The refrigerator is a symbol of bounty?often the centerpiece of any kitchen. Now, with the addition of a 15.1-inch liquid crystal display, hi-fi speakers and a DSL hookup, the refrigerator assumes even greater presence and functionality. Korean manufacturer LG Electronics has given the venerable refrigerator the capability to send and receive e-mail, surf the Web, watch TV, play MP3s, keep track of birthdays, organize recipes and monitor the expiration date on that milk carton.
You’re not alone if you think this sounds outlandish. Tom Cooper, a salesman with P.C. Richard & Son, an appliance retailer with 44 stores across New York and New Jersey, says his customers’ reactions to the 356-pound, 26-cubic-foot appliance are mixed. “Some people are blown away by it,” he says. “Some people think it’s silly.” Most people think it’s cool with its titanium finish and numerous features, he adds.
With its $8,000 price tag, though, LG’s Internet fridge hasn’t been a big seller in Coopers’ wealthy South Hampton, N.Y., location. In fact, as this issue went to press, Cooper’s store hadn’t sold a single one. Nationwide, LG shipped approximately 300 units within the first six weeks of its October 2002 release in the United States, according to Daniel Lee, LG’s director of marketing communications. During that time, appliance retailers nationwide shipped nearly 1.5 million “normal” refrigerators, according to Appliance magazine.
Cooper believes Internet fridge sales will pick up this spring, when construction on new homes kicks into high gear. “This is something that would go into new constructions because of its dimensions,” he says. In any event, the Internet fridge has been generating a lot of buzz, if not a lot of actual sales. “We decided to bring it in because a lot of customers were calling us because they wanted to see it,” Cooper says. “Everybody’s interested in it.”