I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Appliances with Built in Faults Make Me Cranky

I get cranky when I buy household appliances that have features built in to fail.

It does seem that manufacturers do this so that we must replace items in the short term, thus adding to their profits.

And to the frustration of buyers!

In my book, household appliance manufacturers could be seen as being in the same box as the banks and financiers who created the global recession. I mean this in the sense of the danger the practice poses to the globe.

I reckon this built in obsolescence of so much stuff - not just electrical appliances - must stop if we are to make any headway against climate change. The waste occurring because of this practice is extreme, and the damage to our environment beyond measure.

Imagine my Dad’s day when everyone made things to last. People had pride in their workmanship and we could count on having possessions around for years to come. We should concentrate on making today's technology last.

Now, rarely do goods work much past their warranty period, and break down in that time, if we’re lucky.

Land fills are full of them.

Surely it is possible to make things last without too much overall expense. It costs to send things to landfill. It costs to make packaging for two processors rather than one well made one. I think of the transport from one side of the world to another - twice. On and on.

We’ve become meek little lambs to the slaughter, not questioning this shoddy practice, although grumbling as we try to make ends meet. It’s unfair and it’s immoral.

The obsolescence fiend struck again this week - at my place. My food processor threw in the towel. The motor seized.

While working well enough when it was working at all, this little machine had been falling to bits almost from the day it reached my kitchen.

The discs for shredding and slicing were the first to fail. They were made of thin aluminium which was bound to buckle. And did in short time.

More recently the main blade developed stress fractures in the plastic holding the sharp steel. This quickly became worse, and the little fractures expanded to dangerous looking cracks. It looked as though the blades could fly off any time during operation of the machine.

The failure of the motor and my decision to give the machine the flick happened at almost the same time. And I hasten to say that I hadn't been trying to chop up anything solid.

I decided to beat the system and pay twice as much for a stronger machine that would last. The new one has a big strong motor and can even be used in commercial kitchens.

It cuts and slices and shreds and mixes with supreme simplicity. My new machine with its ten year guarantee of the motor will be around as long as I will!

But wait …

The day after my purchase I’m taking apart the spindle and the blades so I can wash and store them. The spindle is stuck and won’t come away with all the twisting and pulling I can muster.

Eventually I tap the top of it on the bench top, hoping it will come free.

Still no joy. I tap half a dozen times before the two bits come apart, as it should have done easily in the first place.

I'm called on to fight this battle again when I reassemble the blades for another test. I cut my finger on the blades on this attempt, and the blood flows.

I’m off to the shop today to take back my beautiful processor.

So much for beating built in obsolescence.

How do you approach this problem at your place? Do you pay more or just get the cheap stuff and replace it early?

Should society ban the manufacture of rubbish?


  1. On your last point, yes, though I doubt it will ever happen! Unless we demand a "cash for clunkers" program for appliances. Like if it fails, the manufacturer should not only replace it but pay us for the inconvenience it's caused! Yeah. RIght! Lol.

  2. That is exactly what manufacturers do June! It makes me mad as well, and we do need people to demand better! I spent $300 dollars on a vacuum (Sanitair)that I researched to make sure that it worked to be absolutely sure that it wouldn't break down in the next month after I bought it (which is what happened with every single flippin vacuum that I had bought before). I spent $500 dollars on a Vitamix blender that I researched to find out if it was the best and that was one of the best purchases that I ever made! It grinds all of my grain (I have celiacs so I use it to grind up rice into flour that I can cook with) People need to demand better and I hope eventually we will get better!

    I can tell that you are speaking from bitter experience!
    I do think that this should be part of our climate change strategy - it seems so obvious to me ...
    There should be work done at the business head to head of government level to get things rolling.

    I know it's hard to buy something expensive when you have only a dollar in your pocket. But really I think we need to start acting with the long term in mind re a lot of issues don't you?

  5. Hi June, boy are you spot on tonight. My last vacuum lasted almost 25 years, when it died I bought a new one of the same value but different brand. This was 3 months ago and already I have had it in to be fixed twice and though its still under warranty I know it will only get worse when the warranty runs out...I am unable to return it they say as they are fixing the is frustrating especially when one is on a pension, should of bought the same brand I had before, only purchased this one as it is smaller and suits the space I have in my condo, live and learn eh....:-) Hugs

  6. It's sad that we all have the same story BERNIE.

  7. They make you 'cranky' June ?? They make me crazy ! I was trying to figure out my blog today and your subject fitted right in - between me vacuum and my flippen fridge freezer going on the blink --- These were bad enough - tonight my ruddy TV lost it's picture! ARGGHH ! These electrical goods hardly last a crack now it's ridiculous...

    Hugs, Kate x.

  8. KATE
    AND it always happens at the most inconvenient time!
    Given our task with climate change it makes simple sense to me that action will be needed on this front. All that energy spent in manufacture wasted in land fills eh?

  9. June, I don't know how anyone can be a consumer and not notice how shoddy things are done anymore. It's been going on a long time, and I've been astounded for years that there's not more of a public outcry! Consumer societies that we live in... ooh, don't get me started!

    I'm at a point these days where I feel like I have to save every receipt, whether it's a tire pump (don't buy the Schwinn Airdriver 1100) or a $30 pair of clip-on shades for my bifocal lenses that I can't see without. (Disposable contacts? No way!)

    Your post and the feelings conveyed were dead on. We should start a revolution. It's infuriating.

    But yet, we're all guilty of choosing convenience over quality, right? All of us.

    My own industry (resume writing, which used to be a cottage industry driven by quality and personal attention) is being driven into obscurity by the fast-turnaround, low-quality, low-priced big businesses that have better reach and power than those of us with limited advertising budgets. (They pay young new writers pennies to produce junk.) It's not just quality consumable products that are being hammered into the ground, but also quality services provided by small businesses the world around that can't keep up with the huge corporate devils.


  10. I so agree June. In small(ish) towns there's only one place to take electronic things for repair. He's had our big flat screen TV for two weeks now and I had to drop in and ask what's happening. We bought it in January after CHOICE research etc and our Sony Bravia TV broke down(ish) with a big blue stripe down the middle. He tells me today that it's one of two things, both expensive and complicated. It's under warranty so that is okay but it was awkward and needed two of us to transport it. I believe that in the cities businesses collect such things.
    Very frustrating.
    We tend to go along the lines of 'you get what you pay for' but this time we certainly didn't! Our old non-digital Panasonic we had for years and years with no problems.

  11. ANANJI
    Your story about the resume writing struck a bell with me - a writer - of course.

    Quality doesn't count any more, and the sooner we wake up to the idiocy and waste of the situation and do something about, the better. I can see that most of my bloggy mates agree.

    I had a digital recorder under warranty at the repairers for six weeks and it didnt work when I got it back again. Another three weeks later ...

  13. In my house, the ceiling fan we bought 54 years ago is still working without a screech.

    Trust you are fine.Take care.

  14. Hi NSIYER
    My old appliances also last a lot longer than the new stuff. That says heaps doesn't it?

  15. It seems we all get what we want or what we can afford. Business comes out with new fancier features trying to win our business. If we bought their product it was in some form just what we wanted. We as consumers demand more for less and we always will. The manufacturer is just trying to respond to our desires. Go back to washing dishes by hand, sweeping instead of vacuuming, using a knife instead of machine slicing and dicing.
    I think way to much blaming is going on.

    So far as I am concerned I rarely find exactly what I want - rather it's the most suitable item I can find for the job.

    I'm certainly not wanting to go back to the past. I love technology. I just want value for money when I'm purchasing, and I don't want stuff to be tossed into landfills when items could have been made to last longer with a bit of planning and general good will.

    Surely most people would agree that using something for only a few weeks and then tossing it out is simply waste?

    Thanks for your point of view!

  17. I try to remember how our ancestors did things in the kitchen without all the fancy machines. How did they do it? I think I could live without a blender, but not without a vacuum cleaner!

  18. Hi ROBIN
    I certainly wouldn't want to be without a vacuum cleaner either.
    I also do love to have the use of a food processor. Reason: I can make a huge range of recipes cheaply that way. With a processor I can produce delicious food quickly with ingredients such as tough meat and all sorts of veggies and pulses
    It's the WASTE of appliances designed to last only for the short term that has me riled, not the technology.

  19. You have really hit a sore spot here June! I hate these new appliances that fall apart in no time. A year ago I bought all new appliances for my kitchen. New fridge, new stove and dishwasher. They are frigidaire stainless appliances. I hate them all. The oven door has come off my stove twice, the ice maker does not work correctly on the fridge and the door makes a big popping sound when you open it. Of course, this all happened after the warranty ran out. I have a 4 slice toaster that is 25 years old and works perfectly. That should tell me something. I use an old hand mixer that has been working for years, too. The older stuff is definitely better.

  20. I just had a very expensive week, having replaced both the fridge and the range which were both on the way out. Very frustrating...the range had rust, wouldn't calibrate correctly and a burner was busted. The fridge was on it's last legs as well.

    Anyway, speaking of food processors, some ladies came by and demonstrated a hand-cranked device made entirely of stainless steel called a "Saladmaster." It looked quite good, pretty sturdy. You can find them on ebay.

  21. Hi JUDY
    I'd be interested to know the skills of using an oven without a door!

  22. Hi KANANI
    I'm crossing my fingers for you with the new stuff ...

  23. I think it can depend on what you are buying.

    I have little objection to computers being built cheaply because they become obsolete so quickly. If they were built to last fewer people would buy them and our web-life wouldn't be where it is now; including our blogging lives.

    As for things like food processors, yes I tend to agree.

    I try to look at the potential longevity of what it is I'm buying. Is their a technological obsolescence to contend with?

    I would want a food processor to last so will pay for that. A computer is a different matter for me.

  24. Some kitchen appliances seem to take up more time in setting up and cleaning the blades, etc, than in actual performing, which, as you say, more often than not, fails.

    Give me my simple knife and chopping board and scraper any day.

    I think computer operating systems are sometimes made obsolete for the convenience of Microsoft, for instance. In recent times people refused to move from XP with which people were generally very happy, to Vista, which had problems.
    I think the fact that people did resist being bombarded towards a system they didn't want may put a brake on this practice - we can hope anyway.
    Do you agree?

    I'm with you on the simple chopping board and knife - the simpler the better if the method does the job for us. These days I like my processor because I have arthritic fingers as much as anything. I find that the more I use my sharp knife in recent times the more band aids I use.
    At least I avoid blood flowing with the processor!

  27. You're so right... Built-in obsolensence is very much a deliberate strategy these days. Seems so wrong that we have to pay for stuff we know will break down in about 10 years.

  28. LADYFI
    Here ten years would be good! We're lucky to have some imported stuff (especially) last even the twelve months of a warranty period.

  29. Hi June,
    Very frustrating indeed. We have laboratory analyzers that keep breaking on us since day one. Not just on the quality of the products that are very poor nowadays, either.

    My husband just ordered a set of speaker stands, specifying Cherry finish. Lo and behold, what we received was a set with Rose finish. Those were the only two choices of finishes to choose from the offering on-line. You'd think there'd be no problem for the merchandize people to process the correct order. Apparently, it was just too complicated for them!

    Anyway, I came mostly to say "Happy Birthdy" to you. I don't know exactly when in August is your birthday. If you've already had it, I hope that it was a blast. If you haven't yet, then, I hope it will be a blast. LOL.


  30. I am having this very same problem re an electric blanket. I contacted the Brand name Company, on the product, to be told it was perfectly ok. Well, 14 months later it is not ok, the whole system is a mess. The controls have ceased to function.
    Luckily, I have the reciepts, so have recieved an email advising me to return the product for a replacement.
    I cannot find proof, but I am almost sure this product was made in China. It was a ripoff from the start. so we are off to rectify things as soon as possible.

  31. You may have a point June.

    But which would be more 'green'; continually adding or upgrading a computer or replacing it? An old upgraded monster is likely to use more juice to run if nothing else.

  32. checking in--don't let those appliances get the best of you--you have the best machinery--keep on keepin on-c

    Thanks for the birthday wishes - yes - my birthday has now passed and it was very pleasant indeed, turning into a week involving relatives and friends.
    My brother came to visit from Sydney and that was special as we hadn't seen him for a while ...
    And we visited one of two remaining aunts - now in a retirement home in Brisbane. My mother's sister, she held court with my brother, sister and me for an hour and a half - even though she's not been well in recent months. Wonderful.

  34. MEGGIE
    I think that many Chinese products are not as good as they used to be ...
    We will probably need to be prepared to pay a little more to make sure that workers there are paid properly.

  35. Hi again WRITE BLOG
    I bought a computer five years ago and it's going fine. It has a big sturdy case, big enough to store new hardware when it is needed. I had to replace a hard drive and a fan or two, but really it's been pretty good and keeps up with all of my software.
    This 'monster' was built by a qualified and honest technician who works from home and he seems to have done a great job.
    Computer software is my real gripe, although most XP users throughout the world have refused to change to Vista, as I mentioned. Maybe this will make software developers think a bit ...

  36. C.M. JACKSON
    Appliances (and nothing else) will ultimately get me down! The discussion's the thing isn't it?
    Thanks for checking in.

  37. We have reached a point of cumulative indifference and the impact we make in complaints possible reflect it. I fear...and I do hate to say this....that my expectations have come to match the product!
    Good Post!~

  38. LINDA
    Crikey that's sad - but I think in most cases you're probably right. I think it is our responsibility to give appropriate feedback - otherwise nothing will change.

  39. The best feedback comes from our wallets.

    Yes, we can be lazy and buy the latest thing without much thought.

    But often there is that point where we say, 'Hang on there, do I really need this?'

    The issue with Vista illustrates that I think.

  40. I'd be happy to go along with that WRITE BLOG!

  41. I love your blog. This conversation has been most interesting. I, too, find many of the new appliances are not made well. I bought a waffle iron, used it once and it would not work the second time. I returned it with no problem. I think they had many returns as they weren't surprised and readily sent me another.

  42. Interesting post June. I truly try and do without. I just do not use too many electrical appliances anymore.If I do I no longer buy expensive ones anyway. Manufactureres design them so that we need to replace the whole machine not just a part. I had to return my laptop after a year after the manufacturere tried to replace the system board 4 times. I refused to get a new one and they couldnt understand this at all. I think I might like to live on an island without mod cons. Seriously.

  43. Hi LILLY
    With your attitude it does look as though the manufacturers of shoddy goods and everyone else involved are doing themselves lots of harm.
    Well done my girl!

  44. Hi GLENDA
    It's amazing how often I seem to need to take time to return something to a shop. Today it was a battery recharger - purchased hopefully to help with recycling batteries. This time it was the charger itself that went bad - luckily within the twelve months warranty period.

    I see that you are a writer - I wonder if you've had a peek at Journeys in Creative Writing, my blog of short stories and my full length Australian mystery novel 'Paternity'? I'd love any feedback that occurs to you ...

  45. June, I know it isn't funny / wasn't funny, but I think the relating to your story is the comedy. We buy the best we can afford nowadays - especially when you live out of town, because to add a repairs trip to the already full list of errands to run is a hassle. And that's another thing - you can't take the product back to the place of purchase. You have to go to a 'repair specialist' - somewhere in the outer suburbs. There's no follow up, after sales service anywhere and no committment to quality. I learn a lot of this phenomena from the Machinist who even deals with - faulty sheets of steel. Can you believe it? Steel?
    Anyway, enough of the rambling. I love your blog and the way you write - but that's probably the extention of who you are.

    Why I am not surprised that your beloved is frustrated because of the quality of the steel he uses?
    So you live in Oz now? I do hope the enterprises go well ...

  47. The worst is spending a couple thousand on a refrigerator with one of those built in water and ice makers, that's leaking all over the kitchen floor.

  48. Hi Angie - welcome!
    Your refrigerator experience sure rubs in the futility of consumerism, I reckon.


Thanks for your comment. It's good to know who's taking a peek! I will certainly reply to your message.
Maybe you'll also be interested in my other blog