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As every last-minute Santa’s Helper knows, “some assembly required” can mean anything from snapping together two precisely calibrated pieces of brightly colored molded plastic, to staring dumbfounded at a jumble of 150 roughly machined metal and wood “components"; sorting out four or five different types of screws, hex wrenches, glues and patches; and/or trying to decipher assembly instructions written in a fascinating dialect of Beijing-American printed on “Great Leap Forward”-vintage Xharmin Jitissue.

Proposed Solution:  Develop a standard way to let the buyer know what they are committing to when they purchase a boxed item from a store or the Internet.  This would allay concerns about the amount of personal time, talent and devotion required for the task, and instill confidence in the US economy . It could even conceivably eliminate the budget deficit!  It could also contribute materially to the hours of sleep enjoyed by the average US citizen in the wee hours of Christmas Morning. Perhaps Elizabeth Warren can address this matter once she figures out the banks.

Such a standard would be similar to the lists of ingredients on food but would be provided by manufacturers (on a voluntary basis, making it a potential competitive feature!) to inform the hapless consumer about:  1) the total minutes required for assembly by -- take your pick:  a) normal American, or b) an MIT engineering grad;  2) a complete list of tools needed for assembly (and what, by the way, is a “Philips” screwdriver? Seriously, I did not know); 3) whether former combat experience is recommended; and 4) a list of local stores open at 2 a.m. where one can go to get that one little screw that is, -- obviously by design, --  always missing.  Light would be shone, at long last, on the sordid truth of the fashion doll that requires needle-tip pliers and manicure scissors to free it from the latest generation of anti-theft bondage wiring, hair restraint torture nylon thread, and scissors-destroying four-dimensional bulletproof plastic packaging.
Said standard should also declare what kind of packing materials have been used.  For instance, some kinds of packing peanuts cling to everything -- including the cat -- and should not be allowed near any kind of functioning electronics gear, whereas some types can actually be sprinkled with cheddar cheese powder and served up as a tasty holiday snack!  Boxes range from “collectibles,” to mint-condition reusables that can be used for other gifts (a definite bonus!), to those that have been through the recycling plant one too many times and can safely be used for kindling or pet management.
Until The American People know "what they are getting into” when We (or They) purchase items "to be assembled" on Christmas morn, the Retail Sector cannot be expected to thrive as it must, and America cannot hope to be competitive in the New World Economy.
So, Let’s Go For It!    And, To All Santa’s Helpers --:
Happy Solsticial Germano/Celtic Spruce Embellishment Festival!

Originally posted to Auriandra on Thu Dec 23, 2010 at 03:54 PM PST.

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