Make an informed choice while buying household devices during lockdown – cities

New Delhi: Covid-19 and the resultant lockdown has made the Indian middle-class realize how dependent they are on house helps and cooks and how difficult life is without them. And this has suddenly made consumers look at household gadgets that make life easier in the absence of these employees.

In the long wish list of consumers are robotic floor sweeping and mopping machines — there are a wide variety of them in the market today, vacuum cleaners to remove dust from table tops and such surfaces, dish washers, vegetable and fruit cleaners. There is also, I find, added interest in newer models of food processors, roti making machines, washing machines and driers. But given the economic impact of the disease, there is also some hesitation in investing in these gadgets.

Manufacturers therefore have to go all out to woo consumers with genuine discounts, offer of interest free instalments and promise of quick delivery and installation. In fact many consumers are worried about the possible contamination of the purchased products and so manufacturers and retailers have to reassure them about the measures that they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus from the goods delivered or from the delivery and installation personnel. Similarly, the delivery and installation have to be prompt and quick and both the personnel need to stick to the time schedules worked out with the consumers.

Since many consumers are also interested in replacing their old machines with new ones, manufacturers should also come up with attractive exchange offers that considerably bring down the price of the gadget.

As far as consumers are concerned, I would suggest that they not only make an informed choice in terms of quality and price, but also look at the energy consumption of the gadget. And of course they must read consumer reviews, particularly complaints if any, besides checking on the warranty offered by the company.

Talking of warranties, many manufacturers and retailers push consumers into buying expensive extended warranties. I would advise consumers against it because an extended warranty is basically a ploy on the part of the manufacturer to earn some extra profits because he is too well aware that the possibility of a customer utilizing that warranty is relatively low. In other words, most good quality gadgets do not break down or require change of parts in the initial years, so why waste that money?

Interestingly, a 2018 Stanford University (USA) study pointed out that the strong demand for extended warranties and the high profits accruing to the companies from the sale of such warranties stem from consumer misconception about the failure rate or the failure probability of the product. So “providing information to consumers about failure probabilities significantly reduces their willingness to pay for warranties…” the study said.

In fact I would suggest that consumers put the money that they would spend on the extended warranty in a separate savings account, to be used for any replacement of parts or repairs if required during that period. If not, you have saved that amount!

I would also suggest that you consider carefully, the usefulness of a product in the long run, before making a purchase decision. I remember those vacuum cleaners that many of us bought some three decades ago. They were hardly used because the house helps who did the sweeping and mopping were far more efficient.

Similarly, before replacing your old gadget with a new one, consider whether the qualities and advantages being attributed to the new models are really true or just a marketing gimmick and whether you are really benefitting from changing the model and spending that extra amount. In short, be a smart consumer and make only those purchases that are to your advantage.

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