The Spigot

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

The Label
The Spigot in Profile
Pulling Down the Spigot

Sometimes, you can look at something, and see a story. That is certainly the case with this spigot on a bathtub tap.

This is the story of a design mistake. That label says “We came up with this neato-wow design, and nobody ever figured out how to use it. Our customer support lines melted down, our resellers blacklisted us, we fired the designer, and stuck these labels onto our product as a mickey-mouse band-aid to the situation.”

As you can see, it is an interesting design. There is a “lip” on the business end of the spigot (you can see it in the second photo.) This has a shape that affords pulling. The user is supposed to pull this down to enable the shower head. It is clever. It probably has very few moving parts, and costs very little to manufacture. Pulling down on the spigot probably moves a baffle into place that blocks water flow through the tap, and forces the water to go up to the shower head.

Too bad they probably blew all their profit on damage control. Customer service is a very real, and often overlooked cost. Good designs require less customer support. Companies need to quantify the cost of support, and then factor that into their design priorities. In this case, they probably saved fifty cents per spigot, and spent a dollar per call. Not everyone who brought one of these would call, but most customers would chalk up the manufacturer as less-than-desireable, and would probably not get any products from that company again. They may also complain to the plumber that installed the system. The plumber might be a bulk customer of the taps, and the company may lose a thousand units as a result.

This is a common problem when designers live in their own world. In the world of bathroom plumbing fixture designers, this was probably an elegant and intuitive solution. I’ll bet that one of the biggest issues with bathroom fixtures is all the various knobs and gizmos. There is always a concerted effort to design “one turn” taps and fixtures. These have varying degrees of success. I have gotten into hotel showers that have frozen me half to death because I couldn’t figure out how to make the water hot, and I have used taps in sinks that force you to drip water all over the countertop because of their placement.

Suggested Solution:

There is no real solution for this without a complete redesign, which is certainly why that sticker is on the spigot.