Disconnected Messages

imageEarlier this week, my wife received an email inviting her to a tool store where the factory salesperson from Makita will be speaking at lunch.

She buys a lot of tools for me so she gets the invite. They know where the money is.

The salesperson is introducing a line of tools based on Makita’s new brushless motors. Sweet. I want one of those. But, I don’t need one of those. I have a 2-year old Makita Drill/Driver kit that is totally capable of meeting my drill/driver needs. I have a 5-yr old Bosch cordless drill that still works. I have a 10-yr old cordless drill that still works. I have… well you get the picture.

The fact that Makita has invented a “brushless” motor is interesting, but I haven’t owned a drill long enough to have had to replace the brushes since 1968! Brushes don’t fail. Tools don’t fail. The only reason anyone ever has to replace a cordless tool is because the battery dies and replacements can’t be purchased.

Marketing and engineering almost never seem to understand each other, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where engineering, marketing and companies that make stuff no longer understand reality. I’ve had car dealers talk incessantly during the sale about 10-yr rust warranties, 5-yr power train warranties, reliability, stability, and every other-bility but then they turn around and expect me to buy a new car two years later.

The worst example of mixed messages that I ever received from a car dealer was when I was shopping to replace a 1977 Saab. It was 1982, and I was considering a new Saab. The dealer was offering me $2,000 for my old Saab toward the $18,000 price of a new one. I told him that “the Toyota dealer is offering me $3,500 if I trade this in on a Celica GT that sells for the same price.”

He said – I’m not making this up – “but that Celica won’t hold its value as well as this car” pointing to the new Saab that I didn’t buy.

The world of computers, in which I earn my living, is full of these mixed signals. Desktops and laptops once had such anemic storage capacity that it was a common task to replace the hard drives every 8-12 months. Then, just in time for companies to be moving content onto Local Area Networks, desktop computers started to arrive with large amounts of storage. Today, as we are being nudged to put all of our documents, pictures and blog entries into the cloud, laptops are coming equipped with oodles and boodles of storage.

Remember when cell phones first started to slip into the mainstream? Back then, itimage was all about ‘minutes’ as in how long you could talk. Talk, just like you used to do on your phone. Today, hardly anybody I know really talks on their cell phone, but plans now include “unlimited talk and text.” I think the last time I needed to care about how many ‘talk’ minutes I had was the last time I had a cell phone that was comfortable to talk on. Since then, every cell phone I’ve had has been flat, in the way that the space between my ear and my mouth isn’t. I use a Bluetooth earbud, which is uncomfortable, or the Bluetooth connection in my car that is less than reliable and I suffer in everything but silence. The things my and the party on the other end’s microphones choose to pick up and amplify make no sense. My turn signal sounds like the pendulum in the movie version of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic horror story and the kitchen noises my wife’s headset sends my way sound like the breaking up of the Titanic.

I shouldn’t complain. I still have the option to experience phone nirvana. Several years ago, I bought my wife a rotary dial Princess phone for Mother’s Day – yes, I am just that romantic. I cleaned that phone and rewired it so that it works with the modular jacks and I have to tell you, it feels like a phone.

We don’t use it often, but not only can imageyou hold it without worrying about damaging it or your signal, you can do the little neck exercise to pin it between your head and shoulder. In fact, that exact motion has been prescribed to me by my Physical Therapist. He is too young to understand what he’s asking me to do, but I now realize why I didn’t have neck problems until recently – I had a phone!

I’ll leave you with the best story I have about the marketing standard, the “lifetime” guarantee. In the late 80’s, I took a muffler back to a local auto parts store. It came with a lifetime guarantee and I had saved the paperwork and the receipt for the day that it failed. The counter clerk took the muffler and tossed it and the warranty in the trash. The guarantee didn’t cover rust. As long as the muffler remained intact, it was guaranteed to muffle. That’s it.


  1. And Saab , for one , is now a company of the past , I think . I have an old phone , too ; not a Princess —— but an anchor to the memories to which you refer . Your muffler story is going to drag up nightmare memories too , I’m sure , of “lifetime” guarantees —- ” but not for ………..”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My MIL still has her princess rotary. It’s fancier than the model above. Ivory and flowery with an old-time mouthpiece. It doesn’t work, of course, but she’s got it in The Doll Room. *rolls eyes at The Doll Room*
    My husband got a new drill about five years ago. I bought him a plug-in one, because the rechargeable never seemed to last through all the projects. It took me a long time to figure out how to use the new drill. I don’t think I like it, so I sure am glad he’s the one who uses it 99% of the time! He loves it.
    I don’t do tools, really. I call my dad. My dad tells me what to buy. Very nice when purchasing my son’s first tools while my husband was deployed. Very nice memory to have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha, I rolled my eye at just the right point :) The Princess phone was the first phone that AT&T marketed to women, and the first time they departed from the purely functional model they had sold for decades. I have corded and cordless drills. When I am working on a project where I use the drill a lot, the batteries can be a pain. The best thing is that the new cordless tools have charging units that can recharge the battery in about 15 min.

      Buying your son’s tools with your dad does sound like a very nice experience (probably for both of you). Thanks for your comment!


  3. Hi Dan, you are so right about our new fangled phones. Mine is with me where ever I go but it’s the most awkward thing I’ve even spoken into! Many laughs as I read this post – much appreciated on a Monday that’s been a bit too serious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jill. After last week’s post, I needed to focus on something lighter. When my wife got that email, I just had to shake my head. Headsets work, but I don’t know how people talk if they are using the phones today. Even the cordless phone we have with our land line (yes we still have a land line) are uncomfortable. Thanks for your comment today.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That counter clerk! Were you surprised? I don’t believe ads at all or the warranties. They are business strategies and businesses only care for profit. So the muffler had a lifetime warranty that never was! Ha!
    I like the part where you say “marketing and engineering almost never seem to understand each other.” Engineers give estimates, nothing precise, but marketing guys are concerned with building confidence in the client, though false confidence it is. Recently, four salespeople from a UK company came to my office to sell to me intruder alarms. They wanted that the next time I have to make a quotation for a client I should specify their equipment. After they filled me up with the advantages of their device, I told them that I am an engineer and I know that no man-made devices have 100% efficiency. So they should either give me a specific reason why I should prefer their alarm system over the local ones or they should stop lying to me altogether. You should have seen their faces!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love when customers know more than the salesmen realize. It’s unfortunate that we can’t market around the truth. I did recently have good luck with an extended warranty on a car I had given my daughter, but so often there is some bit of fine print that renders the warranty useless. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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