Sunday, May 03, 2009

Structural Waste

The dome light went out on my car last week.  I headed to the car parts store, looked up the proper replacement bulb in the catalog next to the bulb section, found the bulb and then stopped.
I have one bulb in my dome light.  Every car I've ever owned has had only one bulb in the dome light.  Yet the blister pack hanging on the rack at the part store had two identical bulbs in it.  Not one. 
With no alternative and considering the $3.29 price for two bulbs to not be worth making a fuss, I bought two bulbs.  One went into my car and the other onto the shelf in my garage which captures all miscellaneous parts. 
And I'll forget it is there.
In three or five years, I'll need another dome light and do the same thing all over again, leaving me with two orphaned dome lights gathering dust on my garage shelf.
So why two bulbs on the blister pack? 
Probably a decision to "add value"...for the manufacturer.  Double the output, double the price, all with the same cost for distribution.  
Yet it is waste for the end user. 
What do we think of when we make these decisions?  The end user?  The one who will complain? 
It is not as trivial as it looks, in the rough-and-tumble of business.  It is also a measure of a firm's commitment to reducing waste.  But does someone inside the firm "speak for the customer" in such discussions?  And, if she does, does anyone listen?