Consuming Issues: Anyone for laser-guided scissors?

Years ago a small supplement would tumble from national newspaper magazines offering a diverse range of time-saving and futuristic gadgets which were distinguished by their pointlessness. Could there really be a market for bath ladders for spiders or heated eyelash curlers? Apparently not, given that the Innovations Catalogue folded seven years ago.

Despite the loss of a useful outlet for useless products, our love of gadgets has continued to grow and shows no sign of dimming. The average British household had 17 electrical appliances – television, hi-fi, vacuum cleaner etc – in the 1970s; by the 2000s that had risen to 47 with the addition of Playstations, electric fans and juicers, according to a government report four years ago, The Rise of the Machines.

Even in an economic slump in a modern industrialised society, we hanker for gadgets which promise to make life easier or more exciting. It's just that we don't always need them.

The review website Reevoo last year asked shoppers to rank the 20 most useless gadgets. Top of the pile was the electric nail file, presumably bought by the sort of shopper too busy to grate their own cheese.

Which was a shame because the runner-up surely deserved the acclaim: laser-guided scissors. (The designers could see a laser beam emanating from a pair of scissors would help someone cut a straight line, but overlooked a flaw: that the laser would waver when the scissors were moved.)

Electric candles were third followed by the Soda Stream, foot spa, fondue set, hair crimpers and egg boiler. The teasmade unfairly appeared at number 13 in my opinion, but how could one fault numbers 19 and 20 – the towel warmer and back scratcher, except to wonder why they weren't ranked higher?

Reevoo put the life of a gadget at just over one year because 60 per cent of people found many of them to be a waste of time; by the time you have lifted the back-scratcher, you realised you could have done the job yourself.

At the other extreme are devices so complex that they befuddle their users. Despite the ever-increasing sophistication of gadgets their makers seem to forget that as technology becomes more popular it should be simpler to use. Early adapters are keen and knowledgeable. The rest of us need an idiot-proof iPod/Satnav/HDTV.

Unsurprisingly, a survey by Stuff magazine revealed this week that "we don't know our MP3s from our DABs" when it comes to using the £3,000 worth of electrical goods packing out the average home. While people are comfortable using traditional household gadgets such as microwaves, washing machines and DVD players, "they are flummoxed by newer inventions such as Blackberrys, DAB Radios, HDTVs and HD set top boxes" and only use half the functions available.

According to the magazine, which naturally wishes to tout its expertise in the acquisition and use of such things, the difference between what we have paid for and what we actually use is £52bn pounds.

So what's the moral of the story? Since time-saving devices can be counter-productive, perhaps you should opt out. But you might like to take note of another tip from the Stuff survey.

IT professionals were asked how they dealt with problematic gadgets. One in 10 "will just ignore a product's function if they can't get it to work, while one in five will rip up or throw away the instruction manual in frustration when they get confused". The same number hit the thing to make it work.

Heroes & Villains

Hero: Tesco

Despite not doing many things that could help the environment, like putting lids on its freezers, Britain's biggest supermarket does do some good behind the scenes work.

This week it announced it would experiment with plastic bottles for own-brand spirits to save pollution. While glass has a nicer feel, encasing brandy in plastic will save 200,000kg of packaging. Tesco has also launched the lightest ever wine bottle, weighing 300g – 30 per cent lighter than its previous lightest own-label bottles.

Villain: Carlsberg

Personally, I consider Tetley to be a foamy, weak ale. But at least it came from Yorkshire. Until now. The Campaign for Real Ale this week expressed its discontent at Carlsberg UK's relocation of Tetley's brewing from Leeds to Marston's at Wolverhampton. Carlsberg don't do geography lessons, but if they did, mused Camra's vice-chairman Bob Stukins, they would probably realise dislocating brands from their heritage dismays customers.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea