I have done a bit of reading on the psychology of shopping, and have a bit of a background in marketing, so I can understand why people get emotionally attached to their fridge. The fridge is very much the centre of the modern kitchen if you ask me, having displaced the oven many years ago.
I'm not sure if people get emotionally attached to the fridge though, or attached to the idea of buying a fridge. You can make such a big deal of it these days - they have gone from simple white boxes with a couple of shelves to designer goods. Whole issues of Vogue Living could be devoted to the modern fridge, with its ice makers, multiple doors, stainless steel finish and blah blah blah blah blah. People get a kick out of buying these monstrosities, because it is a new way to show off their wealth. When even homeless people are driving a Porsche Boxter, what is left for those who are addicted to the symbols of status?
Frankly, I just want something that keeps the milk cold. And we reached the point today where the old beast was no longer up to it. Purchased by J when she was a household of 2, it no longer cuts the mustard when we have grown to a family of 5. I did the daily shopping today, took it into the kitchen, took one look at what space was left in the fridge and what had to go into it, and decided that it was time for a new fridge.
I'll see if I can do some maths here and calculate the size of the old one. It is 50cm x 50cm x 150cm. That gives the outside dimensions as 375,000 cubic centimetres, or 375 litres. When you subtract all the insulation and so on, I suppose we have 250 litres of useable cold air.
I know people who have bar fridges bigger than that.
This is how you buy a fridge with a minimum of fuss.
J took one look at the shopping that had to go into the fridge, and the mouldy bread in the cupboard that was a day old, and agreed that we needed a new fridge. That took maybe one minute.
We then spent two minutes debating characteristics - one door or two, freezer on top or bottom, colour and size. In the end, the only thing that we really cared about was that it was less than 1 metre wide, which is all the room that we have for it. And that it did not cost the earth.
There is a shop nearby that sells new fridges and seconds - ones that have been dinged a bit. A lot of Australia's white goods are made in a big factory in Orange, and there was this rort there a few years ago where the workers were nicking fridges (brand new, no faults) and selling them to the seconds shops, who then sold them as scratched or dented, when they had no such features on them. I think the Police arrested so many staff, the factory almost had to close for lack of a workforce. I remember that story every time I go to buy some new whitegoods. I know this because a friend used to supply that factory with materials, and had a spot of bother when he discovered that one of his biggest customers might have to close.
Here are some things that I discovered today.
Businesses that are selling white goods are teetering on the brink - this one certainly was. We were the only live customers with money that they had seen in ages. We got a good deal because they were achingly desperate to flog something - anything. I thought the staff there were going to cry when we looked at 4 fridges and said, "We'll take that one - when can you deliver it?" The second rapture was when they asked if we wanted to pay a deposit or the whole thing, and I said I just wanted the damned fridge ASAP and didn't want to stuff around.
They'd better deliver it before they go bankrupt. If need be, I can stick the thing on a trolley and wheel it home.
The other interesting thing is that when it comes to fridges, China doesn't seem to be making much of a dent. When you think about it, a 600 litre fridge is mainly made up of air. It costs a lot to ship air from A to B, so it makes sense to make these things as close to the end market as possible. They are one of those goods were freight costs provide a big competitive advantage.
Our new fridge is very unglamorous. It is white, and utterly devoid of "ooh-ah" features such as ice chippers and so on. It cost under a thousand bucks. In a few weeks, it will have sticky hand prints, texta marks and chocolate Yogo smeared all over the panels, so the appearance is not something that I am going to make a big deal over.
In other words, I am not emotionally attached to this fridge. Marketing people will hate me for that - they want you to be emotionally attached to your phone, or your ipod, or your car or your sexy new pink laptop. Women who are big on handbags will understand this connection - this desireable sense of ownership, this commitment to a brand. Think of all that car advertising that seeks only to make you passionate about owning a particular make and model of motor vehicle. It's all wasted on me.
I couldn't even tell you who made our fridge. I do know that from the time we walked out of our front door to the time we walked back in was about 35 minutes. That was 5 minutes in the shop selecting and transacting, and 30 minutes walking there and back with Monkey. He tends to get a bit distracted by gellato shops.
The last thing that I discovered today is that it is possible to buy a climate controlled wine rack that is so large, 3 or 4 people could walk into it and close the doors. They had one in the shop, knocked down from ten grand to three. Ouch. Someone is taking a bath on that. But the steepness of that discount says a lot about the softness of the economy - no one is going to buy that thing until the economy picks up, and that won't be for some time yet. I might have to keep going back to that shop each week to see if they keep knocking the price down any further - just out of interest as an economist, you understand.
I must say, I was sorely tempted to buy it, except that it would be the largest item of furniture in our house, and I would rather own ten grand worth of wine than have a three grand wine rack with five bottles of plonk in it. I'm serious - this thing was huge. Think of an enormous cupboard - maybe eight feet tall, with big doors either side, and deep enough to take two bottles one behind the other. It truly was a monster, and quite beautiful with an oak finish. If you can't afford to excavate a cellar under your house, this would be the next best thing.
Anyway, take it from me and our local whitegoods store that the economy is utterly, utterly rooted, and it's only the Reserve Bank and Treasury and Woin Swan that haven't woken up to that fact.
PS - if you want to see emotional attachment, visit a Kleenmaid store sometime. Friends of mine used to own one. People who shop there are in luuuurve with their stuff, big time.