Design flaws of Brookstone/Sharper Image-type products

These two stores have been pumping out the gadgets since way back when (I first became cognizant of them in the 1980s).

The chess boards and actual tools aside, it strikes me that nearly all of their China-made electronics have serious design flaws.

We recently got a little metallic alarm clock from Brookstone that lights up in red, green, and blue. Flaws:

  1. It has a battery inside and the instructions say that it has a “battery backup.” But if you remove the power cord without moving the switch to battery power, whoops! There’s no backup at all, and you now have to reset the whole thing. The upshot is that you won’t be waking up on time if the power goes out. MAJOR FLAW!

  2. The power cord plugs in the back. It gets in the way when you’re trying to set the thing.

  3. You use the controls in the back to set it, but you have to look at the front in order to see the digits. This is pretty annoying.

Overall, it has that cheapass China-made gadget-store clumsiness to it.

Got any others?

Wow, and I bet it only ran you, what, $59.99?

I bought a personal sound machine thing from Sharper Image a few years ago. It’s just a little thing, looks vaguely like an iPod, but plays those funky nature sounds (frogs, rain, ocean waves) and is also a radio and alarm clock. You can preset 10 radio stations, too.
It has headphones, and I bought it to wear in bed to block out my husband’s snoring.

The design flaw? There’s no battery back-up, so when the 4 double A’s die and you change them, you have to reset the clock and reset your radio presets. Very huge flaw.

A friend gave me a rubber duck. It sank.

We got burned by them so many times that I toss the flyer in the garbage without even browsing through it these days.

Ah, so then you know their quality.

I worked at Sharper Image once.
I used my employee discount once, on a Panasonic DVD player.
I’ll have to leave it at that.

There’s a big uproar and recall right now over the inaccuracy of Sharper Image’s breathalyzers.

There’s another recall on a motorized CD storage thing with some reports of explosions if it’s plugged into AC power and the batteries are still in it. (apparently it runs on batteries or AC power, but not both at the same time) That’s a huge design fault that’s so easy to avoid with either the use of a 4¢ diode or a power jack that disconnects the battery when a power cord is inserted.

Their fancy combo-tools are designed so that no tool in it can be used effectively because of the placement of all the others.

I have to thank you guys. I was thinking of plunking a nice chunk of change on one of the Sharper Image massage chairs, but based on this thread, and garygnu’s ringing endorsement, I think I’ll pass.

They seem to really push the extended warranty. I know that in most cases these are pure profit, but perhaps in the case of these companies, it’s a necessary purchase.

garygnu, would a Sharper Image employee throw in the extended warranty to move a product, or was that a corporate no-no?

The fact that these stores exist is a design flaw.

I had to chuck a $39.95 groomer-trimmer because one exquisitely fragile eeensy plastic pin sheared off the inside of the cover that fits over the blades the 2nd or 3rd time I took it off to clean the blades. Sans pin, the cover would not stay on and the unit was inoperable.

I was given a Sharper Image battery-operated pepper grinder. Design flaws:

  1. The casing that holds the batteries is suceptible to jiggling, so occasionaly the whole thing falls apart, spilling batteries onto your plate;

  2. In addition, to add peppercorns, you must disassemble said battery compartment;

  3. It looks like a giant, chromed plastic dildo.

Merely another added feature. :stuck_out_tongue:

(Hey, you spend $50 on a battery operated peppermill, might as well get as much use out of it as possible!)

For the most part it is cheap stuff to sell to the unsuspecting. You can do better buying the supposed knock offs of say for instance their overpriced air cleaner/purifier. However Oreck’s knock off of the Sharper Image air cleaner is even worse as it requires a replacement air filter and is also much over priced. S.I. has a few items that are satisfactory even if a bit high priced.

I bet you can’t stop sneezing in the bedroom.


Actually, the massage chairs were fine. In fact, I never saw a display break down, and they were in use pretty much every minute of every day. Just too expensive, that’s all.
As for the extended warranty, it’s actually an extended service contract, and an outside vendor would do the service. If you pushed one through, commission would increase a lot. A manager might be able to throw it in, but commission levels for me wouldn’t have covered the price of the service.

Consumer Reports says their tower-type “ionic” air purifiers are basically worthless.

Similar design flaw to what others have noticed.
I bought a SI pocket shortwave radio not too long ago. When you replace the batteries, the clock and memory settings are all reset to their defaults. It makes me think “What’s the point of the clock and memories?” It’s the equivalent of having a computer that, if unplugged, returns to the state that it was in when you first bought it - without any of your files, personalized settings, and added programs.

When I was shopping for… Father’s Day, I think, I was trying to find the little Leatherman Micra. Hunted all over the place and couldn’t find it anywhere reasonable, so I tried The Sharper Image.

They didn’t have a Micra, but they were ready and eager to sell me their own version of same. I was a bit dubious – and it seemed more expensive than I recalled – but I thought ‘Why not?’

I plucked up the multitool and went up to the counter to wait for a cashier. And wait. And wait. They weren’t in the back of the store doing something fabulously important… they were all, every single employee, standing not two feet away from me arguing over what they were going to get for lunch and who was going to go get it.

After five minutes I just left the tool on the counter.

In desperation, I went to Target… which had the Micra for half the price of the Sharper Image’s one. And it was better quality, too.