PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE?

This is a very interesting topic. Consider that when a business manufactures a product they can make it so that it has the maximum lifespan. In order to do this they use a well engineered design and high quality components.  The problem is that this costs money. And in business we always have competition. So another company will make a similar product with lower quality materials and offer it for a lower price. The buying public is very sensitive to the selling price of a product and as our economy gets weaker and less disposable income is available to purchase products the public is faced with the choice to purchase the lower priced item and spend less money or purchase the higher quality item and spend more money.  This is where the activity called Planned Obsolescence enters. If companies want more sales of their product in a given length of time then they could  design a product with an artificially limited lifespan.  So in the case of a product that normally might last twenty years they would design it so that it broke down or became old looking in say ten years. As a result the buyer would purchase two products in the 20 year period not one. And with each purchase the manufacturer and retailer would make a profit.  

A country that understands planned obsolescence is China.  I recently went to a Dollar Store and purchased a package of 6 pens for $1.50.  which means  25 cents each. I thought that was a great deal. I placed one in my jacket pocket, one in my pants pocket and left one in the car.  And much to my surprise the ones in my pocket both broke within two weeks.  In a period of two months I went thru all the pens.  In the old days when pens were made in France and the USA  when you bought a ballpoint pen it lasted for months or sometimes a couple of years until the ink ran out. And then they sold ink refills and so those pens could last for decades!  But today in the dollar store they don't sell any refills. And the pens they sell only last a short period of time. So I think that modern pens are a great example of planned obsolescence. 

Now how about cars? When you buy a new car it looks fantastic! In the old days you could purchase a car that would last for decades. They were built on strong steel frames and the cost to repair them was reasonable. In fact many owners did the work themselves.  But here is the problem. If a car manufacturer sells you a car and it lasts for 25 years they will only sell you a maximum of three cars in your lifetime.  But if they design a car that begins to require expensive repairs after five years and you decide to purchase a new car every five years they can sell you 15 new cars or five times the number if the car was built to last.  You might ask why our government has not stepped in and demanded that the car manufactures build a car that lasts say 25 years.  The reason is simple. Every time you purchase a new car you must pay sales tax to the government and if the car is good for five years they can collect tax from you 15 times in your driving lifetime. 

One way that car companies place a limited lifespan in their cars is to use plain steel brake lines in vehicles. If you are driving your vehicle in the rust belt that is found in Canada in the winter when millions of tons of salt are used on our roads then those brake lines may last for five or six years. The cost of the lines themselves are relatively low but the cost to install them is often 10 or 15 times or even more than the parts cost.  The frustrating fact here is that there are two slightly more expensive alternatives to plain steel brake lines. You can use a steel called cupro nickel for about $50 more or you can use stainless steel for about $100 more. And then the brake lines will last for decades even in the rust belt. 

Six years ago I purchased a Samsung III cell phone.  It has provided me with fantastic service and even the battery it came with still works fine.  But since then Samsung has upgraded their phones 4 times.  The retailer and the samsung company wish to sell me another cell phone.  But I am still happy with the one I have. It's paid for and it still works fine without any problems. There are ways of avoiding planned obsolescence.  You can continue to use older products which might appear to be older than the new products offered. But so what! They still work!  

Now lets consider China again.  The Chinese are intelligent, hard working and successful people. They have become a manufacturing super power and wealth from all over the world is now flowing to China.  They understand the concept of prices and quality. So not only do they produce higher quality items they also produce lower quality items and they will sell you an inexpensive product like a $10 new watch that might have a battery in it that will last for a year. When you go to get the battery changed at a watch shop you are told that it may cost you $20 plus tax. So you buy a new watch instead. There is nothing wrong with the watch you discard because all one needs to do is replace the battery.  We did an experiment on this in our website NorthTreasure.com where we have two pages on recycled men and women's watches.  We didn't do it to make a fortune just to do an experiment to investigate the quality of watches over the years.  And we did notice that recently in the last 3 or 4 years the quality of the watches from China have fallen significantly compared to the quality of watches made in the far east in the 80's 90's and up to about 2010 or so.  At that time they were made to last longer but today something new is happening.  Here is the story.

  

Watches have been produced for approximately 500 years. At first they were all mechanical and as we approached 1980 or so they were built to a high standard with jewels in the watch bearings where gears turned. But then we had the quartz electronic movement appear powered by internal batteries.  And by 1990 they had taken over the market and manufacturing had moved to the Far East. Today there is a new development called Smart Watches which really aren't watches at all and China has taken over that market offering them for sale at very low prices. They are actually wrist computers but are called smart watches. They do much more than just telling the time and China is shipping millions of them out to consumers. I am sure that planned obsolescence is part of this new development.  They will change the batteries and the viewers and the design every few years and you will want to upgrade your "smart phone". This is brilliant from a marketing perspective.  In the old days one could purchase perhaps five watches in their lifetimes and now in the future I see people purchasing a new smart watch every three years! So you may be purchasing  about 20 to 25 watches in your life time. 

This is a very interesting subject because it effects all of us in many ways. I have placed several books describing planned obsolesce below and suggest that you consider learning more about the topic as it will save you thousands of dollars and result in a better life style. 

 

 

 

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