Complete Geek Boutique

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Opening up a can of worms

I found myself browsing among the hoo-hahs at Walgreens the other day, and a hands-free can opener caught my eye. It was only a few pesos, so I thought I’d take it home and “give it a spin.”

h-h_can1.jpgWhile opening up the package, I noticed that there were no instructions for how to use the thing, other than a one-sentence phrase on a clear sticker on top of the opener, and two one-sentence instructions underneath the product (OK, three, if you count where to put the batteries).

Nowhere else could I find any other instructions … not on the back on the package; not on the inside of the blister pack with the can opener.

I had a feeling I was sailing toward an experience. It turned out to be prophetic.

You would think that, with a name like “OneTouch,” a can opener carrying the moniker would, well, open with one touch. But, as it turns out, you have to touch it a lot, and using the device is exasperating. Why? The instructions for the product are on the product, and those instructions are both sparse and vague.

1. On top of the can opener, it says “Place on top of can and hold button down until unit starts moving. Do not lift off can until motor stops.” Fair enough.

2. Underneath the unit, it says “If can doesn’t open completely, push the start button again.” Hopefully, you read the underside before you put the can opener on the can, and further, your lid isn’t out of round or what I call dimple-dented on the rim.

3. Here’s my favorite instructional note on the underside: “To Reset: Hold button down until the motor stops,” and it points to a button you couldn’t possibly reach if the opener has bitten into the lid on the can.

4. Finally, there’s an instruction about where to put the batteries. Don’t get me started.

There are no other instructions, and the packaging contains no other help. Either sink or swim by the sparse instructions given on the product. And, without helpful instructions, everyone is stupid … especially the manufacturer for not including them with the product.

I put batteries in the product, and placed it atop a can of evaporated milk, near the edge of the can, and pushed the big, black magic button near the nose of the opener. But the opener refused to cooperate, even when I pushed the big button many times and otherwise poked and prodded the opener.

Nevertheless after several failed attempts at getting the can opener to respond to my pressing of the big, black button, the thing began to work. I guess I got the opener close enough to the edge of the can, and the can opener began to separate the seam of the lid from the can, which is how this type of can opener works.

Explaining exactly why the thing began to work is a question best left to scientists … you know, those are the same guys who canned Florida sunshine that is sold at all the posh tourist traps everywhere (my ex-girlfriend wanted to open a can of the stuff, but I told her she didn’t have the right SPF lotion in the house. Yes, she bought the line fed to her, as predicted by the scientists).

Back to the story …

The can opener stopped about one-third-way through. I pushed the magic black button again, but nothing. After about five more tries, it started again, and went about two-thirds way … and stopped again. I decided I could finish the job myself, since the opener was becoming a pain in the patootie, but boy was I wrong.

The little vein on the side of my neck began to poke out as my anger grew, and the words expressing my situation became more and more descriptive. And, all the time while I was moving the can, the milk was spilling onto the counter. The lid was partially off. Finally, after continual readjustment of the opener, it started again, and went all around the can. Thank goodness, the lid was off the can.

But the lid was trapped in the opener.

It’s true, the opener wouldn’t let go of the lid. Exasperated, I grabbed a pair of pliers from the toolbox,h-h_can3.jpg thinking I could pry the lid loose from the can opener’s “Jaws of death.” Wrong. Since I didn’t want to ruin my new purchase, I gently applied plier tricks, eventually moving the lid to the left — and the opener started going around the lid, even though it was no longer on the can. I just let it go through it’s little routine, and when it finished, something in the opener retracted, and the opener let the lid loose. WHEW!

To be fair, I tried a second experiment — this time, on a can of tuna fish. I put the opener’s front on the edge of the can, pushed the magic black button, and the opener went around the entire edge of the can, and opened up the can of long-dead ocean dwellers.

But again, although it was free from the can, the lid was still caught in the opener.

However, this time, rather than take the “Tim the Toolman” approach, I just moved the lid to the left, the mechanism went around the lid again, and then let the lid go.

h-h_can2.jpgIn the final analysis, the weakest point about this device is that its instructions stink, and need to be expanded on for the can opener-impaired person, like me. I went back to the store to see if only my package didn’t have more instructions, but I found that NONE of the packages had more instructions. On the can opener, it says that if you need help in using it, you should call 1-800-something. Well, I don’t WANT to call 1-800-something, when the manufacturer could have spent another couple of pennies to print useful instructions for me to read and use — you know, with pictures, tips, helpful hints … anything. To force me to “figure out” this invention based on vague on-product directions is a bit disingenuous — OK, it’s stupid.

Instuctions would have told me how to put the opener in the proper position on the can, how to release the lid, what to do in case the lid is dimpled or out of round and what to do if the can won’t open AT ALL. And how about quick-releasing the lid from the opener?

While I’m thinking about it, here’s a tip: If you get one of these openers, put something under the can you’re opening … otherwise, you may spill liquid on your kitchen counter (of course, that would be true, too, if you were to use a regular can opener, since most cans are filled to the top of the can in the manufacturing process).

Tip number 2: The edge of the lid may be so smooth it won’t cut a balloon (like they show on one TV commercial), but the place where the lid came off the can is sharp as a razor. Be careful, and don’t cut yourself. If you do cut yourself, and it’s a can of tomato paste, who’s to know, though? (Just kidding).

All this said, you can try this “As Seen on TV” opener for yourself, but if you do, I’d advise two things:

1. Return here for instructions (or ask me a question here on the blog). Better yet, post your own instructions.

2. Don’t get rid of your regular can opener. This hand-free thing will work on occasion, but only on occasion. You’ll need to practice a lot or, of course, you could call the 1-800-something number.

Or chunk it (preferably not at your cat).

Next: It slices, it dices

One comment on “Hoo-Hah

  1. kristinamoore
    October 26, 2007

    I like the fact that you wrote about this. Very Seinfeldian.

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