A while ago, I went to a dinner party at the house of a very wealthy executive in San Francisco. The food was great, but the house was absolutely, insanely beautiful. The living room has large, 20-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling windows that expose the entire San Francisco Bay. The kitchen has 3-inch-thick transparent blue glass countertops with slightly red-shifted LEDs embedded underneath to create a warm explosion of light. And the bathroom sinks are made of imported Itallian blown glass. The toilet paper is even custom made with the logo of the executive’s company embossed on each sheet. Just about everything in the house is remarkable.
But there’s one part of the experience that really dampened everything for me. As I was entering the bathroom, I grabbed the doorknob and it felt loose and hollow, like cheap crap. As I closed the door behind me, the click of the latching mechanism didn't feel... substantial enough. The door in this incredible house is complemented by flimsy, shitty hardware.
For a long time, I thought about how this amazing house could have such shitty doorknobs; it just didn’t make sense to me. After all, there’s only two things you ever really physically touch and interact with in a home on a regular basis: the doorknobs and the sink/toilet controls. It always seemed obvious to me that architects, home builders, and interior designers would focus on those things first, to make sure they feel solid, substantial, and at least match the quality of other aspects of the home. During the past few months, I’ve been asking some of them about this problem. And it has been a complete shock to me that most had not even realized it existed until I pointed it out.
I see this strange inconsistency of relative quality through experiences all the time, not only in homes and businesses, but also -- especially -- on the web.•
A few months ago, I went to a restaurant in New York City called MASA. It is supposedly one of the greatest Japanese restaurants in the world. The food there is delicately prepared. The atmosphere in the dining room is carefully designed to produce the perfect emotional experience. Even the air circulation system was built to push light amounts of air over specific tables. When you pay $500 for a meal, you expect perfection like this. But at the end of my experience, I was presented with something that, like the doorknobs in the executive’s home, totally sucked the awesomeness out of my meal. I was given a receipt that looks like the one below.
A mockup of a better Starbucks receipt