Wednesday, 1 February 2017

New doesn't equal better

Do you ever hear senior relatives lament that things were made better in the 'old days'?   Do you have low expectations for the lifespan of products you purchase?   It's true and it's all by design.   Why would a manufacturer want to make a product that only needed to be purchased once  every twenty years or so?    Wouldn't it be so much better if you needed to re-buy every two years or stretch it to every five years.   The company's bottom line would improve.    Many of these products are made in locations that give less consideration to quality, value and even working conditions and product safety.    It's only about price the day you buy it.  

But that only works if short term profit is the main motivating factor for the business.   If the bean counters have taken over and short term gain has taken priority over long term reputation, not to mention business success.   Companies that spent a generation or more providing quality products and building their reputation are prime candidates for a buy-out when the owner retires.   The carefully honed product name will last at least a fair number of years before many people realize what has happened.   Kitchen-Aid wasn't the same after Whirlpool took over.   You probably have a lot of examples yourself.

Wedding gifts were meant to last at least until the Silver anniversary (that would be twenty-five years).   Today, all manner of large appliances are considered to have a lifespan of five years at the most and toasters and electric coffee makers come and go every two years or so.   Where I grew up, my neighbourhood  had a small appliance repair shop.   That's right.   You repaired your toaster  so it would last another decade or more.

If an item doesn't break down the company has other alternatives.    For some, a change in design and features can be made so appealing to a significant percentage of people, that replacement of a still working product will be justified.   For the remainder, it is a simple  matter to stop making the necessary components that make the product functional.   I've noticed that regular powdered automatic dishwashing detergent is receiving less and less shelf space, and even that is usually on the bottom row.     This must be how the last hold-outs from dishwashing pods (at triple the cost) are being dealt with.   First the carrot, then the stick.

The trick is to find work arounds or even do withouts for as many items as possible.   Don't be afraid to take offerings from frequent upgraders.    Cultivate an appreciation for 'vintage' items.  (Only don't call them vintage, that's a guaranteed upgrade in price).

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