Thursday, December 09, 2004

Is it really that complicated?

Today, while shopping for sandpaper at a Black & Decker Outlet, I noticed a "gift idea". The $40 surefire stocking stuffer was a combination pack that contained a battery powered laser that replaced your tape measure and a calculator that had conversion buttons for inches, feet, yards, etc. The front of the package insisted that this must-have would help you reduce trips to the home improvement store by estimating (estimating? A laser could only estimage?) the size of the room you are working on and providing accurate calculations for materials needed.

I stood and stared at it for several minutes while my husband finished his purchase. It just couldn't be! Are people this hopeless? In fact, I'm quite sure that the time spent learning to use the gadgets certainly wouldn't reduce time. A simple tape measure, a pad of paper and a pencil seemed to be able to do the same job. I said so. The owner of the store laughed. I think he agreed.

We went home and went to work on our living room (OK- so it is a four year project, but we did stop buying gadgets for it last year). The tools of the trade for the day: putty knife, spackle, sandpaper, utility knife, and drywall tape. No computers, no fancy algebra; just good old fashioned hard work. It doesn't take a rocket scientist.

The Home Depot has had several silly options available, too. I think the best is the battery powered tape measure. The box says you only need one hand to use it. Now, I could be wrong here, but it seems to me you will still need to hold one end down while you look at the measurement, to make sure it doesn't move. Hmmm....$24 vs. $7. What do you think? I think $7 will do for now.

Of course, if you spend your whole day measuring things for a living- you might spring for the $24. But I haven't noticed the battery powered tape measure display next to the professional tool section.

Simplicity! That is the idea that needs to be marketed. It might help cut down on gullibility and stupidity.

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