Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in September 2018, and nearly two years later, it remains an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today as part of Ingenious Design Week.
I spent most of the early 2000s vaguely worried that I’d left the house with my flat iron on, and that I would return to the whole place having burned to the ground as a result. I did indeed leave the dumb thing on three times in those eight or so years, and my bathroom counter still has scorch marks. Yes, there are some fancy flat irons out there with auto shut-off switches, but my beloved Salon Tech flat iron was almost $200, so I wasn’t too keen to just replace it. I was just about to buy the beautiful Harry Josh flat iron when my dad (who is tighter with a dollar than any man you’ll ever meet) told me to buy this auto shut-off outlet that kicks power to the socket off after 30 minutes. I’ve never thought about my stupid hair straightener — or curling iron — in the middle of a workday ever again.
You push a button to turn the power on, use your device as you ordinarily would, then walk away when you’re done. It’s like an egg timer for your electronic devices, and I appreciated the peace of mind so much that I bought a second one last winter to make sure the tiny space heater I use in the bathroom on chilly mornings doesn’t run all day long, then a third one for the lamp next to my bed that I’m always too sleepy to turn off at night. I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied with something that cost so little. (They’re two for $20, too, if you want to save two dollars.)
Once, convinced I needed to upgrade to something a bit fancier-looking, I almost put money down on a fancy brand-name version of this humble device instead. But after spending two minutes skimming the Amazon reviews, the first half-dozen of which were all people posting photos of singed outlets that almost started fires in their homes, I thought better of it. My $10 outlet doesn’t do much, but it’s never allowed that.
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