John, I've had the same experience way too many times with both manufacturers and big-box stores. The cruncher here is that it's for a safety device that could save you and your family's lives--or not. While I would generally agree with what Jon Titus says about lawyers, etc., regarding product defects, the safety device factor is why I'm so boggled that this can be sold in a state that mandates their use.
And to the other John, yes we do need these: California uses natural gas, and, in my area, propane (LNP).
Chuck, that's unfortunately my experience with big-box stores, as well as with being a consumer in a major metro area. I'm glad to be now living in a small-town type environment where the local stores don't carry a huge variety, but you can order what you need. In this setting, they can't get away with really lousy products because everyone talks to everyone about it, and stores are dependent on a smaller number of local customers, who are often their neighbors, their doctors, their kids' teachers, their grocery store clerks. It's a very different world.
I'd guess this is a classic case of two errors in one. The mechanical engineer who designed the latch assumed that nobody would ever put the base on the unit without installing a battery first, so he/she never tried that combination. The packaging engineer, who didn't talk to the ME, wanted to save space in the package so he/she specified that the base should be installed. This is why you always have "nonstandard application" testing done, to make sure that using the product in a plausible, yet nonstandard way, does not cause it to fail (within obvious limits of safety).
I would imagine we can take your story and multiply it a thousand times. I would think the inspection of outsourced products would be more diligent rathe rthan less so. But I guess everybody's busy, so it's just grab the products and go.
Based on my understanding of the submitter's description about this "design flaw", the solution is to provide a large bold print warning tab or label that needs to be removed prior to installation which warns if installation is done improperly device will be unuseable. The real problem is not the design, but the lack of a warning about a specific design feature that is not intuitive to the average DIYer.
I would probably not read the installation instructions (thinking... what could be complicated about this?) unless I saw a large warning tab that needed to be removed before installation. Then I would study the instructions to understand the warning.
Interesting points about manufacturing in far east or other lower-tier sourcing. I don't tend to take the suff for granted, but didn't think about INTENTIONAL design changes.
Years ago, I had a young business unit manager show me a print package from a company in Taiwan selling a turn-key design, and manufacture of a commodity commercial connector product. I reviewed the design, corrected some tolerance stack-up issues and wrote-out detailed recommendations on technical program management/purchasing defining tooling ownership, tooling quality, contract terms tied to milestone deliverables, auditing the manufacturing location, first article inspections, etc.
I didn't hear any more about it for OVER A YEAR until he left the company. His replacement manager came across my memo of recommendations in the file. He laughed and practically cried. He explained that my advise was not taken, but virtually EVERY WAY that the company could have been ripped-off they were. He claimed the measures I defined to protect the company would have either protected the company or shut-down the losses early in the process. The "supplier" company had taken $50,000 for tooling the product line and evaporated. The supplier company bascially became an elaborate scam. Working overseas, even contracts without the umbrella protection of the Uniform Commercial Code overseas become difficult to enforce if jurisdiction and venue are not clearly defined.
To continue with the story, the new manager started over with another company, worked with me to follow a step-by-step game plan, and successfully launched the product. It took awhile for the company to dig-out of the losses from the first failed attempt by the previous manager, but they did. The original supplier and money was never found. I don't believe the first manager was dirty, I believe he was just inexperienced and thought I was being overly paranoid causing a more awkward process.
John: Many companies will not acknowledge receiving a complaint about a product defect, let alone reply to ask about your experience. Corporate lawyers tell them doing so would admitting to a design flaw and liability, and open them to lawsuits.
That's definitely true, Jon. I've begun to think that changing smoke and CO detector batteries is one of the most hazardous household tasks. Falling off ladders or a chair, just to change a 9V battery, which seem to be universal in smoke detectors, or AA in CO. Gotta be a better way. Plus, the change-out every year thing is a smart marketing campaign on the part of the battery companies. The 9Vs will actually last much longer than that. Too bad it's not like the old days where I could take the old smoke detector batteries and put them in my transistor radio. Now the single-chip IC xsistor radios take AAs.
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