It is flat-out Griswoldian. And something that has played out for parents since the advent of more-than-one-piece toys.
The nighttime/early morning assembly.
Last Christmas, I spent 90 minutes putting together a Toys ‘R Us Imaginarium train set that I knew was going to become disassembled in under an hour. There were twists and turns. There were tiny little screws. It was one in the morning and even my bright headlamp couldn’t help.
This gift from my mom was the one that I knew was going to take every bit of patience.
I wished for smaller hands (though I do have pretty small hands).
I wished that the box had been lost in the mail for a moment.
I wished I was asleep.
But duty called.
I got the thing put together. Finally. And through the excruciating back pain (this happens after 40, by the way), I was able to take a step back and savor the moment: my first in-depth assembly experience outside of an IKEA run.
After a good three hours of sleep, I woke “refreshed” and ready to show my son his new train set. He was thrilled and, to my great surprise, he didn’t tear it down in an hour.
It was 70 minutes.
I still find little pieces of the thing under couches and in the backs of cabinets. A reminder that a great deal of assembly can result in a great deal of scatter and clutter.
So this holiday, I am going to place more emphasis on things that require little or no assembly. And here are some friendly tips to advertisers hoping to woo me with their wares.
Be VERY clear that no assembly is required
Hammer the point home. Often.
In your advertising, make sure that you tell the kids to tell their parents that there is NO assembly (or at least very little) required.
“Hey Johnny, tell your parents that it’s one snap of two pieces and you’re ready to go.”
That would make me happy.
If there is assembly, just be honest about how much
I am learning that there is a scale and parents should read between the lines as much as possible.
In my experience, here’s what the labels mean.
Assembly Required: This thing is in a billion pieces and you are going to go through hell putting it together. We are mocking you and challenging your assembly skill.
We made this thing so appealing to your child that we made it this way on purpose. We don’t care if you say you’re never going to buy from us again because that’s not the truth. We keep making it, your kid will keep asking for it.
Buckle up, cowboy and get the Advil ready for the pain we are about to inflict upon you.
Some Assembly Required: This isn’t quite as bad as if we said “Assembly Required.” We are, in fact, lulling you into a sense of complacency. You now have artificial confidence because we’re leading you to believe that this is easy when, in point of fact, it’s not.
You will get to a certain point in the assembly (around the 60% mark) and realize you put something in backwards and have to start over. That is the way we designed it.
Oh, and that metric wrench you need? You don’t have it. Neither does Home Depot. Unless that Home Depot is in Northern Finland.
Good luck, you’ll get there. Eventually.
Little Assembly Required: We’re going to make this easy for you. But you will complicate it because you will wait until the last minute to put this thing together. You will be tired, a little hammered on egg nog or both and even the most simple instructions (that we have given you, by the way) will be moot.
You’ll probably try to ignore the directions and go it alone. This is not advised. But you’re going to do it anyway.
You’ll also have at least two extra parts after you put this together.
That’s on you, jerk.
No Assembly Required: Dear beautiful person. We have decided to make it easy on you. We put it together for you. Lovingly. All you have to do is wrap it (which you probably aren’t that good at, anyway, so may we suggest a gift bag with tissue paper?) and put it out for your child.
Have no fear sweet lamb.
We’ve got your back.
The Final Word
Yes, I am making light of this.
But the most important thing about the holidays is spending time with family and friends and giving thanks for the things that we have. Let’s face it, there are plenty of people who may not get what they want during the holidays.
That shouldn’t happen.
This holiday, we will keep our tradition of giving to others as much as we can. Because it is so much better to give.
And I hope that join us in doing the same.