehead as it fell to pieces.
Most galling, however, was the performance of the kneepads I bought. I’m getting a little too old (and perhaps, therefore, osteopathic) to be crawling around on my knees on surfaces that aren’t beach sand, so investing in these seemed a good idea while installing laminate flooring. The first thing I did was roll out the foam vapour barrier. There I was, crawling around on layer of foam, the plastic caps on the fronts of the kneepads protecting my knees, when I heard a crack. At first I thought the foam was collapsing under my weight, or from the force of the hard plastic caps. But no. The crack was the plastic on the kneepad breaking.
This is a tool that is supposed to protect my knees. It’s a bad sign when the safety equipment breaks when it is pressed against… a hard surface? No. It’s essentially bubble wrap. Bubble wrap broke my kneepads! To make matters worse, the plastic on both kneepads cracked within five minutes, and pieces fell off. The resultant sharp remaining shards poking out of the pads kept tearing my vapour barrier. I had to seal the tears in the vapour barrier with duct tape, and for good measure put some on the kneepads too.
The manufacturer very wisely declined to affix a corporate logo to the kneepads, so I can’t steer you away from them by name. But here’s a picture, sans tape. Don’t buy them!