Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rolodex Watches

I own a Rolex® and I also own a Swiss Army® watch.  The Swiss Army watch keeps perfect time, and it never needs winding as it has a battery.  If I do not wear the Rolex every day, it stops working and you need to set both the day and the date (which is a pain in the ass). And, the Rolex does not keep perfect time.  The Rolex is worth several thousand dollars and the Swiss Army is only a few hundred bucks, brand new. 

One is a tool that helps me to get to business meetings on time.  The other is a tool that helps me to look successful and important in said business meetings.

Yesterday, my wife and I went shopping for a new kitchen. New cabinets, new appliances, the works.  We are overdue for a new kitchen, so I am cool with all of this. My wife is a miracle worker when it comes to shopping. She found online a family in our neighborhood that was moving from a brand new home, and they were “selling their kitchen”.  I did not know that you could do this, but I have since learned that this is not uncommon.  I knew all about garage sales, but kitchen sales?

We took a drive with our dog Bella in tow, to check out this slightly used kitchen for sale. *neither the wife nor the husband were cooks; the range was never used except to boil eggs.  I’ll speed up this tale: if you paid retail to duplicate this entire kitchen from scratch – all new cabinets, all new appliances, etc. it would be around $50,000 plus the professional labor of plumbers, carpenters and electricians to install it all.  Here’s the kicker: the Sub-Zero® refrigerator (alone) would be $14,239 if you bought this make and model of refrigerator brand new. 

Now, I am not qualified to compare or contrast the pros and cons of one brand of refrigerator vs. another.  But I do know watches, and I know that my Swiss Army watch keeps better time than my Rolex. I know that my Rolex is not as much a watch as it is a “billboard”.  I have caught myself many times in business meetings, making sure to hold my arm in such a way that people could see my expensive watch.  I don’t do this as often when I am wearing my cheap watch.

We currently have a Kitchen Aid® refrigerator, which new from Sears cost less than $1500 installed and delivered. It works fine; keeps the food cold and it never needs maintenance, except for a water filter that needs changing every three months.  I learned yesterday that the Sub-Zero brand also requires annual “check-ups” from the Sub-Zero doctor – who of course charges for house calls. 

Our three year old Kitchen Aid keeps the food at a constant 39 degrees, and it has just enough digital bells and whistles to remind me that it is a modern appliance.  For an extra couple of hundred dollars, we could have purchased the model with an Internet connection, and a TV screen in the door.  But spending more money on a refrigerator seemed quite silly at the time.

And yet, our good neighbor paid well over $15,000 for their icebox.  Yeah, I called it an icebox because no matter how you slice it, the purpose of today’s modern refrigerator did not change that much in the past 100 years. Food goes bad sooner or later, but if you keep it cold, it will last longer. That’s about the extent of it; not a very complex process, and not that many moving parts.  In fact, should a dishwasher with all of its complex moving parts and various cycles not cost more than a refrigerator? 

The new kitchen “relocation project” did not work out; their range was gas and we need electric. We could have bought the entire kitchen for around $4,000 delivered; we would take it from there.  This of course was including the Sub Zero.  This morning it came to me; how do we get enough people into our kitchen to see the new Sub Zero to make it all worth it? What good is a “billboard” if no one ever gets to see it?

I feel that all technology purchases are like this as well. Think about it: is the cell phone that you use a useful communications device, or a status symbol?  Do the people that stand in line to purchase the absolute latest iPhone® or iPad® keep it hidden away in a protective case, or do they go out of their way to show off their new purchase? Is a new tablet PC a smart purchase and must-have business tool, or will your three year old laptop do just fine? Maybe a $50 upgrade in RAM and a good cleaning is all you need to triple your speed.

When I get dressed in the morning, I still catch myself thinking about which timepiece I will wear for the day – do I need to dress to impress?  Will I be in any business meetings with materialistic people who will judge me and judge my company by my brand of wristwatch?  What if I bought my Rolex at an estate sale (used and cheap) how would they judge me then?

I don’t want to bash any brand, but I wonder if the name “Sub Zero” is trying to make some sort of reference to temperature, or the IQ required to make the purchase of their brand.  On the way home from our new kitchen “safari” my wife pointed to a billboard from McDonalds® that said “$4 for a cup of coffee is dumb”.  And then I paused and thought about why I decided to wear my Rolex on a Saturday afternoon where the only “business” meeting I had for that day was to check out the used kitchen. 

Especially since I started out my day wearing my Swiss Army. 

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