Monday, 31 May 2010

Made in China, sold by Tesco

Yesterday I was informed that I had to check the tyre pressures on 30%'s car and rectify any deflation issues.

Now I don't really have any problems with this but this tends to be one of "MY" jobs as opposed to one of 30%'s domestic duties. Anything car related seems to fall in to my arena of responsibility. I'm not sure why as I have never professed to have any mechanical bent.

Anyway, as I wandered off to the garage I started thinking about the task in hand and wondering what it was that made it my job, After all, fetching the foot pump from the garage can't be any different to getting a hair dryer from the wardrobe and removing a dust cap from a wheel is very similar to taking the cap off the toothpaste. In fact, having seen the state of the toothpaste tube this morning the dust caps on the car are much less gungy! Attaching the pump to the wheel is just like plugging something in and operating the pump is like going up stairs if you only had one leg.

I probably need to point out that 30% has two legs just to keep the record straight here

Now I know that 30% can do all of these things so why does it fall to me?
Right, where was I? Yes, the foot pump. Being in a rush I grabbed the electric pump and attached it to the tyre. Air immediately rushed from the tyre via a disconnected pipe in the pump's internal workings. I now had a tyre with less air in it than when I started. Back to the garage, slinging the pump in to the wheelie bin on the way. It made a satisfactory thump at it hit the bottom of the bin. I then grabbed the foot pump and returned to the car.
The foot pump was bought within the past couple of months as I needed to extricate the Vespa from her lair and I had no chance of getting the electric pump connected to a 12 volt cigarette lighter socket and the Vespa's deflated tyres at the same time so a foot pump was bought to do the job.

Since then it has seen very limited use; a few psi in the trailer tyres and that's about it. So why, when I connect it up to 30%'s car does it look like a Dunkirk veteran? I'm not kidding. This thing has not been abused and has done hardly any work but in the space of two months has gone from being on a supermarket shelf to being fit for the bin.

The whole point about design and fabrication is that you work out what the demands will be on the object and then design it to meet those demands and construct it from suitable materials......

... or you can take the Chinese approach; take crappy raw materials such as steel that is more like pastry and throw an object together using labour that is so cheap it is virtually free. Then sell the unit at an unbelievable price at a UK supermarket.

End Result - you have paid a fiver for a "single use" item. It will just about work the first couple of times but then fail within an incredibly short time frame and will leave you wishing you had spent an extra tenner and actually bought something that will do the job it is supposed to do and might actually still be working the next time you want to use it!

Remember British Standards, the Kitemark and the CE stamps. All of those standards are meant to ensure that a device is fit for purpose and would perform as expected. I don't think that China has cottoned on to these or simply doesn't care. As long as we buy crap they will produce it. Look at the British Car Industry it took us until 1970 to realise that a car could be built that worked and didn't leak - Thank You Japan, Germany etc.

I keep getting mugged by a bargain at Tesco and I have to stop. Basically that store has some cracking deals but beware of something that is so cheap it is too good to be true. It probably is. We don't live in a world where you get what you pay for. We live in world where everyone wants your disposable income and it they have to take it a fiver at a time they will.

If something is cheap a corner will have been cut somewhere, a standard will have been ignored or a worker will have been abused.

At the other end of the same spectrum there are products that are clearly over priced simply because they are desirable but there is still no guarantee that the finest cotton has been used or that the workers get a proper wage.

What I am trying to say is be a savvy shopper. Do your research and make sure you get something that meets your expectations. After all, tyre pressures need to be right. If you tyre pressures are wrong at best they can screw up your fuel economy at worst your car with you and your nearest and dearest can end up in a hedge.

Do you want to trust that to a £5 unit that falls apart after 2 or 3 uses wherever it was made in the world?

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