Forced Obsolescence

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Many of us may have heard some old timer complain that things do not last as long as they used to. Because they don’t. Products just do not seem to last as long as they used to. They seem to fear that if they made a product that was too good, or even decent, they would make less money or go out of business. The government has little incentive to change the system because it keeps the economy rolling and brings in more tax dollars.

Why is this a problem in Chautauqua County? Chautauqua is ranked 15th out of 62 of the poorest counties in New York.

Capitalists consider it a good thing even if they will never admit to it. Our economy runs on consumerism. The more people consume, the more companies have to produce. This keeps people working and makes more money.

Planned Obsolescence dates back to The Great Depression. Bernard London thought that by “Instilling the buyer with the desire for something newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary” would help rebound the economy.

Even simple light bulbs fail sooner than technology could allow for. Light bulbs lasted 2,500 hours in the 1920’s. The Phoebus light bulb cartel forced manufacturers to reduce that time to 1,000 hours to simulate production. It was a big conspiracy theory known as “The Light Bulb Conspiracy“.

Planned obsolescence wastes time and resources. Customers waste time by running around upgrading, fixing and replacing items that should last a lifetime. When I was growing up, my mother and my grandparents had the same model RCA television. I was too young to remember when they got the televisions, but both lasted until my twenties.  My last television lasted only ten years.

We use un-renewable energy to make new products that should not need replacing. Vast amounts of non-renewable fuel resources are burned while polluting the atmosphere. Our carbon footprint is increased.

The constant need to replace or upgrade makes millions of tons of e-waste.  Many of the parts are not reusable or just not reused and end up in landfills.  The EPA states that 4.6 million tons of e-waste ended up in landfills in 2000. Logic would state that number is higher now. From there, the toxic chemicals in electronics leak out into the environment.

Many resources that are used to make the products we use are not infinite, we will run out. This practice decreases the time we have until we do run out.

I interviewed G.D. from the local Sears store. He stated that he has been in sales for thirty years. When asked if his customers complained that products do not last as long as they used to and if he thought it affected customer satisfaction, he had this to say: “We get that all the time. (Planned Obsolesce) has a negative impact on customer satisfaction.”

I asked him if he thought consumer brand loyalty was affected. He said, “Kenmore is a name related to Sears, is trusted and lasts longer than most brands. We have little problem of customer loyalty.”

The best defense against forced obsolesces is to do your homework, or ask for help here! Find out what products are the highest quality and longest life before you buy. Research what companies still stand behind their products and have warranties.

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