Shrinking Free Time, Growing Modeling Aftermarket

Last week, at a conference called DemandCon I was attending for my real job, I had a chance to see and speak to Adrian Ott, author of the 24-Hour Customer. She lays out the proposition that time is not money, as has long been said, but that there is a money value to time. Time is the one thing we can’t generate more of, and as a result people are willing to pay for things that conserve this most valuable resource.

Some of her statistics are pretty revealing. The average person spends less time shopping today, but faces more choices. The average person spends just six minutes shopping on an on-line site. The average person spends 28.8 minutes a day – or less than three percent of their waking time – in the act of shopping, and that includes shopping for staples like groceries.

Part of her focus is on the idea of competing better in the “attention economy,” that limited amount of time we have to devote to the many things competing for attention in our lives. To do that, she suggests that consumers are willing to trade time for value. Certain things, like Facebook or computer games, are obvious examples of that: people trade their time in exchange for what they get out of the use of those products, which to them is considerable if you look at the amount of time spent on them.

I think the same can be said for scale modeling – people are willing to trade time for value. But not an unlimited amount of time – a truly horrible kit that demands a lot of extra work doesn’t deliver a fair trade of value for time, and most people will shy away from it, quite understandably.

When I talked to Adrian briefly about aftermarket companies, like Obscureco, I occurred to me that they are playing right into the phenomena she is describing, but in an even more complete way. People want value – which is why they’ll pay for well-designed and well-detailed parts. They also want to save time, their least plentiful resource. Thus, aftermarket products are right in line with these trends: to get value and save time, people are willing to spend money.

That’s why I use them (and I do – in the SBD build I have bits and pieces from four aftermarket outfits in the cockpit, and I’d never be close to completion had I opted to make these parts on my own). It’s not that I don’t like scratch-building – after all, I make the masters for Obscureco products all the time. It’s that time is my most limited resource and anything I can do to save it is worth the money.

There’s a vocal minority out there who decry the aftermarket, and contend that there is virtue in building your own detail with sheet styrene, wire and lead foil. The aftermarket is for slackers, they say, and they can do it just as well and much more cheaply on their own. Perhaps they can. But their take on the equation is different than it is for most people. For them, time is of lesser value than personal satisfaction. If you yank the time savings aspect out, and if you think you can do as well or better at capturing the details as the aftermarket patternmakers, the entire time savings + value = money equation falls apart.

But not many of us operate without some time constraints, and most of us want to finish some models from time to time, and to a high standard of detail – and many of us don’t want to trade time to reach the level of accomplishment of the aftermarket patternmakers. So, as demands on our time grow, I suspect the aftermarket will grow as well.