In Pursuit of Inconvenience

When reflecting on the lecture on convenience the I was particularly interested in the contrast provided by the example of Altieri’s fashion line that is only available certain times of the year and in odd locations and the idea of convenience. However inconvenient this may make the buying of his clothes, customers still are interested and I believe that the arduous process may even make the clothing more desirable for some.

Drawing on some of my own experiences I think that in many cases there is a willingness of consumers to forgo convenience in consumption in order to gain an experience. A few years ago a bought a used record player. Between searching for repair parts and LPs I have spent a considerable amount of time and money. I can hardly argue that I did all of this to listen to music. I own speakers that connect wirelessly to my computer which has access to a pretty much limitless supply of music thanks to the internet. So if not simply to listen to music, then why? I would say for myself it was the experience and the fact that it was inconvenient that made it something worth doing. I feel like these experiences increase my enjoyment of the music beyond what the quality differences between vinyl and mp3 would justify. I feel the same about shopping at local markets. I have no doubt that the quality of locally grown food is superior to what you get at chain grocery stores but I think it is partially the fact that I had to spend the extra time and effort to purchase locally grown food that adds to my enjoyment of it.

I would say that others who shop at organic retailers, eco friendly stores or who search for certain products due to their sustainable attributes do so in part for the experience of searching or buying. It does not matter that it is not as readily available and I would say that some level of inconvenience may lead to a customers positive buying experience in relation to certain products. I understand that this does not apply to all products. No matter how eco-friendly laundry detergent may be, if it is not in front of me at the nearest supermarket, chances are I will never consider it. However I believe there is a place for inconvenient products among consumers where there is at least some level of dissonance with the current model of mass consumption.

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1 comment
  1. jorghronek said:

    Thanks for your post. I could see some of my own arguments in it. I didn’t attend the lecture but I went through the slides to get a better idea of the convenience topic. I really like your record player story, as I experienced a similar one. I was building a video projector out of an old overhead projector and laptop display. It really took me weeks to get this and other stuff together. Then I also needed help from some people in the technical implementation and so on. It really was a lot of effort, but it was totally worth it and the whole process was really enjoyable. I was building it so I can watch movies on my ceiling. I used it maybe 2 times! But that’s not the point. A similar experience I can experience when I walk up the mountain to ski it down, instead of taking the gondola. It is just like you said it. You have this feeling of deserving it, it is something special and you enjoy the inconvenience that is part of it. But I think that first of all we should differentiate between products of daily purchase and those that you buy pretty rarely. You said that you wouldn’t sacrifice your convenience for an eco-friendly laundry detergent and I think that most people share your attitude here. Products of daily use are different, people want to have them available at all times and they want to waste as little time and money as possible to get them. The decision whether someone then buys the fair-trade coffee or the normal one next to it is not one of convenience.

    But I also think that there is space for inconvenience in certain kind of products and also services. There exists a customer segment that is open for less convenient ways and who even appreciate them. When the age of industrialization dawned steam machines replaced many workers in the factories. Of course workers were not happy with the situation and the machines. In the beginning it was the loss of job that bothered them, but later movements emerged that saw another problem in the machines. That was that things were produced by machines and they had no personal note anymore. I think the notion of romanticism applies best here. People wanted products to be manufactured by hand or manufacture them themselves. They were willing to wait for them and willing to go to places further away. People with this romantic attitude are out there, they enjoy the process itself and a slower pace. They are there, they want to be served and I think that sustainable solutions for products and services can fill this segment. But inconvenience doesn’t necessarily correlate positively with sustainability; we should keep that in mind!

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