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The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

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The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by Shirina on Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:50 pm

Back when I had a lot more money than I do now, I bought a Sony 400 disc DVD changer. I loved that thing because I could stick the majority of DVDs that I own into that machine. It meant I didn't have to buy bookshelves to hold all of the DVD cases and I could select which DVD to play with a touch of my finger. No more hunting through 300+ movies trying to find the one I wanted or wading through a stack of documentaries trying to find a specific disc stored in a "cake box" spindle. When my disability hit, the machine was even better because I didn't have to get up to change movies - and on many days, getting up really IS a big deal.

Well, I managed to get just a little under two years of use out of it before the thing broke. It just wouldn't read the discs anymore. So I took it to a repair shop thinking it would be cheaper to fix than to replace - only to find out its unfixable because they don't make the necessary parts for it any longer. That really pisses me off. It pisses me off because I know exactly WHY those parts aren't made.

I cannot STAND the sleazy tactics corporations use to keep you running back to the store to buy replacement units. A durable good is supposed to last 7+ years - my DVD player lasted about 20 months. I paid over $400 for it, and I'm not made of money. When I invest in anything expensive, I expect it to last. The corporations don't however, and won't even offer warrantees anymore. Now you have to pay extra for a warrantee, and everyone knows that warrantees are deliberately engineered to expire around the time the product is expected to break. I say "expected" to break because the manufacturers know precisely what the average ilfespan of their products happens to be.

But why would a manufacturer discontinue making replacement parts? Well, for one thing, when you pay a repairman to fix a product, the manufacturer doesn't make a profit. Instead of you running to the store to buy a new unit, you're paying a repairman instead, and the manufacturer doesn't want that. So they use this bullshit marketing tactic that involves, essentially, reinventing the wheel every year or so. They'll come out with a "new and improved" model that uses slightly different parts than the previous model. More often than not, the difference between the parts isn't technological - it isn't a "better" part. The difference is in the engineering. In other words, the newer part has a slightly different shape or a different plug or jack from the older part. That way, you can't swap parts from one model to the next. The functionality or quality of the part isn't any different, but the way it fits into the unit is what they've changed. The result is the ability to discontinue specific parts and specific units which forces the consumer to buy a brand new unit for the full market value (including all of the mark-ups). Instead of paying $150 or so to get a $450 unit fixed, I have to go to the store and buy a brand new one for the full $450. And why would I even WANT to buy another one knowing that the first one only lasted just under two years? It's not worth it.

But wait, there's more! The repairman told me that, even if the parts had been available, individually, the parts were more expensive than a brand new unit! WTF? How is that even possible? Why should three parts be worth more than the entire unit? By that logic, the DVD player should have cost around $900 or more. It stands to reason then that the manufacturer would put a HUGE mark-up on individual parts to dissuade anyone from getting the unit repaired. If the parts were sold at the price of their actual worth, the manufacturer would only make a small pittance from part sales. No, again, what they REALLY want you to do is go buy a brand new unit.

I'm pretty well fed up with the disposable society - where landfills are bursting with discarded cell phones because these morons at Apple, Nokia, and others keep coming out with a "new" version of the same product every six months! And yet people keep falling for this act of highway robbery. Obviously, a manufacturer of, say, washing machines do NOT want you buying one washing machine and having it last for decades. Where's the money it that? Not when you can manufacture a shoddy product, have it break in 5 years (with discontinued or heavily marked-up replacement parts) so the consumer has to keep buying the same product over and over and over and over again.

I'm tired of this transparent tactic, one of the BIG reasons why capitalism disgusts me. It glorifies greed and profit over integrity and ethics.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:16 pm

Vance Packard is the go-to author, who first ventilated this question more than fifty years ago.

1957 The Hidden Persuaders - on the advertising industry - the first of a popular series of books on sociology topics (ISBN 0-671-53149-2)
1959 The Status Seekers - describing American social stratification and behavior
1960 The Waste Makers - criticizes planned obsolescence describing the impact of American productivity, especially on the national character
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by boatlady on Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:06 pm

I guess part of the reason manufacturers might give is that, by the time your (admittedly shoddily made) item breaks down, the technology is there to make something much more advanced with superior functionality, so it isn't economically viable to supply spare parts for an obsolete item.
Still, what do I know - I still have a cassette player and VCR in regular use
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:29 pm

Tick the list of things you've still got:

A typewriter
A turntable that rotates at 78 rpm (for shellac discs)
The above-mentioned cake-box spindle auto-changer
A transportable Dansette record-player
12-inch MONO LPs
Reel-to-reel audio Tape Recorder
A Cassette player or Walkman
A CD player that ONLY plays CDs
A black-and-white Television
Video-Disc Player
A betamax or VHS Video recorder
An analogue TV Recording machine or analogue Sky receiver
A digital set-top box with your analogue fat television

and/or

A car you could service with a screwdriver and some spanners
Manual gearbox
Carburettor
Coil and Distributor
Actual spare-parts, not a "Module"

Feel free to modify the list



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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by skwalker1964 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:34 pm

oftenwrong wrote:Tick the list of things you've still got:

A typewriter
A turntable that rotates at 78 rpm (for shellac discs)
The above-mentioned cake-box spindle auto-changer
A transportable Dansette record-player
12-inch MONO LPs
Reel-to-reel audio Tape Recorder
A Cassette player or Walkman
A CD player that ONLY plays CDs
A black-and-white Television
Video-Disc Player
A betamax or VHS Video recorder
An analogue TV Recording machine or analogue Sky receiver
A digital set-top box with your analogue fat television

and/or

A car you could service with a screwdriver and some spanners
Manual gearbox
Carburettor
Coil and Distributor
Actual spare-parts, not a "Module"

Feel free to modify the list


None of the above. In my defence, though I was well advanced in years before I owned a car with modern engine construction, didn't have central heating or a phone of any type until after I was married, didn't have a mobile until 2001 and got my first ever personal mobile last week (previous ones were work-supplied).

But I must confess I love technology.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:59 pm

When I was growing up we had none of the items listed - no car , no washing machine, no record player, tape-recorder, no TV - not very much at all, in fact, although most people we knew seemed to be able to afford them.

Yet, it was a great childhood and I had fantastic parents who taught me that none of those things mattered- obsolescence certainly wasn't a problem!

Now I have everything that anyone could reasonably want and I still feel they are really luxuries - and not an entitlement. I do feel a bit sorry for my kids, however, who have no idea of the pleasure of acquiring items which at one time simply could not be afforded...
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by skwalker1964 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:48 pm

Yes! At the risk of getting into Monty Python 'when I were a lad' mode, when I were a lad my mother still had a poss-tub (!) and then a very old fashioned top-loaded washer. I can still remember the massive excitement when my dad brought home our first colour telly, and I was the first in my family to drive let alone own a car, so the only time we left town was once a year.

I was reminiscing with a mate yesterday about growing up in a poor town-centre area. Every Saturday my mother would give me a quid. I'd go swimming with my mates, then to the 'ABC Minors' Saturday cinema club, buy my favourite DC or Marvel comic and fish and chips to eat on the way home. And to me, that was the high life. I suspect that for all the complex pleasures available now, kids are deprived of simple ones like that kind of a Saturday morning, eagerly anticipated all week because there was so little else.

Oh, and when I got home I'd give my mother the change. Crazy... lol
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by Phil Hornby on Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:41 pm

We shall shortly have ow on to tell us how he had to eat broken glass sandwiches on those two days each week when tea was actually provided for him... Very Happy
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:19 pm

Broken glass? We'd have given anything to have broken glass sandwiches TWICE a week!

Tha knows.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by Shirina on Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:10 pm

the technology is there to make something much more advanced with superior functionality

That's true during the initial years of product release, but DVD players have been around for a long time. "New" DVD player design is mostly about moving the buttons around or making it look cosmetically different. The technology isn't really improving.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by Shirina on Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:11 pm

The above-mentioned cake-box spindle auto-changer

There's nothing obsolete about it, and certainly not to the extent of a 78 rpm record player or a Sony Walkman.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:13 pm

Obsolescent?
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by bobby on Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:24 pm

Years ago in Fords of DagenhamA line foreman did a feasibility study on rust proofing their cars whilst on the production line, he apparently spent ages on it in his own time, the idea was to make loads of money out of the Fords suggestion scheme, when he finished his report he put into, it was a very good plan and was even priced at less than £1.00 per car.
After quite some time, he was contacted by the management and congratulated on a very good report, but Fords could not take it on.
The reason given was that for each ten cars built they also produced the spares necessary to keep those cars on the road for a given time, and if they rust proofed them in production, they would loose thousands on the sale of the body panels they would sell due to a rusting car.
Built in obsolescence is I’m afraid not a new thing, and I fear it will not go away any time soon.
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

Post by boatlady on Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:22 pm

Sorry Shirina - maybe I've given a typical non-techie response to a serious point - seems your point may have been taken over by the 'silly squad'
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Re: The disgusting practice of Planned Obsolescence

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