I am very frustrated. My very expensive Chinese-made washing machine hasn't worked right for a long time. Now it is leaking water.
When my wife and I bought it a few years back, money was no object. We paid a small fortune for the heavy-duty washer and bought the three-year warranty contract with the expectation that it would last a long time.
After all, I grew up watching my mother use the same washing machine in our cellar for years, and don't remember it ever being replaced. I figured the more money I spent, the better the machine and the longer it would last.
Well, they don't make them like they used to. The motherboard died after a year. They replaced it, but right after the warranty period expired it started acting up again. When a repairman came to fix it, he told me customers were switching back to simpler, cheaper machines.
It's not just us. When I Googled the machine, I came up with a slew of complaints about it. There's even a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer because this machine is universally a piece of crap.
A few years back, NASA succeeded in extending the life of the Hubble Telescope another 15 years by replacing parts and incorporating new technology into the aging telescope.
The repair of the Hubble, which was launched in 1990, illustrates that America is still able to produce well-built machinery that lasts for years and can be updated to increase longevity and enhance capability and results.
Today, obsolescence built into household appliances helps drive consumer spending. It can cause purchasers to carry a heavy debt load and rely on leasing and credit cards to make purchases.
What's worse, our appliances adopt technological advances not to improve durability, but to make them more expensive to repair and maintain. Generally, the consumer is punished if he or she tries to fix one up instead of buying a new one. If I want to replace the washing machine's motherboard, it will cost me more than a new machine.
If Lockheed can with one repair, double the life of a complex space telescope, why can't manufacturers design big-ticket items that are reasonably priced and can be fixed to last a lifetime?
And if we are so concerned about our carbon footprint and saving the environment, wouldn't a policy make sense that encourages the manufacturing of appliances that last for decades and can be modified to incorporate technological advances? Such a policy would reduce overall energy consumption, save landfill space and reduce the depletion of minerals and resources.
Planned obsolescence should become itself an obsolete economic standard. Washing machines should again be built to last decades -- or at least as long as the Hubble Telescope sends back images of our universe.
This article first appeared in Florida Voices on March 29,2012.
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