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16 August 2011

FREEDOM OF CHOICE?

Do you want to see a grown man cry? Have him select a color from more that 3 selections…he will drop to his knees in tears. I’m beginning to think that choice is highly over rated.

The scariest words in the English language most be…”would you like fries with that? Shoestring or country, crosscut or curly, salted or unsalted and god forbid if you should ask for their selection of dipping sauce. And what about coffee? What happen to a plain old cup of Joe? I mean…what the hell is a half-caff, non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte and while I’m at it, what happen to just a medium cup? Choice is everywhere and there seems to be no escape…we have too many buttons, options, selections and app’s.

The kitchen industry has not been spared from this curse, but it seems that we as an industry have embraced choice with gusto. On the cabinet side of the house we have more variety of wood species to choose from than ever before…what happen to oak, pine, maple and walnut? Now we can offer Wenge, Rosewood, Zebra and Pear as well as exotic veneers and technical veneers…all in different cuts and finishes. And colors…there was a time you had 4 or 5 standard color selections and some companies may have even offered up to 20, but today with computer color matching, there are over 2000 variations to choose from. And what about features and accessories? Drawer options, waste options, cutlery dividers, pan storage, tall storage options, lighting options, interior and exterior. And when we look at the appliance side of the house the mountain of choice is even higher…convection oven, micro-convection oven, steam-convection and just plain radiant heat. And the choices of refrigerators would make your head explode…24”, 30” 36” and 48”, available in single and double door, side by side French doors and ice options that would dazzle any Barman worth his salt. Not to stop there, what about our choices in cook-tops? Gas, electric and induction as well as combinations of all three. And the selection of dishwashers available with sensors, onboard computers and wi-fi connected and with enough technology on board for a manned mission to the moon.

What brought this all to head was a presentation I was giving for a new kitchen. We were going over each detail, what wood, what finish, what handle, what accessories and features, what lighting and at one point…the client threw up his hands and shouted “enough!” and said, “Kevin…why are you asking me all these question…you’re the expert…what am I paying you for?” It was a clear cut case of “sensory-overload…too many selections, too many options and too many choices.

Henry David Thoreau once said “simplify, simplify!”…I say just “Simplify! (period)”. I truly believe that we have so over complicated the process that our clients are paralyzed with fear. We need to take greater control of the process. In another presentation, while we were going over every detail in the kitchen…how many drawers, hinged left or right, which side of the sink would they like the dishwasher on, what knob or pull, I looked up at the client with her eyes half rolled up inside her eyelid and when she noticed me looking at her, she sat up-right, gathered herself together and said to me…”Kevin…it’s going to look like this…right?”…pointing to the display and she said…”fine…how much do you need to get started?
Keep your sales approach simple…nothing complicated. Your showroom and displays should educate your client to the benefits and value of your product or service as well as create an atmosphere of trust and dependability, Keep your options to a minimum…how many cabinet and appliance lines to you really need to show, what are the 3 or 4 finishes that make up most of your business? What counter-top material do you always specify? You will find, if you go back over your projects for the last year or two…you will see a pattern of design elements, appliances and finishes.

So take control, lead your client, and don’t drown them in details, but simplify their lives and you will see your jobs close faster and that your clients will be happier. I think that DEVO, the iconic 80’s band, said it best…”What we want is Freedom from choice”.

17 May 2011

It's a Wireless World! - update

Imagine a kitchen where you will no longer have to wonder about like a desert nomad with your blender or toaster in hand searching for an oasis of power or at least a clear space near a free outlet.

The idea of wireless electricity was first conceived by legendary inventor, Nikola Tesla in the early 1900’s. His idea was to build giant transmission towers across the US that would emit an electrical frequency that your home appliance or light bulb would receive and be powered, much in the same way as a radio picks up a broadcast signal. After a major legal battle that was finally settled in the Supreme Court on the side of GE and Thomas Edison, Tesla and his idea of free electricity faded into obscurity.

But all is not lost, Fulton Industries has developed a highly efficient wireless power transfer systems that elements the use of cables or cords for small appliances. The new system can transfer wirelessly 60w of electrical energy over a distance of nearly 24” with 80% efficiency. This new technology is based on magnetic resonance, where two or more devices can transfer energy when using the same resonant frequencies.

The idea requires embedding a line-connected power transmitter into a counter-top, table top or wall, which then transmits power to an adapted appliance placed near or on the transmitter without the need for a cord between the transmitting or receiving elements.
Once developed to its full potential, you would be able to place any future portable household appliance, such as a toaster, blender, coffee maker or can-opener anywhere in the kitchen you would like to work without the need of a power-cord, plug or socket.

Not only can we look forward to a cord free kitchen, but what if we could warm up a can of your favorite soup or chili by just placing an eCoupled container anywhere on the embedded counter-top. Just pull the tap to warm, medium or hot and let the embedded technology do the rest.

Not just an energy source, but more like an embedded information highway. Imagine your child’s delight as his morning cereal box becomes interactive with new games or comics each morning as well as offering Mom incentives to download to her smart phone coupons for more cereal that she is nearly out of. This smart counter will be able to scan your bag of groceries when you arrive home from the market and log in your purchases and let you know when you are running low on everyday items.

For me, the greatest benefits of this new technology will be safety. With the elimination of the possibility for electric shock, gone forever will be the days of socket guards from curious fingers. And just think of the fun of making margaritas pool side with no need for plug…let the party begin! The possibilities are endless and the modern kitchen, as we know it, will continue to open up and expand its boundaries as new technology and applications continue to emerge.

Now Mr Tesla…about that “free” electricity idea?