Monday, November 16, 2009

This appliance will self-destruct in 3 ...2 ...

We've been having clothes dryer issues lately, which may or may not be attributable to a rodent of some sort making a home in our crawlspace. The dryer's misbehavior coincided with the discovery of the varmint break-in, thereby leading us to believe that the two were connected. About the time that the mystery critter started living under the house, the dryer stopped venting to the outside, and began making a weird high-pitched whine. One friend suggested that our dryer hose might have been obstructed by a nest or a stash of winter walnuts, so we took things apart and checked them out. Even after thoroughly cleaning and re-sealing the dryer vent hose, the dryer is still producing the weird noise, but seems to be drying clothes well enough. So I'm debating on calling out the dryer repair man to see what's what, and I am positively dreading it.

If you have needed a service call for an appliance lately, you'll be familiar with all of the little joys that accompany it - the vague appointment time, the minimum service charge, and often in my experience, the cranky attitude. Am I the only one who feels like I pay $90+ to have an insolent little old man come into my home and shame me for the way I treat my appliances? As if that weren't irritating enough, add to that the fact that with increasing frequency, any given appliance can be deemed unfixable by virtue of - a) the complexity of accessing the problem area b) the impossibility of obtaining a now-obsolete part c) the cost of repair being the same as or greater than the cost of replacing the appliance altogether.

This "problem" is actually a well-designed scheme called Planned Obsolescence that exists to encourage our consumption of the "latest and greatest" that the world of technology has to offer, and trading heaps of money for heaps of trash. It is so commonplace that even the most steadfastly Granola among us is likely to question the wisdom of fixing a however-many-years-old clothes dryer for $300 or buying a spanking-new energy efficient one for four hundred.

But what happens to the old one? Why is that one little cog so complicated and expensive that it is worth everyones while to junk a hundred-plus pounds of metal and plastic in favor of another that will also, inevitably fail? We covet shiny new things, and the manufacturers and marketers of the world have seized upon that by designing products with an inborn propensity for failure. They don't want you to repair your microwave, they want you to toss it out and upgrade. Have you ever even heard of anyone repairing a microwave?

This is just another area where our culture has given in to our lazier nature and taken the path of least resistance, and we need to stop it, NOW. Next time you're faced with repairing or replacing an appliance or anything else, take just a few seconds to think about the process that your choice sets in motion and the consequences of it.

Ok - I'll get down off of the soapbox now and back away slowly... for now.

For more info and opinions on the evils of planned obsolescence -

The New York Times, December 10, 2008

These Days in French Life - A wonderful blog - one of my very favorites! (Update - Unfortunately Rianna has decided to no longer publish her blog publicly.)

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