For Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my blessings; I love to list my favorite things, what makes them thank-worthy, and what little disappointments that come with them.
For example, I love Amazon. I have bought all sorts of things I needed and some that I just wanted. One disappointment: assembly instructions. My frugal self loves the savings for things that are twice the price in the brick-and-mortar stores; my honest self sees the hidden price I pay. I rationalize the wonderful nuances of foreign cultures as I try to figure out which real-life nut and bolt matches the vaguely portrayed nuts and bolts in the faintly-printed instructions.
Sometimes there is not even unintelligible English-as-a-language-no-one-here-really-knows text to confuse me. The diagrams are diabolical, psychological warfare. A few companies tease us by attaching stickers to pieces with the letter or number shown in the pamphlet. Even then, one company mislabeled the parts in the instructions.
Most throw us graphics that are tests, like Mensa/SAT/Psychological/IQ tests. The questions on the test?
- Match this table of drawings to the items you are staring at, that came in the box.
- Can you see the pattern or sequence between step 1 and step 2?
- Can you identify the actions required to explain the difference between figure 1 and figure 2?
- Can you fill in the missing part or parts of the sequences?
- Can you get the parts you glued together by mistake apart again?
- Is the FedEx guy too far up the street to flag down?
I can see the Mensa buyers sitting on the garage floor with dressers that look more like Picasso bookcases, or Escher stairways.
The instruction writers of foreign manufacturers must have never been to America. They have never spoken to any native speaker in English, in person, just the less-than-fluent instructors who taught them, and the non-English-speaking bosses who were impressed with what sounded like English to him.
And here is where frustration brings out sadism: We who have fallen, do not enlighten the seller, nor warn other buyers. Why shouldn’t they suffer like we did?
Even if the instructions are adequate, they often include fewer of the metric nuts, bolts, and washers than needed, or some that are defective. Where will you find 10 more of those little slider-holder thing-a-ma-jigs you need when you are bent over, holding up the critical strut of your almost-completed gazebo with one hand, the instructions in the other, as the sun sets?
If “some assembly required,” does not ruin your day, how about things that do not fit together like you saw on-line? I mean a coffee maker that dribbles when you follow the instructions exactly, or the lid of the pressure cooker that will not lock, or the replacement for the roller brush for your vacuum cleaner that spins out from under the vacuum and sticks in the wall?
Oh, I forgot, batteries; you buy an electronic device that does what you want, for an incredibly low price. Once you have it, you find that the “batteries-are-not-included,” or run out after 10 minutes, are not rechargeable, and cost more than the device.
I love the whole concept of Amazon; I use it regularly; it appeals to my money-saving, couch-potato side. I love it when I find something better, at a lower price on-line, than my wife can find with woman-days of store shopping. It makes me feel vindicated for never wanting to go to the mall.
I just have to learn to temper my greed, contain my optimism, and curb my enthusiasm. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and every other winter-solstice-scheduled celebration of the return of the sun, that you may enjoy.