One of the kids broke the door off our washing machine. Rachel called the shop we bought it from - Comet - and they were incredibly inefficient. They also frightened us with quotes ranging from £120 to £200. For a door! Even an estimate was going to start the clock ticking for a call out charge. I had a look at it and worked out we could get a new door. It turned out we didn't even need that. We needed an "inner door rim" which once I'd logged in the spare parts code was going to cost me ... £28, including next day despatch. We needed a slightly strange screw set - which amazingly, we have - and it took about ten minutes of fiddling to get on.
Why am I boring you with this tale of domestic nonsense? It's the shattering of a mystery, brought on by the ability to research and buy on the internet. We are so used to being mystified by the availability of parts and the complexity of the tools to fix things that we just fork out.
Our next challenge is a Flip video camera, which is made by by Cisco. It was ace when it worked, but now it doesn't. It just stopped charging up on holiday, which was a bit rubbish. I've tried to fix it, followed all the on-line instructions which are pretty limited. Now we're trying to send it back. Still no joy. We're in this Kafkaesque world of American websites which won't allow me to register where I live because it's an incorrect ZIP code. The product code on the back is so small none of us could read it. Seriously. We just want a new one, it doesn't work, it should work. No wonder Cisco are pulling out of this product, they're making good things go bad and can't handle the backlash.
In many ways power is shifting to the consumer, but the big companies are conceding their control in limited ways, before reasserting it in others. This week feels like a score draw.