Planned obsolescence and mass consumerism

My that’s a title to get a discussion going isn’t it!

I first heard about Planned Obsolescence a couple of years ago watching a BBC series.  The first real items with planned obsolescence were lightbulbs, made by a German company in the 1920s – where the lightbulbs would last for a certain number of uses, therefore requiring new lightbulbs to be purchased.

Swing forward nearly 100 years and everything seems built to run out, die, be replaced, i.e. become obsolescent.  Except these items are filling up our landfills.  An example is my little Canon printer – it’s cheaper to buy a new printer than the ink refills.  But I don’t like the idea of landfills full of perfectly fine printers, so I spend the money on the refills.  And I do the reusable ink cartridges too.

Canny marketers have hooked onto this planned obsolescence and now market to us too – we must have the latest version of “x” because the old one doesn’t do this, this and this.  But hang on, why did we buy the old one in the first place?  I admire those still using their nokia “dumb” phones.  They bought them to use as a phone, and as a phone they still work perfectly.  My brother finally bought a “smart” phone late last year, and really only uses it as a phone.  He can’t be bothered with social media, internet etc.  He uses a pre-pay plan and minimal data.  He’s also quite happy!

I dabble in minimalism.  I have a small place (which I sometimes think is too big, but that’s when I’m in the garden faced with a mass of weeds!).  There isn’t room for too much junk in my place, but the spare room tends to get the overflow.  Let’s just say at the moment I couldn’t rent out the spare room if I needed to, as the wardrobe is full of “stuff”.  It’s a work in progress.  However I do have a one-in, one-out rule, particularly with clothes, shoes etc and have downsized my wardrobe considerably.  Creep occurs so every six months or so I’ll have another clear out.  It’s so easy to see what’s been worn and what hasn’t when I do this, particularly now that I do have a smaller wardrobe.

But back to the title.  What prompted this?  Well I feel mighty proud of defying planned obsolescence… or perhaps it was because I bought quality – for a cheap price.  In 2002, when I went back to Ireland to live for a second time, I didn’t take a hair dryer.  I bought one as soon as I had sorted somewhere to live, and I bought it from Boots, the chemist chain.  It was rather flash in a way, it was a “salon style” drier and it was a Nicky Clarke drier – hairdresser to Diana, Princess of Wales.  Yeh, I know that was just marketing dross.  But I purchased that one over the others at Boots, at quite a good price really.  I can’t remember exactly, but I don’t think I spent more than E29.  It was certainly not salon prices.  It was just a better, cheap drier.  Fast forward to November 2016 and I have finally, yes finally, ditched the Nicky Clarke hair drier.  Not because it wouldn’t go, but because I knew it was going to catch fire in the next few weeks – the filter end had broken completely and everytime I used it I could smell burning – dust mainly, but it was only a matter of time before I had a fire in my hands and potentially on my head.  So with a sad but also victorious heart, I put it out to the pile to take to the electronics recycle unit.  Sad, cos it was a blimmin good hair dryer, victorious because it had lasted 14+ years!  My hairdresser was astounded when I told her how old it was.  So it may have been cheap, but I got a very good life out of it, and economically it was the cheapest hair drier over 14 years one could own.  To buy a Salon drier is $299 minimum, and I might do that sometime in the future, but instead this time I  bought a a pretty good hairdryer at a local appliance retailer’s weekend sale.

You may note in the picture below of the now obsolescent drier, an adaptor plug.  I could have changed the plug to a NZ one, as I do know how to do that, but I figured I would only have it for a few months and it was easier to just buy the plug than re-wire it.  (Also light appliances don’t seem to last after re-wiring … though that could just be my lack of expertise!).  Haha! Is all I can say to that.  That adaptor plug has also lasted 14 years.  Although due to minimalism rules (not keeping crap that doesn’t have a use), it has also gone out.

What have you used/had that has outdone it’s time, lasted for extra value or you just refuse to let go?


2 responses to “Planned obsolescence and mass consumerism

  1. I love this story! That is an incredibly amount of time to have an electrical product last. And interesting too that it is possible to buy quality without having the highest price tag on the market.

    The printers are the worst, I think. We ditched a perfectly workable printer in our last move simply because the price of the ink (every few months) was now higher than the original price of the printer itself.

    I have a few things that have lasted and lasted. Just now, I folded away a bed quilt that has just been washed. I have had it since I was about 16 years old…which makes it 30 years old now! My child now has it on his bed as an extra cover in winter. But I don’t have any electrical products that have lasted the distance, sadly.

    • I have a few things like clothes that I’ve had for about ten years, and I’ve got my bedroom stereo which is also around 15 years old – it still plays tapes and CDs! But there aren’t many things we keep in this throw away world.
      I’m diligently trying to reduce food waste and reduce plastic… but that’s harder than you think too.

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