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17 February, 2005

Just run it under the tap

I seem to have been posting about slightly unusual household goods recently.  Must be a phase, as here's another (with a healthy return to despair and cynicism...).

When I was a child, I was taught that if I couldn't open a jar, running it under hot water would loosen the lid.  When I was a little older, this was supplemented by my mother's purchase of a plastic pad which improved one's grip on even a wet or greasy jar/lid.  It probably cost £1.

Now Black & Decker have produced a bulky electrical appliance, considerably larger than, say, a kettle and costing at least $39.99.
No. Just no. It's form over function and empty 'convenience' over rationality. It's a gadget (Smarthome explicitly categorises, and prices it, as such) - a toy, not a utensil.

Yes, it might be useful for the elderly or those with special needs, but they're plainly not the target market for the shiny black & chrome, nor the price tag. I'm pretty sure occupational therapists and related technologists have already produced a range of rather more utilitarian (and cheaper) alternatives for those who need them.

Maybe this thing is a talking point, but does anyone really talk about opening jars?

Not counting this entry, obviously ;)

Update 18/02/05:
A comment at Boing Boing reports that the original project was to design a genuinely useful product for those who really need it, and I agree that under the decorative elements, that's what was achieved. I just think that the styling was excessive and has shifted it to a different, more frivolous, market sector.

There is an argument that essential equipment shouldn't necessarily be dull or ugly - large-cup bras spring to mind, for some reason - and there's no reason why the elderly or disabled shouldn't have jar-opening appliances they'd be happy to have in plain view. Quality of experience matters. Everyone has the right to buy premium goods. I just hope that those who don't have the opportunity to pay premium prices aren't excluded.

Plus, I simply dislike over-designed items, so I may be overemphasising my own preference.

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