When I went off to college my parents, like most people’s parents, sent me with a collection of their old stuff. I got some silverware, some dishes, and a seriously old blender. The jar was plastic, and the base was kind of a butter yellow with mustard accents and burnt orange buttons. It was a 1970’s masterpiece. It was very similar to this one. My parents replaced it with a new blender but I kept that piece of disco glory until well into the mid 2000’s. My husband was, frankly, mortified to use it, but since the one his mom got him literally melted in the dishwasher, we used my mustard yellow one until we had enough money to buy a new one.
That blender either got donated to Goodwill or sold in a garage sale, but it never broke. Not once. My parents owned it for at least 25 years before they gave it to me, and when you put it up against my husband’s flimsy-melts-in-the-dishwasher blender, there’s just no contest. I had that in mind as I wrote this article about planned obsolescence for Wide Open Country.
Planned obsolescence is the reason why your brand new dishwasher needed to be repaired within three years of purchasing it. It’s why my oven door won’t close even though it’s only seven years old and we’ve had the hinges replaced once already. And most importantly, it’s why your grandmother still has all her old appliances and they still work. Planned obsolescence is when manufacturers intentionally build flaws into products. This is to serve the purpose of padding the corporate bottom line. It works in one of three ways: to sell you an extended warranty, to sell you a new product model, or to convince you it’s not worth the cost to repair, so that you’ll simply buy a new product.
Once you look at all the facts, it paints an ugly picture. If manufacturers are making things that are meant to break, then what should we, as consumers do? We can keep wasting money on the same lousy junk that we’ll have to replace in three years. We can bemoan the decline of quality and pride in business. Or we can look them in the eye and say, “We know what you’re doing,”. American buyers can wield incredible power when we come together. I’m not saying let’s all burn our toasters in protest. But now would be the perfect time for some new brands to be on top. Let’s vote with our dollars. Maybe there are some manufacturers who are willing to sacrifice the small profit margin for doing what’s ethically right. Maybe some new brands will be more interested in creating durable products, instead of treating their consumer base like a bunch of dumb cattle. In the meantime, if you want a good pyrex dish or suitcase, go get one from a secondhand store.