The Price of Cheap

I have just had the most thrilling experience of the last few months.

Three years ago I got myself a silver Ikea halogen balanced-arm lamp. It replaced an old wooden desk lamp that worked great, but was not exactly what I wanted (to be able to read a reference book open in a darkened room next to my displays).

So an Ikea lamp it was; partly because it was cheap. Partly because it was easy to get, it looked ok and it was more or less what I wanted.

Last month the light flickered a few times; I didn’t pay much attention — the power company has most definitely forgotten my neighbourhood as the power supply is erratic at best — especially in the summer months when air conditioning units bring the power stations to their knees. Then a few days ago the lamp went off all of a sudden. I flicked the switch once or twice and it came on again. All was well.

This morning the light was off, as it should; but apparently the switch was still at the on position. You can’t easily tell which position is ‘on’ or ‘off’ if the bulb doesn’t turn on as there is no indicator near the switch; it’s a matter of remembering the actual physical position of the flip switch. It would be very hard to explain how the lamp started fuming and after a few seconds a small flame appeared from the switch compartment near the bulb.

Needless to say, a flaming lamp sitting 20cm away from your face is a thrilling experience, especially when excitement usually means null pointers and segfaults. Thankfully I reacted quickly, pulled the plug on the lamp and the small flame disappeared, the lamp still fuming and filling the air with the horrible smell of burnt plastic/rubber.

I think I learnt my lesson: I will never, ever, ever buy an Ikea electrical appliance in the future. I was extremely lucky this time; being around, being awake, reacting calmly.

I generally like Ikea products. But a cheap bookcase, living room table or desk is one thing. It can fall apart after a few years, flake, break or what-have-you. That’s fine. It cannot, however, ignite all of a sudden.

4 Responses to “The Price of Cheap”

  1. panos says:

    Back it up with Cheap?: The Real Cost of Living in a Low Price, Low Wage World

  2. adamo says:

    I remember once reading over the USENET that “I am too poor to buy cheap things”

  3. atma says:

    I know a case of a student who bought a chinese air conditioning system in Thess/niki two years ago. He died suffocated at night by the fumes coming from the short-circuit of the air conditioning system.

  4. cosmix says:

    @atma: Well, almost everything you buy these days is manufactured in China. Ikea is not a chinese company; it’s a swedish company that manufactures stuff in dozens of countries. So, despite the fact that in all likelyhood both products would have been manufactured in China, I don’t think that you can compare a product by a chinese company to a product by a western company; at least not yet.

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