Sunday, December 14, 2008

Planned Obsolescence

This weekend, I read a good op-ed piece in the New York Times regarding another drain on the American wallet. It's all about planned obsolescence and our throw away society. This is something I feel like we've been living since we moved into this house. In the first year we were here we have replaced the washer, dryer and dishwasher. We've had to have a major repairs on the air conditioning and the water heaters. The refridgerater also has an issue. It isn't critical, but it would cost $800 to repair. This house is only 6 years are the appliances.

In this piece, Gerri Hirshey opens talking about her stove, which happened to be engineered to be non-repairable.

Do you remember when we were kids? Our parents bought a refridegerater or a new furnace, or a washer....and they were done. If there was a problem, a repair guy could make it right in a matter of a couple of hours. Why have we come to accept that when something breaks, it should be replaced...whether it cost us $10 or $1000?

I have this strong feeling of guilt when I throw out an iron, or a hairdryer, or A COMPUTER because it makes more sense to replace it than repair it. I remember going in to the repair shop with my dad with a tv or a radio...of COURSE those things could be fixed. No more.

Today, our dryer (less than 6 months old) stopped working. It has all kinds of fancy indicator lights and it "said" that the air flow was restricted. That puzzled me because I do clean out the lint trap every single time. We got into cleaning out the vents anyway, but while we were doing that...something started beeping from somewhere else in the house. We thought it was a smoke detector needing a battery. Aaron climbed up to change it but it didn't take a was hard wired into the house. He disconnected the unit, but the beeping continued. In the meantime I was reassembling the dryer venting but I still got the "restricted flow" readout and no heat.

We finally came to realize that the beeping was coming NOT from the smoke detectors but from the carbon monoxide detectors. We looked them up online and determined that it was signaling a malfunction, not a life threatening situation. These were hardwired into the house as well and Aaron ended up disconnecting them too.

On Friday, our phones stopped working. We have no dial tone. We have a phone/cable/internet package from the cable company and our tv and computers are still working. So, it seems to me that it's something in the phone lines in the house.

Consequently, this week will most likely be spent waiting for repairmen. How's that for a complete pain in the ass. I don't even know who to call about the CO monitors.

It's corporate America's dirty little secret to keep us on the consumer hook on a regular basis. What a stroke of marketing brilliance, manufacture items engineered to irreparably fail. It's exacerbated by the fact that everything is made overseas and the order goes to the lowest bidder. We no longer expect quality in anything.

On top of they can actually convince us that the extended warranty is a good idea. They continue to rake in the dough and we pay betting that the new appliance, tv or computer is barely going to outlast the factory warranty period. What's wrong with THAT picture?

We could get into how women are sucked into another form of planned's called fashion. That's a discussion for another day.


JACKIE said...

That, and the items that cost half as much, but last half as long so you have to buy twice as many of them for the same price. And they look like crap after four or five washings. Arrrrrgh!

Lisa :-] said...

All this is part of our transformation to a consumer economy. If our economy is going to be based on consumption, we had better damned well consume. And American manufacturers (and importers) have been more than happy to do their share to make sure we continue to consume on a regular basis. It's the American way!

Kathy said...

You are either living in the midst of the Bermuda Triangle or you are doing what we've all done for years now ... buy ... and regret.

My new Maytag fridge, just one day shy of its one year warranty crapped out -- three days before Thanksgiving a few years back. Exactly one year later after the replacement of the compressor it crapped out again.

Even the owner's of the store where purchased where feeling the frustration. One of the repairmen told me, "Even Maytag."

I seem to have become my parents: I go kicking and screaming into the next decade all the while lamenting what used to be.


alphawoman said...

Great piece! When I was working for Coke I found vening machines (the top loading type where you get the 8 oz. bottle out by runing it up) that had been out there for 30 to 40 years and still working. Any vending machine made recently is constructed to require extensive and constant repair and attention. And you hit it right on the head as to why?

alphawoman said...

My comment seemed to make no sense because of the ? mark and mispellings. Sorry.