I have a problem with dishwashers. In the family’s domestic scene it’s my responsibility because I’m the only one who really understands how it works. Mrs G doesn’t understand the blades that swish round squirting soapy water need to be able to operate unencumbered and routinely packs it in a way that means it doesn’t wash properly. It’s a user issue, not a hardware issue. When I say ‘you’ve packed it in a way that means it doesn’t work‘ she puts her hands on her hips, cocks her head to one side and says, ‘fine, you know how it works you do it‘. So constructive criticism made with the best of intentions to create efficiency in a household aid designed wholly to save time is twisted into a personal criticism. I presume this argument, if you could call it that, bubbles away in all households, part of the symphony of divided household chores that becomes our own unique norm. The splitting of household jobs has never been formally agreed. We’ve never sat across a table with a sheet of paper and pen divvying these things up. As a bloke I am in charge of all bins, recycling, poo on the lawn (but not poo in the house), dog washing if the dog has rolled in something shitty (but not if it’s just to make them smell nice for Christmas), any animal illness, all insurance, anything to do with cars, everything in the garage, the dvd player set up and whole Netflix thing, anything involving wifi and tech, batteries, tools, takeaways, breakfasts, lightbulbs, anything that requires setting foot in B&Q, all bills,anything to do with the fireplace, lawn mowing and all things garden related. Her jobs list is probably bigger but she can write about that in her own blog post if she had a blog and posted on it.
This morning the dishwasher starts bleeping and I opened it to find it full of brown water and foam. I’m thinking immediately about cost of course. Those call out plumbers who only work weekdays between 9 and 5 requiring me to take a morning off work. The idling, the faux lengthy diagnostic procedure despite knowing exactly what’s wrong, endless trips out to the van to get extra parts all drawn out to take an hour so that I feel I’m getting benefit for my £150. But not today. Empowered by my recent drain unblocking procedure I decide to hit youtube and try to work it out for myself. It turns out that nearly all dishwashers are exactly the same. Unscrew the parts, take them out, clean out the nerf gun bullet, put it all back together again and you’ve saved yourself a painful morning with an ‘engineer’ and of course you don’t have to shell out £150. I’m immedietely doing the maths of course. Could I do 4 of these in a day? Hell yeah. A business opportunity if ever there was one.
My success and new bond with the intimate workings of my machine has taken our relationship to a new level. In only a few hours I’ve come to reappraise my views on this unknown and resented device. Like most gadgets we only really think about it when it doesn’t work. Yet for 361 days a year, often twice daily it toils away doing our dirty work. It doesn’t share the glory of a washing machine or an oven which both rather egotistically have a glass front so we can marvel in real time at their solid graft. Our dishwasher stoically does it’s work quietly in the dark. The manufacturers don’t even bother to put a light in there. We’ve even got a cupboard door glued to the front so you can’t tell it’s there. Like we’re ashamed of it. Nobody ever says thank you to their dishwasher. Nobody ever pats it and says ‘look at all that time and effort you’ve saved me.’ And even when it does it’s work we complain about having to empty and load it again.
Anyway, I thought this was interesting – a Go Pro in a dishwasher.
So I’m a non official member of a networking group in London. I say non official because I don’t pay the £360 a year to be a member but the guy who set it up is one of my best chums and he invites me anyway. I’ve told him that I’m not entirely comfortable with making small talk with people I don’t know. I find it sapping. I certainly can’t do it each month which is why I’m an occasional member. We went to one the other night in London and there were 20 blokes there. I could only remember a few of the names due to my bad memory problem. And there was one guy who spent a good half an hour telling me about his thing and never asked once about mine. I kept waiting for him to say “so… what’s your thing?” but it never came. At the end of the evening I felt spent. The pressure of the small talk, the concepts I had to get my head round, the red wine. I needed a day off afterwards to recover so not only did the event consume my whole night it also consumed the day after.
I like to network in a rather more organic fashion. I’m not even sure it really is classified as networking. I tend to add a few new friends a year and then invest some time in getting to know them. I’m like the opposite of the power networker. I like to meet peoples wives, their kids, get access to their analytics if they’ll let me. You know, really get under the skin of someone. I don’t think you can really truly network unless you connect with people on a real level and become friends. The networking dinners and breakfasts that I see promoted all seem so superficial.
Anne who sells me my coffee on a Friday is someone I met on twitter. I bought coffee from her every Friday from her market stall. She roasts it in her kitchen then bags it up and sells it in the market just down the road from our office. I saw her first tweet one day when the temperature outside in the market hadn’t raised above zero. I thought this was commitment so I went and bought a bag. I have a policy of always buying something off someone if they are in business for themselves and they come into my life somehow. There was a huge choice and I didn’t know what coffee to have so she give me some samples and each week I went and tried another until I had found my perfect bean. Along the way we’ve got to know each other and each visit to her stall got longer. At some point in the past months we greeted each other like friends with a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes I swing by at lunch time and spend half an hour chatting to her. She’s just done a roasting course in San Francisco and recently her business has taken off to the extent that her husband has joined her and they’ve moved out of the kitchen and into a business unit. Whilst chatting at the market stall I’ve met Caroline who runs a local marketing firm. We now talk on twitter too and keep meaning to meet up and talk about digital things. We will one of these days. This easy natural flowing networking is what I treasure. It makes that forced bonhomie of a formal networking event feel fake and vapid.
Of course networking isn’t new. Go back 300 years and it’s likely back then you knew every single person around you. Your orbit was your village and you would be born there and die there some 40-50 years later. We’re programmed to want to talk to people but the natural ebb and flow of life is to not jam 30 new people into your life in one evening and then try and “get something off them”.
I think I’ve added about 10 people to my network this year.
Talk recently about latest Curry’s financial results (ie. fucking bad – or ‘lower than expected profits’ in city speak) and how these sort of highly geared low margin companies are having a dire time due to the recessions and the strangling off of the bountiful cash injections we used to be provided with by a tactical re-mortgage. I needed a new telly so decided to head over to my local out of town retail park and grab myself a deal. I’ve got the cash, I’ve got intent, I’ve got an empty cabinet back home. In retail terms I’m super hot to trot. But perhaps it’s not the recession that’s buggering these large companies, perhaps they’re just buggering themselves:
1. Once in store there is the palpable anti-buzz, a vibe of people not giving a fuck. I stood next to a vast TV and gave off the most obvious buying signals I could muster (tapping my wallet in the palm of my hand, looking around with eyebrows raised) and there was nobody in sight. When a ‘worker’ finally meandered over rather than try and sell me something he suggested I check their website for more stock options. Being fairly comfortable shopping on the interweb it prompted two thoughts. If I wanted to shop online I would have done so and secondly my default web shopping mode is to find my product and then *compare price*. Hoping I would go home and stick with Currys as a punter is at best naive and displays a breathtaking lack of understanding of how consumers shop. You’ve got the bastards in your shop, sell them stuff.
2. Everything is on special. All lines appear to have £150 knocked off. It’s like they don’t have confidence in their shit either. It’s as if somebody has identified their brand values as cheap shit sold by people who don’t care and then rolled this out across all their stores. There is a confidence vacuum in a place where there should be optimism. Optimism because they’re selling shiny electrical stuff! This shop should be the distillation of the western dream, the very essence of consumerism is summed up in the isles of blenders and toastie machines. But it’s entirely absent.
3. The place is designed like a dogs dinner and never once in the buying cycle did I appear to be at all at ease. The transaction (should you ever get this far) is conducted on a sort of narrow shelf that you stand in front of. These stores appear to have not changed one jot in the past 30 years. Given that a significant part of this shop is supposedly positioned at the pointy end of tech sales (they have Apple products in the building) why not get some big comfy seating areas where i can find out more about the products sitting down, perhaps look at their own website for further info. Read some reviews. Grab a nice complementary cup of coffee. A biscuit to help with my anxiety and low blood sugar levels.
Doing the same thing but with indifferent staff and cut price products isn’t the solution. Many companies convince themselves that the internet offers convenience without facing up the possibility that the shopping experience they provide in the physical world might well be an inconvenience.
I bought the telly by the way.