February 09, 2009

Planned Obsolescence

There’s an approach in the United States that I like to call “more bang for your buck”. It goes like this:

1) I have a limited amount of money,
2) I want to own a lot of stuff,
3) I will buy the cheaper items, so I can get more stuff.

I wish it was a little bit more like this:

1) I have a limited amount of money,
2) So I will save my money until I can buy that nice, good quality item,
3) When I buy the item, I will take care of it so it lasts a long time.

Sure, attitudes are changing. Americans are turning, for example, to better foods, leaving the McDonald behind, and choosing instead to get a nice salad at Cosi.

But gadgets remain an area where the “more bang for your buck” theory goes strong. Since people want cheap goods, and manufacturers want your money, they’ve devised a crafty, little scheme of “plan obsolescence”.

According to Wikipedia:

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence is the process of a product becoming obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the product fails and the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence. The purpose of planned obsolescence is to hide the real cost per use from the consumer, and charge a higher price than they would otherwise be willing to pay (or would be unwilling to spend all at once).


There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer, if any, which offers a more durable alternative.

Problem 1
The many hair dryers I used to buy, for example, are made from lightweight, breakable plastic. It naturally follows that, when I am drying my hair in morning, holding the dryer in my recently moisturized hands, rushing to get ready before 8:00 a.m., I will often drop the dryer on the tile floor of the bathroom. And so it breaks, or overheats. And so I have to buy a new one.

Source - This is an ugly hair drying from ebay, but I bet it still works

Solution 1
Borrow your ex-boyfriend’s hair dryer made in the 1960s, permanently. I’ve dropped it countless times, and it still works like a charm.

Problem 2
Imagine yourself a loyal customer of, let’s say T-Mobile. Imagine yourself a chatty person who likes to call your friends often, and keeps in touch with family abroad. You’re a good customer, and you spend a lot of money on your phone plan and long distance. You always pay your bill on time. Wouldn’t it be infuriating then, to find that even the most basic phones offered by T-Mobile are ridiculously expensive, and have an uncanny ability to break a mere one month after their warranty?

Source - contrary to what the picture may lead you to believe, this basic phone does not shoot death rays from its screen

Solution 2
Purchase the cheapest phone available, and extend your contract another 2 years to get an acceptable discount. Consider changing phone companies.

Problem 3
I’ve had my computer for 5 years. I’ve treated it with kindness and consideration even while in the bush in Congo. But I’ve had to replaced the battery once (it lasted about 3 months before shorting out again), and the power adapter twice. I’ve also had Geek Squad remove the standard antivirus software, because the upgrade I installed was defective and froze the computer. I’ve had to buy an external hard drive because I ran out of room on the hard drive.

My computer is possibly the most precious thing I own, since it contains my thousands of photos, videos, newsletters, and passwords. I have also grown addicted to connecting with my friends through email, skype and blogger, and watching episodes of Lost and Torchwood on it.

Source - Expensive, ugly and poor quality. And this was the best they had to offer when I bought my laptop

Solution 3
At this rate, I’ve easily spend the equivalent of a new computer on the replacement parts. I am seriously exploring going over to the dark side and buying a mac computer.

Grrrr. This is all such a waste of money. What a waste of components, plastic, time, and human labor as well. How very un-environmental.


Anonymous said...

Hear hear !
If you find an indestructible PC, please let me know :)
Be careful though, Macs aren't all they're made out to be.

Mumbo Sauce said...

I laughed out loud a little at "this basic phone does not shoot death rays". I'm so sad, I've been looking for a phone like that.

FoggyDew said...

Totally agree with you on all of these points. My computer is 5 years old (also had to buy an external drive and considering a Mac); cell phone is three years old and going strong; iPod is, god, also five years old but still works fine. Haven't owned a hair dryer in decades, though.

If I'm spending my money on something expensive, I want it to work right the first time and every time and last for years.

007 in Africa said...

Ammo - still, I'm feeling the dark side calling "buy a mac"!

Mumbosauce - sorry about the disappointment, no death rays here. Very basic phone really.

Foggy Dew - Sounds like you must do a lot of homework before you buy your gadgets. Any recommendation for computers?

Anonymous said...

When computers break, people just buy a new one. They think , "It just broke".

People need to become aware that it didn't just break, it was designed to do so.

This fix proves it.

Use this fix or continue to buy new every time the industry wants you to.