Homemaking: Don't get all up in my grill!
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If you opened your window last weekend, you could hear it: Homeowners across this great country walked out into their backyards, pulled the covers off their gas grills after a long hard winter, dusted them off, opened the lid, and cursed loudly.
That's because while they've been inside their warm houses all winter, their grills have been decaying from the inside out. The metal thingees that take the gas and distribute it around the grill? Now they're rusted hulks. The metal racks? Thin, decayed spindles. The upper rack, the one where you're supposed to warm hamburger buns? Not even there anymore.
This year, the cursing was especially loud at our house. For years, I'd been a bargain grill shopper. If you go to the home store about now, you'll see a lineup of gas grills. In the front row are the serious grills, with the stainless-steel racks and the rotisserie spits. Behind them are the so-so grills, the ones with some stainless steel, just enough for you to feel good about yourself. In the back row you'd find the cheapos, the grills so inexpensive that even the 12-year-old boy who assembled it in a Chinese factory mumbled "shi bai zhe!" when he thought of you buying it. (That's Chinese for "Loser!")
For years, I was a "shi bai zhe" kind of guy. Then, a couple of years ago, in a fit of trying to look better than I was, I opted for a stainless-steel grill. For an entire summer, I felt like a ... somebody. We invited people over for barbecue just to show off. Instead of cheap beer while I was out grilling, I drank scotch. I almost took up golf.
But last week, I went out, opened the shiny metal lid and found the decayed remnants of what used to be my upper-class grill. The Titanic is in better shape.
Grill companies do this, of course, on purpose. It's a diabolical trick. Back in our parents' generation, people used charcoal grills, which they dragged around the yard. After a year or so, the hollow plastic wheels on the bottom would crack, and if you were cheap or had little pride, or both, like my family, you'd have to prop those two shorter legs on a couple of bricks. Then, after another year had passed, one of the legs would fall off.
It was planned that way because the grill companies desperately need you to keep buying more grills. If they made a grill that lasted a lifetime, or even 10 years, everyone would run out and buy one, the grill companies would have a great year, and then, the next year, while you were enjoying your lifetime grill, they'd be filing for bankruptcy and nailing plywood over their windows.
When gas grills came along, though, they had a problem. Gas grills are big and heavy, so people don't move them. And they come as big units with cabinets underneath, so they have to be sturdy. And they cost (a lot) more, so people would complain if they did something so obvious as making a leg fall off.
I can imagine the board room at the Gasgrillco Industries Inc. The president is standing at the front of the room, outlining the crisis: "If we can't make gas grills that fall apart, and quick, we're all headed for the unemployment line," he says.
There's silence. Suddenly, a junior executive raises his hand.
"What if ..." he says nervously, "What if we make the grill last for a long time, but all the pieces inside will fall apart after a year!"
There's a lot of mumbling in the room. They're in the business of selling grills, not parts for grills. We hear a voice: "Someone collect this kid's key to the executive washroom!"
"Wait!" the junior executive says, "Here's the kicker! We make the replacement parts sooo expensive ...." At this the executive team leans forward ... "that if you add it up, it will cost so much to repair the grill folks will have to buy a new one!"
It takes a moment, but the executive team members look around at each other and, slowly, but with growing enthusiasm, break into a joint diabolical laugh: BWAAAAHAHAHA!
So, as you're out in your backyard, cursing and moaning because your fancy grill is an empty shell that will cost more to fix than replace, just remember, my fellow shi bai zhe: Your pain has saved the jobs of a whole board room full of Gasgrillco Industries Inc. executives, and because of you, one junior Gasgrillco junior executive still has access to the executive washroom.
First Published May 26, 2012 12:00 am