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Monday, February 3, 2014

Crockpot Conundrum

            Two nights ago I decided to make some dip for the super bowl.  I got the recipe from a woman who I worked with in college, and while it is easily the unhealthiest concoction imaginable I was pining hard to eat it. The dish requires several bricks of Velveeta cheese, some Bob Evans Italian Sausage, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a jar of salsa. After browning the sausage the ingredients are put into a Crockpot as the onlookers are forced to wait as the room fills with the smell of artificial goodness.
            The dip turned out to be as good as I remember it, but some simple science caused the clean up to be a bit more difficult than I could’ve imagined. Taking a Crockpot from a cold plug and heating it up too quickly led to a bottoming out of the removable pot. It literally cracked in a perfectly symmetrical circle where the bottom of the pot was hung an inch above the heat source. This caused a sticky gooey mess that sealed the broken bottom in a burnt cheesy mixture that resembled the aftermath of a bout of food poisoning than a dip that was just eaten.
            My immediate reaction was to throw it away, but then I thought how ridiculous that sounded. Why in the world would I throw away a Crockpot just because a replaceable part broke? Surely I would be able to fix it with minimal effort? I was actually upset that my thought process immediately went towards replacement, a more expensive but easier option, than trying to use a little ingenuity to fix it. After all, those types of problems happened every day in Paraguay.

Then I started to realize that maybe my initial reaction was the only option. I was disturbed at the thought that maybe trying to figure out the name of the part of the specific brand and model of the Crockpot, finding a place that sold the part in a retail store or online, paying for it and waiting for the order to be filled would probably cost more than buying a new one.  I reluctantly threw it away, and am not proud to say that the action bothered me all day.
            Yesterday, my mom and I went to replace it. I agreed to pay for it because I broke it and thought that the cost would have to be higher then when we bought the original. We went to a department store, and started to browse around. I was shocked by how many options existed. Some had full digital monitoring system that looked more like a satellite than a kitchen appliance. Others were so technologically complicated that the cost tripled the amount that my mom had bought the original for. After spending about 10-minutes looking through the options an employee offered to help us find one using their in-store computer registry. To my absolute amazement we found the exact same Crockpot, with an additional smaller Crockpot that could be shipped to our house in 5 days for $10 less than the one my mother had purchased several years earlier!
            I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking how is this possible? How often do people buy Crockpots that justifies such a low price? Then I thought, well, I broke one just because of a sudden 25-degree change in temperature, so this has to happen all the time. The overall cost of the basic model is still low enough where the is no room to even carry replacement parts for the thing even though Crockpot technology hasn’t really changed at all since they were invented in the 1970s. In fact, as we were leaving my mom said that my grandmother has two that she has had for decades, and that when I move to my own place that I could have one of them.
            I’m convinced that all the fancy Crockpots I saw for crazy amounts of money with all sorts of digital gadgets on them probably aren’t as reliable as the original models that only had an on and off switch. Despite all the technological marvels that have occurred since the Crockpot was originally invented the models seem to be designed to fail within a 5-year period even the ones with all the bells and whistles. A Crockpot is a nice thing to have, and my family uses them all the time. What I cannot get over is how something that is so technically simple can be redesigned to look nicer, with improved materials, and work worse 40 years after its invention. I just wish I could of found a way to fix it for the same small effort it took to get a new one.

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