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Of the many questions I am often asked while performing customer service duties, the one that comes up the most is about color choice. The answer is always the same – white.
Henry Ford famously once said “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” At the advent of mass manufacturing, offering customization was a challenge. Unlike the craftsmen who would churn out widgets one by one based on a specific customers needs and wants, the assembly line had to generalize and make a huge number of assumptions to create a product that would appeal to most. This new cookie-cutter manufacturing system was all about tradeoffs. One of these tradeoffs for the automobile assembly line was in the selection of a color. Offering a choice of colors would introduce added costs and complexity into Ford’s assembly process. Customization would mean more labor hours per unit, extra supplies held in inventory and other factors that would slow down production and drive up costs. So Ford decided that a black automobile would be the least unpopular color for his cars.
Of course in today’s world of massive product selection and choice, getting a color you want is usually easy. So why don’t we offer a choice of colors? Same reason Ford didn’t offer choice – the 80⁄20 rule. We know that most architects and interior designers have consistently specified white as the color for baseboard trim and casing details for most of the past 50 years. We know that white matches all other colors. We also know that most baseboard heaters ever made have been a light color, not necessarily true white, but usually just a few shades away. Therefore we can surmise that about 80 percent of our customer base will have white baseboard heaters and/or white trim in their homes. This leaves us with the option to start guessing what other colors to offer the remaining 20 percent. If this 20 percent of the market was worth 5 billion dollars and we were General Motors, we’d surely start researching what other colors to offer. But we’re not GM and the baseboard heater covers business ain’t worth that kind of coin. So it’s choose any color, as long as it’s white.
BTW, did I mention our covers are easily painted using a roller or spray can? Priming is optional and latex paint works just fine over hydronic heaters.