Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Consider for a moment the humble toothbrush. An everyday essential I'm sure you'll agree. Now imagine that you manufacture them.

First you need to make it look good and feel good in the hand. Then it needs to feel good in the mouth and do its job well. Assuming you got all that right you fix the price and start selling them. But wait. Did you make a really good quality one which will last for a couple of years? Oops - then you'll go bust. People wont need to buy another from you because you did so good a job that they're still using the old one.

So will you make a substandard version instead whose compact bristles will resemble a hedgehog's bad hair day after a few weeks? Then no-one will buy your brush ever again. We need a compromise. Let's make a brush which is designed to wear out after say 6 months of use. Job done. But wait again. Even though the brush will last for 6 months, you would really like people to change it after say 4 months. This would add a third to your profits right? So how to persuade them to change the brush earlier than necessary? Easy. Colour the bristles so that the nice bright colour has gone after 4 months which you tell people means that it needs changing.

You may have encountered this principle with other products. Do you have a printer attached to your computer? Then no doubt you get annoying messages telling you the ink level is very low and you should change the cartridge. Hello? When the ink RUNS OUT then I will change the cartridge OK? In the meantime stop with the messages.

Have a battery powered computer mouse? "ATTENTION. THE BATTERIES IN YOUR MOUSE NEED REPLACING". I beg to differ. The cursor still moves which is how I was able to turn off that annoying message.

You can see their problem. They make a good product but they want you to buy more. The other trick that they use is to make you buy more of the product than you need. Have you tried buying just one battery recently? No chance. Commonly they are in packs of eight, four if you're lucky.

I needed to buy some dental floss sticks. You know the things. They're shaped like a mini catapult with some floss strung over the end. Of course once the floss breaks, its useless. So the wise consumer will find some with very strong floss - unbreakable would be excellent.

Eureka! I found the very thing. According to the packaging information, the floss fibre is the same stuff which they use to make bulletproof vests. It is also (I quote), "engineered not to stretch, shred or break during use". So tell me this. If it is so tough that it won't break when I use it, why do I have to buy a pack of 36 of the wretched things?

1 comment:

  1. I really like the ink cartridge message. I bought extra ink ahead of time--forgot about it-- then when I got the message bought more.