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Birjees S Hussain: How to start appliances first
October 20, 2017
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Several years ago I worked as a temp for a management consultancy. One day the office assistant was teaching me and another colleague how to use the brand new scanner. Both of us decided to make detailed step by step notes as he took us through the process. When we got to the point when we had to actually scan a test document, nothing happened. There was no light, no whirring sound, no nothing. What do you suppose the problem was? We all had a good laugh when we discovered the one thing we had all forgotten to do. Step 1: plug the scanner in and switch it on!

But that was an oversight. We thought we’d plugged it in but had not.

Now here’s something really bizarre but, more importantly, very alarming. I hear that manufacturers of various home appliances have decided to launch an America-wide campaign. You see the thing is that they are of the opinion that there is a very large demographic of young people who could be potential purchasers of their brands but they are currently not. The reason for this may amuse you. It seems that today young people do not purchase many appliances because they do not know how to operate them. Hence, the launch of a training campaign; once they are shown how easy it is to use them, the hope is that they will buy them.

But I do find something very odd. As we all know, all appliances come with operating instructions. Could it be that people find those operating instructions too difficult to follow? Actually I think they might be right, especially if the appliance is manufactured in a country where the native language is not English. Then the instructions are almost unreadable and you often need someone to translate the translation. I have often not been able to understand how something works just from reading the poor translation and have often resorted to calling in a technician.

But even when the translation is letter perfect, one might still be hesitant to start it off. I think this is because certain electrical and electronic items may be intimidating. For example, a brand new phone, laptop or tablet. I have to admit that I am rather nervous when I have to set up a new device that I have either bought or been given.

But isn’t it true that when you’re in an office and a new telephone system has been installed, you find that you do need to bring in the telephone system supplier to tell you how to operate the device?

Even when a coffee machine or photocopier or printer is installed, you do really need someone to guide you on how to first use it and the workman who installed it shows you how. And I’m talking about mature people who have been in the workplace for a while and have operated similar systems in other offices. But when we see a new device that has the same function, we are still apprehensive and need someone to show us how to use it. I think it’s not a fear of looking like we don’t know what we’re doing but a fear that we might break the item.

So the target is young people who have never really had to operate a washing machine at home because their mum did it or they went to a laundry. Is it any wonder that they do not know how to use general appliances? They are a generation of technology. The only thing they know how to do, with the greatest of respect, is how to use their smartphones. And why not? Everything is at their fingertips there. They can order food, order clothes and socialise all with a click of a button. But it’s the click of a smartphone button, not a washing machine button. Technology!

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