• John Selzer

Planned Obsolescence

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Pour one out for quality, 'cause it's dead.


When pulling back the upper rack of the dishwasher, the last thing you want to hear is the clink of a small piece hitting the bottom. Your stomach sinks. Your mind begins to race. “What was that?” echoes in your head. “I hope that was nothing important.”

All of this happens in a millisecond.


Another half inch further, and you realize the root cause of the sound as the rack violently drops. Your simple act of putting a coffee mug in the dishwasher just became unexpectedly complicated. And probably expensive, were it not for the fact that I am handy and can go all DIY on it.


In the time of ‘better, faster, cheaper’, the consequence of achieving that last one means sacrificing quality. Inexpensive rarely means well made.


Welcome to the era of cheap. In cost, yes, but regrettably, in quality, too. Not to seem like an everything-was better-in-the-past kind of guy, but you have to admit that little seems to be made well anymore.


And this is our own fault, really.


Despite knowing all too well the phrase, “You get what you pay for”, we almost always go for cheaper when faced with a choice. We like a deal. There is great satisfaction felt deep down inside when we score a bargain. Throw a buy-one-get-one-free offer in there, and the endorphins really start flowing. (Damn you, lizard brain!)


In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a company called M.L. Leddy’s. Since 1922, they have been making custom, handmade boots and saddles. They are not inexpensive. Far from it, in fact. Quality is their mantra, and it pervades everything they do. Painted high up on a wall in their shop is a quotation attributed to the store’s namesake: “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”


Read that last line again and really let it sink in.


Once those BOGO-induced hormones fade and our nervous system returns to stasis, we are left with the fact that we (probably unnecessarily) have two of something now. And both will most likely break/fall apart/fail much sooner than expected. Yes, Mr. Leddy, sweetness fades, but that bitterness sure does linger, doesn’t it?


Now, while we all cannot afford (or even need) a luxury item like custom-made boots, the quotation is just as relevant for everything we buy, really. A simple pen, an article of clothing, a children’s toy or an appliance like my ill-fated dishwasher. Literally, anything.


Quality should matter. We just need to demand it – and be accepting of the slight price increase, when possible, to get it. While ‘quality’ and ‘cheap’ might behave a little like oil and water, ‘value’ syncs up with the former like opposite poles of two magnets. <Click.> And value still comes will a dash of those sought after endorphins.


With a little investigation, I found the failed component, consulted the dishwasher specs to locate the part number and placed an order on Amazon. Two days and $18 later, the needed piece arrived. Despite the manufacturer’s claim of “made with the highest quality materials”, it is not. In fact, taking the replacement part out of the box, I could tell that it is not going to last long.

I will take the under on six months, if pressed.


Sigh.




AUTHOR'S NOTE: Unfortunately, I was right. One side of the replacement parts broke after less than three months (but was still functional), and the second followed shortly thereafter (taking that functional part with it). I guess the manufacturer and I have differing expectations when using the word "quality".


MUSIC BOX

Planned Obsolescence by10,000 Maniacs

This song is the perfect combination of the solid voice of Natalie Merchant with the musical funkiness of the other 9,999 maniacs. It is a great 10,000 Maniacs song. Admittedly, though, it is not for everyone. Take my freshman roommate, for instance. This song used to annoy the holy hell out of him. Which meant it had to be played with great frequency. Sorry, Jon.

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