Every year, Americans spend millions of dollars in small kitchen electrics. Just last year, spending for kitchen gadgets and gizmos increase to 10 percent from 2011, which was also up by 9 percent from 2010. Despite the state of the US economy which is not conducive for a kitchen splurge, research firm NPD Group attributes the increase to online marketing and advertising, and the rationalization of consumers’ buying decisions based on “convenience” and “performance.”
In fact, online dollar sales increased 24 percent covering 14 percent of this industry’s sales in 2011. Also, kitchen appliance products purchased online garnered nearly 50 percent higher prices than those bought from traditional (brick and mortar) stores. Researching through social media and blogs and friend or family recommendations are considered the biggest factors for the surge in online sales.
These days, it is not surprising that social media marketing and advertising can largely influence one’s rationale, especially in economic-challenged times, when purchasing attitudes can be in extremes. Optimized media mileage via home TV shopping channels and TV show hosts like Savannah Guthrie, Kathie Lee Gifford and Ellen DeGeneres rapidly discussing kitchen appliance features and prices within a 5-minute segment are also strong factors.
If one is not careful, the basic cost-benefit analysis involved in purchase decisions for practical and functional items is discarded, giving way to emotional justifications, worse, performance points that were never really there. It does not matter whether one has the money to pay (usually from savings or bonuses), since it’s not about the cheapest model against top-of-the-line counterparts. The issue is much more complicated than just budgets and choices.
Our aim here is not to put up the thumbs-down sign on kitchen wonders of the modern world. Rather, we want to step in to help ensure that average consumers are not swayed to the belief that they need it because it is convenient, it simplifies life, it saves time (and time is gold) and it is simply a must-have in these hard times.
In short, should you really spend more than you should for kitchen gadgets and gizmos? Here are five things you should know before ordering a breakfast maker or an auto-shut off multi-cooker.
A look at the latest kitchen aids and gadgets reveal they may not be the penultimate of convenience that their advertising copies claim them to be. In fact, Safer Products, a website run by the federal government shows that “kitchen appliances” is the top product line that American consumers complained most about in 2012. Electronic ovens, cooking ranges and dishwashers have the most complaints of all products.
And while new kitchen gadgets always offer convenience, only by going through pages of multi-part manuals that covers opening the package, parts diagram, and the dreaded how-to-operate part can one finally realize it’s not so convenient after all. It has been observed and agreed that modern kitchen aid manuals get even more complicated the more there are functions attached to the gadget.
The question now would be can most people at home be driven to learn and use it? Is it senior-friendly? Will teens be safe using it? Besides, convenience can be a subjective thing, especially where kitchen, cooking and eating are concerned. For instance, eating out is an American cultural staple that never goes out of style even with the fiercest of US recessions. If you or your family are typical Americans who prefer the practicality and convenience of eating out in a friendly and affordable neighborhood diner, does it makes sense to buy these expensive kitchen appliances?
Let’s be direct to the point. Despite some manufacturer claims, most kitchen gadgets are hard to clean and maintain. Consider a new food processor, with all the sets of blades, rotators, catchers and suctions and what-have-you trappings attached to it. For the meticulous homemaker, it’s always a case of attention to details where cleaning is concerned. With complicated, multi-part kitchen gadgets, the work becomes many times more burdensome.
No wonder, most high-priced kitchen gadgets find their way in the back shelves of the pantry and often in the garage rather than occupy space in the kitchen because of maintenance challenges.
Health, hygiene and salmonella police instruct us that all used kitchen aids and gadgets should be washed thoroughly as soon as possible. But can your dishwasher be trusted enough to prick the little pinch of hardened dough that has clung to the furthermost sanctum of a new multi-mixer’s rotator slot? Hardly.
Now, take the overrated garlic crusher or garlic presser. The garlic leftovers stubbornly stick on the back of the spikes and edges of tiny holes. Ads for these small machines claim you never have to touch smelly garlic again – lie! You always need to touch the garlic when you’re cooking, unless you wear gloves (which is a dangerous thing to do while cooking). If you need to ensure your modern kitchen aids are thoroughly cleansed of the last teeny-weeny bit of raw food it handled, from meat to vegetables and sesame seed, you have to deal with No. 2 above.
It is obvious that many “latest” kitchen appliances today have functions that are redundant with those of the more basic ones. Take for example the sad case of the breakfast maker – its most common design being a 3-in-1 machine to make breakfast staple, consisting of a small drip coffee maker, a bread toaster beside it, and a small hot plate on top of the toaster (to function as an egg poacher or fryer). Now, most homes would already have a separate coffee maker, a bread toaster and a stove to fry or poach eggs. Which gets into the storage room and which one stays in the pantry is an easy decision.
To make it appear more functional, some of these gadgets were designed to function as mini-robots in the sense that they do simple human tasks involved in cooking and cooking preparations (weighing, stirring and auto shut off). When one really thinks about it, these “innovative” functions are natural human instincts that entail no harm or danger (like pushing the off button after cooking) and there is really nothing to it that warrants being “performed” instead by a kitchen machine.
While electric and gas-powered household appliances are American innovations that became commonplace from the ’50s to the ’80s, today’s array of modern kitchen gadgets are certainly far from the dishwasher and convection ovens of the post-war years.
With climate change already wreaking havoc in parts of the earth, we rejoice when on Earth Hour, (a day in March every year where households and businesses around the world help save energy by reducing electricity use for an hour), hundreds of cities around the world record lower electricity consumption.
But nobody has publicly held many of the kitchen gadgets accountable for portions of greenhouse gases, faster depletion of electricity supply and climate change (since most modern kitchen appliances from the latest multi-cooker to hi-tech pepper mills run on electricity and emits heat). If people are really concerned with saving the environment, fuel and energy, this is something worth thinking about.
When it comes to kitchen gadgets and appliances, marketing and advertising techniques can get into the heads of the weak-willed homemaker who may think that just because it bears the very BFFy Rachel Ray’s name means it’s all economical, appropriate and rightfully justifiable.
But come to think of it, as an average cook with an average income, do you really need a Rachel Ray Kitchen Garbage Bowl? Taking down its features highlights: a 4-quart capacity, non-slip base, made of melamine and dishwasher safe, the sensible mind would know right away that any bowl from the cupboard could function as efficiently as the Garbage Bowl (and for the don’t-mess-with-me types, there’s not even a need for a “garbage bowl” in the first place.) That’s $19.99 in savings. We will not even dwell on the professional culinary benefits and the design-meets-function of a Viking stove worth $10,000, or the much-hyped Thermomix imported from Europe.
Indeed, mixers, coffee makers, juicers and blenders are making way for “better,” more sophisticated machines that can perform more multi-tasking functions even faster than an outsourced online executive secretary. Just take a look at the crowded lines of small kitchen gadgets at Target and Wal-Mart, to the bigger KitchenAid, Cuisinart and Martha Stewart lines at Williams-Sonoma. Do you really need to jump on the kitchen gadgets bandwagon?
A true smart and expert homemaker would know just the right things that should occupy a space in the kitchen. Here’s what you can live with if you’d rather keep your $529.95 money over a Jamie Oliver HomeCooker, and similar kitchen gadgets:
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