Sometimes I think I should move to a cabin in the mountains where I can sit on a porch with a shotgun across my knees and blast away at anything that annoys me. The older I get the less willing I am to suffer foolishness.
Lately I have been on a rampage against poor quality. I am especially bitter about the companies that used to make stellar products but who have apparently decided their shareholders are more important than their customers and have abandoned quality for the seduction of higher profit margins. You used to know that you could proudly carry your Roach handbag for literally a lifetime; that your Seedy mountain bike shoes would last through several cycles of compulsive bike upgrades; that your Climberland boots would hold strong through 3 solid years of humping boxes on the night shift at the UPS warehouse. These days the handbag will fray within a year; the bike shoes will start to come apart at their first encounter with a rock or root and those boots … well, those boots aren’t made for walking or working anymore. They’re just for show.
It’s time for consumers to take matters into our own hands. With this in mind I bring you a tale of triumph over the shoddy quality of my “guaranteed for life” Samsonspite suitcase.
A few years ago I decided to upgrade my old blue rolling suitcase for a “spinner” bag. The spinner bags have 4 swiveling wheels so you can push the suitcase alongside you as well as pull it behind you. Samsonspite was one of the few “quality” brands providing spinner functionality, so I purchased their Silhouette carryon. About 18 months later one of the wheels fell off in O’Hare Airport. It turns out that the wheel bearing was nothing more than an unsealed plastic sleeve. It was easy for grit to get into the works, and once that happened, the bearing heated up and disintegrated.
I would call this poor design, but when I visited the Samsonspite repair center they told me it was wear and tear and that it would cost approximately $25 per corner to make my suitcase usable again. I hated to do it, but I had them fix the two most critical wheelsets to give me time to figure out a better solution. Oh, and did I mention that the repair shop had a 3 week turnaround? Three weeks to unscrew one set of wheels and screw in another. The wheels were not the only thing getting screwed is all I’m saying.
My first idea was to replace the plastic-bearing wheels with skate wheels, but when I took the wheel assembly to a skate shop they pointed out that the axle was too small for any known skate or skateboard bearing.
I had had high hopes for the skate wheel solution and now I was getting anxious because the current wheels were starting to wobble alarmingly. I needed to figure something out quickly. Enter Home Depot where I picked up 4 swiveling medium-duty casters and the hardware to install them. Behold my $12 suitcase wheel fix.
Here’s the wheel assembly, removed from the base of the suitcase:
I unscrewed the wheel and stem assembly from the plastic, um, suitcase part:
The OEM wheel had a hollow stem that a bolt threaded into. The new casters had a threaded stem that a nut screwed onto. Fortunately the protruding stem end didn’t cause any problems:
It’s assembled and tightened up and ready to be reattached to the suitcase:
Did you know that inside your suitcase there are zippers that give you access to the mysterious workings beneath the lining?
All fixed up and ready for my next trip:
This solution won’t last a lifetime because the swivel bearings are exposed and will probably jam up with rust and dust at some point, but now that I know that a 2” swivel caster with a threaded mount will fit on my suitcase, the possibilities for a permanent fix are endless. Did you know there are entire websites devoted to casters? Sealed bearing casters, urethane wheeled casters, indoor casters, outdoor casters. Casters with four-sided double ball raceways! Ooh!
You may reasonably wonder what all this has to do with writing.
Writing can cost money, but it doesn’t have to. You can write with a piece of paper and a pen, and you can borrow reference materials from the library. Sure, you can spend money on an MFA, or writing workshops and conferences. You can buy a fancy computer and books that will, you hope, help you become a better writer. But you can write without spending very much money at all.
What writing does cost you, and dearly, is time. There is no substitute for the time it takes to draft and review and revise and review and revise again (and again, and again). Life is already full of legitimate distractions that siphon off our time – we need to make money, to prepare and eat meals, maintain our households, maintain our relationships, maintain our health. We shouldn’t need a whole separate time management category for repairing and replacing stuff that never should have broken in the first place. It infuriates me that in board rooms all over the world, companies are making the decision that it’s OK to take our money in order to rob us of our time.