Peeved about pencil sharpeners and warranties
When I was a kid, I can remember our family having one pencil sharpener. It wasn’t anything fancy; just the small, handheld kind, made of metal, with nothing to catch the shavings. It disappeared from time to time, as things will in a family with four kids, but it always worked. I think it had a removable blade, which my dad must have sharpened occasionally.
Maybe the longevity of my childhood sharpener is why I’m annoyed by the temporal nature of our pencil sharpeners. Granted, as a homeschooling family with three kids regularly using pencils, we probably sharpen more than your average family. Still, we go through a good 2, 3, 4 or sometimes more sharpeners, every year. I’ve purchased the cheap ones. I’ve purchased the more expensive ones. They break, or they habitually snap the pencil lead instead of sharpening it, or they continually get jammed, or get dull nearly immediately, or worse, they never sharpen well in the first place. Or, they get lost. After five years of pencil sharpener frustration, I thought, “That’s it! I’ve had it with these sharpeners! I’m going to go to Office Max and get a REAL sharpener. It’ll be sturdy and enduring!”
A new Office Max had opened fairly close to my house, and they had sent out coupons in the mail, $10 off any purchase. Great! So, I went out a couple of days ago, coupon in hand, set on finding a reliable sharpener.
I really wanted a wall-mounted one, the metal kind one finds in classrooms. But, I (correctly) suspected that my husband wouldn’t want to mar our walls with a sharpener, so I settled upon one that appeared to be built similarly, but had a suction device on the bottom, attachable to any nonporous surface. The shavings collection container was made out of transparent plastic (I’m always suspicious of plastic), but it seemed to be the best bet for my needs. It was $9.99.
There at the store, I round up all of my purchases (WHY must printer cartridges be so expensive?!!???!!) and head to the checkout counter. The checkout guy fiddles with the package, turning it over in his hands. Haltingly, he tells me, “These pencil sharpeners are prone to breaking. For only $3, you can buy a no-questions-asked warranty.” I look at him, disbelievingly, “They’re prone to breaking? Where are they weak?” He fiddles with the handle, “Well, the handle can break off, you know, with turning it. And this part here,” pointing to the plastic shavings receptacle, “if you drop it, it can shatter. But, even if you were to back over it with a truck and smash it, if you buy the warranty, we’ll replace it for free.”
A myriad of thoughts are going through my mind at this point. “Why would Office Max knowingly sell flimsy equipment? In order for warranties to be profitable, in this case… well, less than 30% of people purchasing the warranty would need to make a claim on it. Does that mean that the sharpener would only break 30% of the time or less? Or that they break, but people don’t bring the sharpener back in for replacement? Or, is this guy — SADLY — trained to cast doubt into the mind of customers, leaving them questioning the soundness of a product, when, in fact, it’s structurally solid, JUST to compel them to buy warranties? Is the warranty necessary, because the product is weak? Well, that’s just wrong, because then they shouldn’t sell $10 breakable sharpeners. Or, are they just trying to profit from the sale of unnecessary warranties? Well, that’s just wrong, too. Golly. Lose-lose.”
I decide to hedge my bets, hoping that he was just trying to sell me an unnecessary warranty, and that this sharpener, on which I’d placed many hopes, would, indeed, be sound and sturdy. I looked at him again, and firmly said, “No. I’m not going to buy a warranty.” He started with another, “Are you sure?…” I cut him off with my well-practiced Mom Look that lets the speaker know that the subject is closed.
However, just in case the sharpener is of low quality, I’ve put it on top of the fridge. It is now one of my sons’ weekly chores to sharpen all of the pencils in the pencil box, and the sharpener will come down from the fridge for this purpose, just once a week. This limits the exposure of potentially flimsy sharpeners to frequently careless boys.
My friend Shellie tells me that it’s my melancholy personality that longs for high quality items on a low-quality budget. She’s probably right. Maybe I should just have bought one of these.