Guest post by Jonathan Rees
When was the last time you bought a refrigerator? If you’re like most people, it was some time ago since the average refrigerator should last at least around 13 years. Therefore, you might not know that you can now buy refrigerators at amazon.com.
No, they don’t deliver them via UPS. And Amazon certainly doesn’t deliver them by drone. They are shipped by independent companies and you get a call in advance to make sure that you’re home when your appliance arrives.
Amazon’s refrigerator store was an important research site for my book Refrigerator because it specializes in the most expensive refrigerators you can buy – the kinds for which consumers don’t care how high the delivery costs get. The accoutrements that these kinds of refrigerators include made me laugh out loud. There were models with blast chillers to make warm soda cold fast, extra doors in the front so that you don’t have to open the entire refrigerator to get at commonly used items – even a hot water dispenser to make coffee or tea (which kind of defeats the whole purpose of a refrigerator in my humble opinion).
Then there were the Internet fridges, one of the earliest entries into the growing membership of the Internet of Things. Why would you want your refrigerator to be connected to the Internet? So that it can e-mail you when you’re running out of milk, silly. Do you need your refrigerator to be able to send you e-mails or texts? I guess the answer to that question depends upon how much money you currently have burning a hole in your wallet.
Ultimately, the main lesson I learned studying refrigerators at Amazon.com and elsewhere is that they have always had one central purpose: to keep perishable food from spoiling. Everything from the blast chiller to the automatic ice maker to the light that lets you see inside when you open the door is just gravy. The fact that so many Americans crave these extras (let alone the particular extras that we happen to crave) can tell us a lot about the people who buy the refrigerators that have them, just as the stripped-down refrigerators sold in other countries can tell us a lot about people there too.
Explaining what all of our refrigerators reveal about ourselves was my goal in writing the book, while describing the past, present and future of this often-neglected appliance.