Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Goof-Proof Consumer Products

I wonder when the day is going to arrive when the risk of making and selling a consumer product will be so high that companies will no longer make anything. The risk/reward ratio, driven by product liability will just be so great so as to stymie all production of any kind.

Here is an old product that became unsafe. It wasn't unsafe when it was made, and it still does what the manufacturer intended and the consumer wanted at the time of manufacture.

This is an old three speed oscillating fan. I say old, but it hasn't been used all that much from its appearance. It works fine on all three speeds and the oscillation feature works. It weighs about twelve pounds, and has a cast aluminum base; all parts are metal of some sort or another. It has a nice, industrial-type heavy electrical cord. The motor head has a little built-in handle on the top of it for carrying.

This fan is dangerous and no longer suitable for use. The reason for this is because the fan blade guard is not idiot-proof. When this fan was made, it was supposed that normal, thinking people wouldn't put their fingers in between the spokes of the blade guard to "see if the fan was running." Fans were made this way for a good number of years, but the lawyers hadn't gotten ahold of the issue yet. When they did, fan manufacturers had to come up with fan guards that had many more spokes in them to keep idiots and children's fingers out of them. Back in the old days, thinking people would place a fan out of the reach of children, but like everything else, we now must have everything in life made safe for us lest we not have the common sense to hurt ourselves.

This fan is just like the hefty ones we used to have in the army, if we were lucky. If you wonder what I mean by that, just watch "Soldier in the Rain" with Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen sometime. I was lucky enough to have one of these in my hooch when I was in Vietnam. It was mounted high up on the wall, screwed into plywood to discourage theft or some other form of disappearance. I inherited that fan not from someone "who didn't make it" but from a soldier who rotated home and happily left all of his scrounged and acquired comforts of Vietnam behind in his rush to leave. That fan was very dear to me when I needed it while I was there, but when my time came to go home, I forgot all about it and left it for someone else.

Unsafe or not, I'm going to go ahead and give this fan another life here at my home. I bought the fan at the Goodwill "Outlet Store" (yes, such a thing really exists) for $2.99 and I'm sure I'm going to get my money's worth. I think I can refrain from the urge to stick my fingers into the moving blade

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