One of the truisms my role model, my long departed maternal grandfather, taught me, “You get what you pay for,” seems to have expired. When I was younger, I never wondered if what I’d purchased would last or was defective. I bought quality, not junk, and for the little extra I paid, I was rewarded with peace of mind.
Not any more.
Are any of you annoyed by the apparent absence of quality control in the products you buy? It was bad enough when, several decades ago, industry introduced the concept of “planned obsolescence.” Something you purchased—a car, for example, or a washing machine—had a built-in life expectancy. In most instances, the item in question would function perfectly right up to the moment the warranty expired, then it would fail. It was annoying, but washing machines and automobiles could be repaired, then run without issue for the next, say, year or two… or ten.
Certain issues were even funny. Take water heaters. Water heaters come in two varieties: those with a five year warranty and those with ten. One day, a plumber friend let me in on the joke. The difference in price between the two was exactly the same as the pro rata amount you would have to pay to replace one five year tank with a second five year tank if the first failed early. The joke was this: there was no difference whatsoever between the five and ten year models. None. The ten year tank is the five year tank. When you purchased the ten year warrantee, you were buying a five year tank but paying the replacement cost up front. If, however, you purchased a five year water heater and it lasted ten years—highly likely—you had saved yourself the difference with a laugh on the manufacturer, to boot.
These days, the issue of planned obsolescence pales in the face of the increasingly high percentage of faulty products the manufacturers produce. I recently purchased a Garmin GPS that crashed thrice on the Santa Fe, Denver round trip. Not something you want to reset while you’re driving. I returned it and was told I couldn’t exchange it. It had been replaced with a more expensive version because it crashed too often. Instead, I took a refund.
Last year my wife and I purchased a Cuisinart double toaster. When straight from the box, one side didn’t work, we made the hundred twenty mile round trip to Macy’s in Albuquerque and brought home a replacement. While it’s noticeably better, one of the four slots toasts poorly on one side and less still on the other. Another round trip? I don’t think so.
My Canon EOS Rebel 35mm digital camera failed once under warrantee. Although the repairs were covered, I was without it for six full weeks. The second time it failed—in the exact same manner I might add—the warrantee had expired and the repairs cost half what a new one would set me back. once the fresh-from-the-factory issues are resolved, run perfectly ever after.
The point I’m making is this: Why are we being increasingly subjected to faulty goods? As far as we’ve come technologically, why can’t manufacturers produce something solid right out of the chute? Every time?