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´╗┐Title: The Consumer Viewpoint - Covering Vital Phases of Manufacturing and Selling Household Devices
Author: Bentley, Mildred Maddocks
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Consumer Viewpoint

covering vital phases of manufacturing and selling household devices

by Mildred Maddocks, Director GOOD HOUSEKEEPING INSTITUTE

Department of Household Engineering

It has been Good Housekeeping's privilege to build up, as a source for
reader service, many departments that are unique and noteworthy in the
extent to which they have gone in measuring consumer needs and consumer

In the following pages are presented some observations made by one of
these departments as the result of years of research and investigation
in the field of household appliances.

Generally speaking, most man-made devices are man-used. Here is an
industry whose products are man-made, but woman-used. It is this
fundamental condition that has placed the merchandising and selling
problems of the industry absolutely in a class by themselves and has
made them of peculiar importance and significance.

It is hoped that the material given herein may be of real service to
those whose interest lies in knowing more about one of our most rapidly
growing and least understood industries and also to those who would
better understand the basic element in all manufacturing and selling.

_C. Henry Hathaway_


The manufacture of home devices to be used by women in household work
is of comparatively recent development, the growth of the industry has
been so rapid that many manufacturers are still groping to establish
standards that will meet the new and uncertain conditions under which
their product must be used.

Dealers in household equipment as well as manufacturers are still
uncertain as to what constitutes the selling value of an article,
because it has been impossible to predicate the conditions, the care
and skill with which each device would be used after it was marketed.
It is comparatively easy for designer and factory manager to guard
against known conditions of use. The dishwashing machine for a hotel or
restaurant service can be built to perform with satisfactory
efficiency. Its operating purposes and costs are known, the skill of
its operators is more or less established, and the materials can be so
selected to result in a satisfactory life of the machine.

It is a different story when the manufacturer's product is to be used
in the typical American home. Household equipment of every type must be
made so that it will prove adaptable to different service conditions,
with regard to both homes and actual users. An even more important
consideration is intermittent use that must be met successfully by all
home devices. It is the unusual home in which washing is done more than
once or twice a week. The balance of the time the machine must stand
idle. And this is true of practically every other type of labor saving
device. It represents the most difficult of conditions a factory
product has to face.

In dealing in the following pages with this most important subject it
must be understood that Good Housekeeping Institute is offering
valuable facts that have been established through fifteen years of
experience in testing household equipment, and is further utilizing the
viewpoint of thousands of consumers and dealers who have come for a
conference with us either in person or by letter.


It is not too much to say that in general the manufacturer wants to
produce the article that the woman wants to buy. In many cases the
reason he does not accomplish it is due to the fact that he does not
divide his expenditures wisely. He neglects to pay the price for the
highest grade skill in designing and he markets his product too

The importance of developing a specific design cannot be overestimated.
No machine on the market, of any type, is one hundred per cent perfect
and none on the market should, therefore, be taken as a standard to be
met by the new manufacturer. It is a patchwork, only, that is obtained
by one common method used to obtain a newly designed machine. Namely,
the manufacturer purchases every type of machine, already marketed to
perform a given work, and adapts one part from one machine, another
part from a second machine and perhaps still another part from a third
machine. Such a design must always be a compromise, and it is seldom
possible to obtain the original working efficiency of the several parts
in the new machine because of the necessary compromises.

A second point that the manufacturer is apt to overlook is the
importance of including the most minute of details in his general high
standard of manufacture. For instance, he elects to use copper for a
water container, but forgets to provide that every bolt and rivet and
screw, no matter how small, shall be of a rust-resisting metal. The
small part capable of rusting is as much an eyesore to the purchaser
and in certain conditions can do as great damage as though the
manufacturer had not spent the major sum to insure his rust-resisting

And a third point: sometimes a manufacturer neglects to make certain of
a perfection of detail in the factory that will produce one hundred per
cent. of uniformity in his product. Thus vacuum cleaner manufacturers,
merely by installing an equipment that would measure for them, under
actual conditions of service, the correct air displacement of the
particular machine tested, could eliminate any possibility of lack of
uniformity in their product. Further, it would take no more time for
the inspection than is at present accorded to the routine reading of
current consumption. Yet up to this time we know of no vacuum cleaner
factory that has installed this comparatively simple and inexpensive

When attempting to market a product to women, factory faults are of far
greater importance than when marketing a product for the use of men.
The latter understand the difficulties of factory production and accept
the occasional defective product as a routine. They expect it to be
credited. They expect prompt correction on the part of the manufacturer
or dealer, and, once adjusted, with them the matter usually ends. Not
so with the average woman purchaser. First of all, and last of all, she
remembers that something was the matter with the machine for which she
paid her money. Oftentimes only the most drastic and unusual service on
the part of the manufacturer will take away the sting that was left in
her mind by the original transaction. In club, church, or in
confidential chat at home, somewhere she leaves the impression that
there is still something the matter or she would not have gotten a poor
machine. The advertising value, therefore, of a uniformity of product
cannot be overestimated. No amount of costly after-service will
compensate for the lack of it.


A manufacturer sometimes fails to satisfy the woman consumer because he
is attempting to satisfy a dealer's demand for "flashy" rather than
practical selling points and, therefore, loses sight of the value to
him of a perfect functioning of his device. Exclusive points of design
that can be used for a spectacular demonstration have been up to this
time perhaps the strongest of selling aids; but manufacturers and
dealers alike are beginning to realize that they have an element of
danger. Thus, the confetti test for vacuum cleaners was an unfortunate
misuse of the machine. It has never convinced the woman purchaser that
it would accomplish the more trying task of removing "grimed-in" soil,
even while it fascinated her as a spectator and even while she left as
a purchaser. She doubted her own machine because of the unconvincing

It was only a short time ago that in one of the trade papers dealing
with household equipment there appeared an editorial endorsement, and
an exceedingly strong one at that, of a certain dealer display which
had attracted great crowds on both sidewalk and street before the
dealer's window. The crowd had been drawn by the display of a number of
different washing machines grouped around a central machine which was
absorbing the "limelight." It had a swinging wringer and the wringer
was revolving at so rapid a rate it became plain that any woman who
stepped in the way of that particular type of wringer was doomed to a
severe blow if not a fall. The idea of the dealer in using such a
display was of the "stop-look-listen" variety, and he obtained all he
could desire of this variety of interest. But he had not safeguarded
the interest of _any_ washing machine in his window. For women
have a certain reluctance toward machinery in motion and he failed to
reckon with them as the purchasers of his washing machines. Would she
buy one in order to use the swinging wringer as an obvious menace to
herself and to her household? No.

In selecting an Iron, the woman looks for:

1. A weight of household iron that is around six pounds.

2. A general design that is easy to handle, of good balance and with
comfortable large handle grip.

3. A thin sheet metal hood; weight in hood decreases ironing efficiency.

4. A correct relation between the weight of the storage heat mass above
the heating element, and the weight of the sole plate beneath the
heating element. Upon this relation depends good ironing results.

   (_If heating element should be inset in sole plate with
   one-fourth inch margin, a direct heat connection between the
   two masses of metal could be secured at a consequent
   reduction of heat loss._)

5. Cord connections to slip in and out easily.

6. Switch in plug connection or on cord.

7. Plug connection so heat insulated as to prevent conduction of heat,
and overheating of cord at connections.

Undoubtedly if there was a prospective woman purchaser in that group in
front of the window she left to become one of the hundreds of women who
still are asking themselves the question "is a washing machine safe?"

It is not difficult to see how quickly this particular kind of
demonstration becomes a boomerang to the manufacturer. It is as true of
every type of spectacular appeal. The time has surely come to
discontinue all such practices and to sell appliances: because they
will do the work more quickly, more easily, or more cheaply, because
they are so built that they will prove durable, and therefore, a
satisfactory investment; and finally, because they are the only logical
solution of comfortable, well-ordered present day family life.


It has been amply proved that women are not especially interested in
fine points of design unless that interest is implanted by competitive
statements of the salesmen. They are not especially interested in form
or color or detail, but they are supremely interested in dealer
assurance that the machine is solidly built; that it will accomplish
the work; and that its purchase will save them money, time or labor,
perhaps all three. Let the appliance itself impress them with the
strength of the materials used, the cleanness of its design and the
perfection of work performed, and the sale is made.


The question of cost considered only from the woman's standpoint of
expenditure is more difficult to discuss. In the case of small
equipment priced under or around five dollars it is easy to make large
sales upon the time or labor-saving qualities the devices may have. But
repeat sales are affected by the quality of construction and materials

In all higher priced equipment the question of strength and quality
seems uppermost in her mind, but a difference in price between two
makes or two models of same manufacture, often results in the sale of
the higher priced, because she has enjoyed the opportunity of

There seems to be no question that the woman purchaser is willing to
pay _any added sum required to make construction better or
convenience greater_--always provided that the salesman convinces
her she is obtaining the quality she is paying for.

In selecting a Vacuum Cleaner, the woman looks for:

1. A design that will prove efficient at low upkeep cost over a period
of time.

2. If motor driven brush type [Footnote: Her selection may include
either motor driven brush type or air type machine, since properly
designed, either will care for all kinds of soil, including thread and
lint.], there must be correct relation between air suction power and
brush sweeping action.

3. As light a construction as is consistent with quality.

4. If air type, a narrow floor nozzle so designed as to clean by small
amount of air at high velocity.

5. If air and brush (geared to wheels) type, a broader nozzle with
inset brush is permissible provided care is exercised in design to
prevent air leakage. This type cleans by a larger volume of air with
correspondingly lower velocity.

6. Durable construction, either aluminum or steel casings, an assembly
that secures tight joints and seams that won't leak air.

7. Easy operation--weight of appliance not so important if weight is
easily handled.

8. Convenient switch; handle designed long enough for comfortable
operation at woman's height.

9. Bag, double seamed; strong, tight connections; easily emptied;
durable material, preferably of cotton flannel type.

10. Winding posts for cord to be strong and conveniently placed.

11. Convenience in connecting attachments.

12. Elimination of noise, in so far as this is possible.

Instead, then, of attempting merely to learn the dealer's demand for
selling points, put part of your effort into learning the demands of
the user of the machine. Consumer suggestion or demands are apt to come
only after a period of use. Obvious ones are sometimes reported by the
dealer, but very often they never come to the manufacturer through the
reports of the trade in time to be of service. It took a period of
years for the dealer to realize the importance of enclosed moving
parts. It finally came to him through the reaction developed by women
using the machines. In the same way the manufacture and marketing of
both gas and electric ranges, which has been uniformly efficient, has
overlooked one very important detail. The broiler grids are often so
placed that the steak is an inch and a half away from the flame instead
of one-half inch. With such a broiler, perfect broiling is impossible.
Again a kitchen cabinet may be made of high grade materials but the
hardware proves too light to stand the constant closing and opening.
Such a kitchen cabinet is handicapped in any neighborhood because
constant use makes the minor annoyance a cumulative one, which reacts
directly upon the manufacturer's product.

The vacuum cleaner that is easily sold on the dealer's floor because it
looks big and imposing oftentimes discloses its poor efficiency only
after from four to six months of use. This is due to the fact that from
time immemorial women have ordained a period devoted to housecleaning
twice a year. And it is at this crucial time that they discover if the
routine care of rugs and carpets by their vacuum cleaner has
accomplished a work satisfactory to them. This conclusion is well borne
out by a conversation we had with a large dealer in vacuum cleaners
from the west coast. He freely told us of handling two vacuum cleaners,
one a comparatively inexpensive and absolutely inefficient machine (as
we had proved by test), the other a more expensive and a thoroughly
efficient machine. He claimed that the first proved only a feeder for
the second, since when the woman, after a longer or shorter period of
use, realized that the first machine would not do the work, she
returned to buy the more expensive and better machine. And the average
time was six months! Now this dealer could have selected a machine no
higher in price than his less expensive model which would have done
good work and thoroughly satisfied the user. We leave you to draw your
own conclusions as to the fate of the manufacturer's product in the
first place, and the dealer's selling methods in the second place.

In selecting a Washing Machine, the woman looks for:

1. Compact, trim appearance with all machine parts covered.

2. Plain outlines.

3. Swinging wringer with safety release.

4. Pump attached to machine to rapidly drain off water when drain
connection is not practical.

5. Metal tub exterior painted (easy to keep clean).

6. A waterproof finish on a wood tub.

7. Switch control of motor, clutch control of tub and wringer.

8. Height that will obviate stooping.

9. Design to insure efficiency.

10. Motor and switch insulation.

11. Materials and workmanship that insure durability.

12. A water outlet that allows rapid running off of water.

13. Threaded outlet to allow for connection. 14. All handles and levers
to be easy to grasp and to turn by wet hands.

15. Tub body slightly off the level to allow for draining.

It is easy to sell a refrigerator that has a sightly appearance, that
is equipped with a sanitary seamless lining and that is marked with a
price that spells to the woman good workmanship. But it is only actual
use in storing food that develops the fact that the insulation is of
sufficient quantity and is assembled with high grade construction, or
that cheap material and workmanship have been substituted. The service
that can be obtained from the appliance after it is marketed is of the
utmost importance for the manufacturer to learn. _It is peculiarly
impossible to sell and "forget" any product sold to women._


Undoubtedly a phase of manufacturing that acutely interests the average
manufacturer deals with the selection of the materials that are to be
used in the construction of his product. Too often the person who
selects these materials fails to take into account the fact that women
are almost fanatically intolerant of two things, rust and
discoloration. It may be but one bolt that can rust, but women under
our observation have utterly condemned a washing machine for which they
paid from $125 to $165 because of this one bolt alone. We have heard
them further condemn a machine because of the difficulty of keeping it

It is not purpose, we are convinced, but it must be carelessness on the
part of that manufacturer who allows the use of a rusting screw here or
a bolt there when the rest of the equipment is safeguarded against such
conditions. In one specific instance a single part of a machine
intended to be used in connection with water was made up of five
different metals. Each one of these metals had its own different
reaction towards hard water in the presence of soap. That this
manufacturer had intended no slight toward his product was indicated by
the fact that the largest section of this part was constructed of the
most expensive material. He probably fully believed that he had made
that particular part of rustproof material but it was the selection of
defective small parts that offset any advantage due to his use of fine
materials for the major part of the machine.


Because a great deal of household equipment that is of interest to
women must be used as a water container, the effect of water of varying
degrees of hardness upon the several metals is of interest. Most metals
have some electrolytic action. There are throughout the country water
supplies of every known degree of hardness. There are water supplies
whose hardness can be corrected and there are supplies of the type
known as "permanent" hardness. In actual practice the salts in these
hard waters react with soap of any variety to form a sticky gray
precipitate. This precipitate is increased in quantity in direct
proportion to the activity of the metal. Therefore, the material
selected for the tub and cylinder of a washing machine, for the
container of the dishwashing machine, or for the tea kettle that
demands constant contact with water should be given the careful
attention that its importance demands.

In selecting a Refrigerator, the woman looks for:

1. Seamless lining.

2. Compartment beneath ice high enough to hold quart milk bottles.

3. Generous insulation.

4. A selection of wood and treatment of it that will prevent warping.

5. Heavy hardware.

6. Positive-closing, lever locks.

7. Plain unpanelled trim--high leg base.

8. Dull, rather than highly finished wood.

9. Easily accessible drain.

10. Adjustable shelves.

A universal metal that can withstand any and all attacks of these
several waters is difficult if not impossible to locate. In our
judgment there is no perfect metal. Copper comes the nearest to it and
yet copper must be tinned, and there is some slight consumer reaction
against its use, in large containers, because they claim copper must be
scoured in order to be sightly. However, enamel paint on the outside of
such a container, leaving only a fair sized name-plate to be burnished,
would overcome this objection.

Galvanized iron, zinc, nickel, all have a disadvantage of inducing
electrolytic action (producing whitish precipitate) and that should be
taken into account in your selection of metals. In sections save those
in which waters are of the "permanent hard" variety, this disadvantage
can be overcome by including directions that the machine should not be
scoured. Flush with rinsing water only. With such care, the whitish
deposit acts as a film over the metal, and, once the latter is
completely covered, reduces the precipitation. But in the presence of
extremely hard waters, the quantity is so great that the precipitate
snows a tendency to deposit on the linen itself, instead of being
thrown solely to the sides of tub, cylinder, or suction cup. Once this
does get on the fabric, it has all the sticky characteristics of
chewing gum.

Bronze or brass rather than steel or iron should be used for any
bearings that come in contact with water. Only thus can you fully
safeguard against rust.


Safety demands that every equipment involving an electric motor be so
fully insulated from the machine frame by water-proof fittings and
insulated shaft couplings, etc., that a maximum of safety can be
assured. It is indeed remarkable that this is not more often cared for
in the original design. In one short period, at least three machines
were forced into the disapproval group in the Department of Household
Engineering of Good Housekeeping Institute with such lack of insulation
as one of the causes.

It is thus clear that consumer needs, in this great classification of
merchandise (household appliances) as reflected by consumer attitude
are often ill-defined and extremely difficult for the manufacturer to
interpret. Therefore, as a recognition of this condition, the basic
purpose running throughout all of the testing work at Good Housekeeping
Institute is to test every device so as to duplicate the conditions
under which the device will be used by the ultimate consumer, be she
intelligent or unintelligent. It has furthermore been the Institute's
special province to express to each manufacturer the trend of consumer
demand as seen, not only through the Institute's use of appliances, but
through the thousands of consumers who report their experiences.

It is an interesting and surprising fact that mechanical tests develop
data which often interpret the results obtained under practical usage
of the equipment, and the results obtained under the practical usage
quite as often define the value of the mechanical data. Any effort a
manufacturer may make to develop these two angles of testing will more
than offset any money cost that may be added to the factory overhead.
Complete testing of this character will also save ultimate consumer
reactions against the completed manufactured product. It is not enough,
as so many manufacturers have done, to place the appliance in a variety
of homes and take the consequent "say-so." It must be remembered that
it is only possible to compare an appliance when you have something to
compare it with, and that something must be an appliance designed to do
similar work. How many instances are there where manufacturers allow
their products to go out without comparative information of this kind,
just because such information is so extremely difficult to get?

To all interested in or concerned with this great industry, there is
one thing to be remembered above all else--study and test not only the
mechanical construction and perfection of your product but know from
every conceivable angle what the user or consumer is going to demand of
it. If this be done, and done thoroughly, and exhaustively, you will
build the appliance of the best materials obtainable, because it must
wear well; of the most efficient design, because it must operate
smoothly; and you cannot fail to so build it that it will do its work
completely and well because you will have the measure of these values
within the experience of your own investigation.

The results of this care in manufacture will promptly be reflected when
marketing your product in at least three ways,--first, increase of
sales and repeat sales; second, a lowered overhead cost for servicing,
repairing, and replacing defective machines, and third, a fairer and
lower price to the consumer because it is based on the cost of her
machine only since she is not burdened with a share of her neighbor's
repairs in your "overhead."

There is perhaps no household device operated by electricity that is
more complicated in its oiling system than the old-fashioned sewing
machine and yet the manufacturer managed to train the housewife to
ninety per cent. efficiency in caring for the machine. Therefore, well
defined and specified places for oiling should be provided for, and
decalcomaniac or otherwise permanent directions placed on all enclosed
gearings, in order that the user may continually have before her the
correct places marked for oiling. It is not enough to supply a circular
of directions: she loses it promptly as has been proved over and over
again. All important service directions must be permanent.


It is largely because there has not been a consumer demand that was
well defined that we find few equipments designed with attention to the
proper working heights. Moreover, we are convinced that it is a
decidedly difficult question to settle. However, it is possible to
group most exertions that women must practice into two classes: those
that involve upper arm muscles, as work at a sink, range, washtub, or
washing machine, etc., and secondly, exertions that involve the muscles
of the forearm, as the mixing, stirring, and beating involved in
cookery processes.

In the first case any variations in a woman's height makes
comparatively little difference. A range of heights from five feet to
six feet would be served equally well by a similar height of equipment.
This makes it possible to lay down the rule that sinks should be
designed and plumbers should provide for piping them at a height of
thirty-five inches from the bottom of the sink to the floor. Ranges
should be thirty-four inches in height to the working top, and both
washing machines and tubs should be thirty-eight inches to their rims.
This enables all work to be done with straight unstrained back.

Where the forearm muscle is involved, however, it becomes a far more
delicate question. The distance between work-table top and elbow must
be the control on designing. For that reason it is not possible to
establish a constant and ideal height for kitchen cabinets and working
table surfaces, although in general most of these have been from one to
two inches too low. "Adjustable in height" seems to be the only answer
to this phase of the problem. Some one, sometime, will undoubtedly
design a well made table (we have already seen one of poor
construction) that will have strong, as well as adjustable leg support.
Some one, sometime, will build a good refrigerator (as we have seen a
poor one) constructed with the sanitary, high leg-base of the present
day office desk. It will obviate stooping and it will enable one to get
the refrigerator pan without groping provided there can be no drain. It
will further allow for a refrigerator pan large enough to prevent the
common accident of overflowing. Again, sometime, we believe the
manufacturer of kitchen cabinets will see a picture of kitchens built
with four, straight, clean walls and completely equipped with the
pantry on one wall, consisting of kitchen cabinet and side units for
storage cabinets, each one of these side cabinets to be only fourteen
inches deep.

The time will come--it is almost here--when the demand from women for
the high sink we have already indicated is going to be strong enough so
that the Plumber's standards for cutting pipe will be changed to meet
her demand. It is difficult to realize, but it is nevertheless true,
that every woman who wishes a properly placed sink in her kitchen or
pantry has to overcome the inertia of the plumber not only because of
his conservative unwillingness to do this unusual task, but because he
is put to the extra expense and trouble of getting "specials" in pipe
length, due to the fact that the plumbing trade, as yet, has not
recognized an at least partially developed consumer demand.

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