Friday, December 25, 2009

Cheap is good

Right after we bought the bus we installed a Black & Decker undercounter toaster oven. The undercounter mounts are actually really hard to find but we had one in the house and liked it so much so we looked all over and finally found the mounting kit. It came with a rube goldberg bracket that hooked to the oven and a really substantial heat shield to keep from lighting the cupboard above the oven on fire.

This winter that original B & D oven finally failed. I took it apart and figured out that it was the door switch that had broken. Calling it a "switch" is a little rich - what it actually was is a piece of very light gauge metal that bent to make or break a connection whenever the door was opened or closed. After enough bends in the same place the metal eventually fatigued and the piece fell off. I soldered a jumper across so that we could use the oven but that mean that it no longer shut off when you opened the door. Which wasn't a great big problem but was kind of annoying since we were used to it working the other way.

We started looking for a replacement with an undercounter mount and quickly found that, while in theory they exist, in practice they aren't on the shelves anywhere. I came up with a plan that involved continuing to use the existing heat shield which let us shop for the cheapest oven possible. I love those bins at Home Depot or True Value where they have the assorted aluminum angle and flat iron - some of them even have aluminum square tubing now. I'm their most regular customer. This time I used 4' of 1" x 1/8" flat to make hangers for each corner of the new oven. Then I pulled off the little rubber feet and screwed the new hanger straps where the feet originally attached. We ended up paying less than $20 for a new oven and it works just fine - better than the original in fact but that may just indicate how old and worn out the original was getting to be.

The point of all this - and about bloody time that I should get to the point - is - how the hell can they sell a toaster oven for less than 20 bucks? The packaging alone has to be worth close to 2 bucks - it was a pretty elaborate box and there was a multilingual operators' manual included as well. And then there's shipping - it was no doubt assembled somewhere in the orient so it had to get to North America and then get through distribution here. Its not a fancy piece of electronic technology but its not dead simple either and it works really well. No matter what anyone says about outsourcing and offshore manufacturing I'm a big fan of it. A really big fan of it.

No comments: