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The scourge of flat-pack

Gordon Ansell Opinion, Products, Rant 445 words.

Who, I wonder, first had the idea for flat-pack furniture? I suspect they were rewarded well for their invention because whatever company they worked for would undoubtedly have increased their profits as a result.

Instead of delivering a table, someone thought, let’s just deliver some planks of wood, some screws, a set of vague instructions and make the customer build the table. To top it off they could still advertise that they were selling you a table rather than the more accurate “Parts to Build Your Own Table”. Genius.

But I hate the stuff. In my experience flat-pack stuff never looks as good or lasts as long as a solid chunk of wood that actually arrives in the shape of the item being advertised.

Then there’s the DIY bit itself. In at least 80% of cases the instructions are inadequate and they never seem to have a klutz like me in mind when they decide to make things flat-pack. My brain might know that ‘Panel A’ needs to join to ’Short Side E’ but there’s some sort of disconnect between what my brain wants and what my fingers can achieve.

This same disconnect makes me crap at computer games. My brain knows I need to shoot the incoming marauder but, under pressure, my fingers can only make me jump three times and run around in a circle thereby allowing the marauder to blow my head off with ease.

But, back to flat-pack, I know many people have fingers that cooperate with their brains and are happy to receive flat-pack items. They’re generally far cheaper than the fully assembled equivalents and if folk are happy with the lower quality of flat-pack stuff (in my opinion, anyway) then who am I to stop them?

The line I’d like drawn is in the advertising. Some manufacturers neglect to mention that something is flat-pack in their advertising and it only becomes apparent when the product arrives. You expect something table-shaped but something plank-of-wood-shaped turns up at the door. Some manufacturers do include a rider in their advertising that says something like “requires some self-assembly” but it’s usually in a small font and easily missed.

The change I’d like to see is to force all distributors of flat-pack items to title their products beginning with “Parts to Build a …” so that it’s clear, for example, that you’re not getting a table but the parts to build a table. And then at the end of the title there should be “Flat-Pack” in brackets.

I’ve been caught out a number of times and ended up accidentally buying flat-pack items due to misleading advertising and, frankly, I’d rather have a dose of the plague than assemble any more flat-pack furniture.