Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Mar 2017 23:42 UTC
In the News

Now refrigerators last 8-10 years, if you are fortunate. How in the world have our appliances regressed so much in the past few decades? I've bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950s that still work perfectly fine. I've come across washers and dryers from the 1960s and 1970s that were still working like the day they were made. Now, many appliances break and need servicing within 2-3 years and, overall, new appliances last 1/3 to 1/4 as long as appliances built decades ago. They break more frequently, and sooner, than ever before. They rust and deteriorate much quicker than in the past. Why is this happening, and what's really going on? I've been wrestling over these questions for years while selling thousands of appliances, and more recently, working with used appliance sellers and repair techs all across the country. The following is what I've discovered.

This is something we've all instinctively known, but Ryan Finlay goes into detail as to what, exactly, are the causes. The article's from 2015, but I stumbled on it today on Twitter, and I thought it was a great, informative read.

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Berend de Boer
Member since:
2005-10-19

This article should have a note that it was written by someone who started a new business, supposedly selling better (or repaired) appliances. This business is no longer around, and perhaps the same guy is now selling a course on how to start such a business.

Reply Score: 4

ryanfinlay Member since:
2017-03-24

Author here. Is there something in the post that you found untrue? My co-founder and I started and ran ApplianceSwap in an attempt to increase access and accountability to the used appliance industry. Currently there is no used appliance marketplace where people can actually purchase the appliances online. There is also no central review system for consumers to be able to observe when choosing a seller to buy from. We were working on changing that. We have since paused the startup.

As far as the training goes, I started ApplianceSchool.com to create a highly affordable way for people to learn the basics of the used appliance industry.

I'm not sure that these associations mean that my post should be suspect rather than an indicator that I've been entrenched in the industry for the past 6 years and know intimately the problems that need to be solved.

-Ryan

Reply Score: 1

Comment by joekiser
by joekiser on Tue 21st Mar 2017 00:33 UTC
joekiser
Member since:
2005-06-30

1) This is why we must fight to pass right to repair legislation.
2) reddit.com/r/buyitforlife

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by joekiser
by shotsman on Tue 21st Mar 2017 06:40 UTC in reply to "Comment by joekiser"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

I bought a Washer/Dryer around 1980. I could replace the brushes in the motor every couple of years and until the circuit board became impossible to repair (around 2003) because one Transistor was no longer available and none of the so called replacements worked (most of them burnt out in a few cycles) it was great.
We bought a new machine and it was fine for 6 years. Then a bearing in the drum went. The cost of the repair was several hundred pounds more than a new machine. It had been designed to make repairs impossible. both machines were made by the same company. (Sounds familiar)

The same goes for my motorcycles. I can get parts for my 1963 Bonnieville easier than I can for my 2015 Fireblade. Ironically, the Fireblade has had more go wrong with it than I have had go wrong with the Triumph in the last 15 years.

'Things' get more complicated and harder to maintain. Or so the manufacturer would try to make out. I've just sold the Fireblade and bought an Enfield 'Bullet'.
I can maintain it myself and it is more fun to ride.

Planned obsolecence can work both ways and it is up to us to make it work for us.
As an aside,
Up at the Bletchley Park Computer Museum (www.tnmoc.org) they delight in making old computers work again. They have lots of working BBC Micro's. Well worth a visit and any funds would help them a lot as they get no Government Support.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Comment by joekiser
by Carewolf on Tue 21st Mar 2017 09:06 UTC in reply to "Comment by joekiser"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

Maybe. But I was shocked that the article did not mention any of the biggest brand names of appliances in Europe. The once that have brand name loyalty for quality and lasting a long time. Maybe the US just needs to buy better stuff?

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by joekiser
by karunko on Tue 21st Mar 2017 14:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by joekiser"
karunko Member since:
2008-10-28

Maybe. But I was shocked that the article did not mention any of the biggest brand names of appliances in Europe. The once that have brand name loyalty for quality and lasting a long time. Maybe the US just needs to buy better stuff?

Nothing new I'm afraid. In 1979 Frank Zappa was already singing:

"All that we've got here is American made,
it's a little bit cheesy but it's nicely displayed.

We don't get excited when it crumbles and breaks,
we just get on the phone and call up some flakes.

They rush on over and wreak it some more,
and we are so dumb they're lining up at out door."


https://open.spotify.com/track/7yi2Vzc2Oa2Stgy9a8y51f

But, to stay on topic (and for the sake of playing the devil's advocate just a little): how can I stay in business if I sell you something and it's going to be good for 30 years or more? Okay, I could start expanding to new markets but once everyone has got one? What's next?


RT.

Edited 2017-03-21 14:20 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: Comment by joekiser
by Alfman on Tue 21st Mar 2017 15:02 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by joekiser"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

karunko,

But, to stay on topic (and for the sake of playing the devil's advocate just a little): how can I stay in business if I sell you something and it's going to be good for 30 years or more? Okay, I could start expanding to new markets but once everyone has got one? What's next?


+1
That right there is the issue. Making products that last is not profitable. It really sucks that manufacturers interests are so misaligned with consumer interests with regards to durability.

These kinds of topics make me question capitalism itself. To what end should we as society accept economic models that promote waste for the sake of profits? The incentives get very twisted in the energy industry. Everyone deserves to make a living, and so you don't want people to go unemployed just because products last too long or are too efficient, and yet that's exactly what happens under capitalism. The results is anti-incentives for progress. I wish we had a better model for encouraging progress while not disparaging those employees who still need to support their families.

Edited 2017-03-21 15:06 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by joekiser
by JLF65 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 15:49 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by joekiser"
JLF65 Member since:
2005-07-06

Making a product that lasts IS a growth market... if the market itself is growing. Companies USED to make products that lasted back when the country was growing. As a country ages, that growth slows (and reverses in extreme cases), making it unprofitable to make products that last.

There are segments of the population that are still growing, but they're the poor segment who can't afford a quality product that lasts, so the growth doesn't help.

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: Comment by joekiser
by Alfman on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 02:36 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by joekiser"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

JLF65,

Making a product that lasts IS a growth market... if the market itself is growing. Companies USED to make products that lasted back when the country was growing. As a country ages, that growth slows (and reverses in extreme cases), making it unprofitable to make products that last.


Yes, it's another way of describing the same economic situation: in mature market there's very little new growth (and maybe even negative like you say), so the main way to get customers again is for those existing products to break.

The result in wacky capitalistic incentives where it might even make financial sense for a company to spend R&D money on making products less durable while still trying to be appealing for customer by hiding the changes. This is what planned obsolescence is all about.


There are segments of the population that are still growing, but they're the poor segment who can't afford a quality product that lasts, so the growth doesn't help.


Maybe to a degree, but people have always been poor. I think this paper perfectly explains what's going on:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons
"The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism" is a 1970 paper, by the economist George Akerlof which examines how the quality of goods traded in a market can degrade in the presence of information asymmetry between buyers and sellers, leaving only "lemons" behind. A lemon is an American slang term for a car that is found to be defective only after it has been bought.

Suppose buyers can't distinguish between a high-quality car (a "peach") and a "lemon". Then they are only willing to pay a fixed price for a car that averages the value of a "peach" and "lemon" together (pavg). But sellers know whether they hold a peach or a lemon. Given the fixed price at which buyers will buy, sellers will sell only when they hold "lemons" (since plemon < pavg) and they will leave the market when they hold "peach" (since ppeach > pavg). Eventually, as enough sellers of "peach" leave the market, the average willingness-to-pay of buyers will decrease (since the average quality of cars on the market decreased), leading to even more sellers of high-quality cars to leave the market through a positive feedback loop.


While The Market for Lemons makes its case using used cars, I think the principals apply to any market where the consumer is uninformed about manufacturing problems. After all, if people knew about all the defects, they'd suddenly have a very compelling reason to look at more expensive options.

Edited 2017-03-22 02:47 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by joekiser
by Brendan on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 01:49 UTC in reply to "Comment by joekiser"
Brendan Member since:
2005-11-16

Hi,

1) This is why we must fight to pass right to repair legislation.
2) reddit.com/r/buyitforlife


"Right to repair" helps cure symptoms, but does nothing to prevent the root cause.

What we (consumers) need is advertising laws that force manufacturers to display "mean time between failure" (measured by a neutral third-party) on all appliances; so that when you're choosing an appliance to buy you have some hope of being able to take longevity into account.

The other thing we need is standardised parts where practical (similar to "PC" where you can replace/upgrade a hard drive or power supply or network card or .... with any off-the-shelf equivalent part from any manufacturer). This would stop the current practice of "designed to fail" and stop manufacturer from charging over-inflated prices for "pointlessly non-standard" replacement parts to encourage disposal and new sales.

- Brendan

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by joekiser
by joekiser on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 12:30 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by joekiser"
joekiser Member since:
2005-06-30

I think part of the problem is that currently there is opportunity for monopoly on who can repair. When a company is responsible for selling new products AND repairing older models, there is a conflict of interest where selling a new product takes precedence.

Opening it up for anybody to repair a device would allow consumers to purchase products with longevity in mind.

Or something like that.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by joekiser
by Trenien on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 15:50 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by joekiser"
Trenien Member since:
2007-10-11

There is another (partial) solution: increase the legal warranty period. If you make it 10 years, most of those goods will last at least that long (and quite a bit longer since I imagine it would much more difficult to plan quick obsolescence with such a time span)

Reply Score: 1

what about paying extra?
by feamatar on Tue 21st Mar 2017 00:55 UTC
feamatar
Member since:
2014-02-25

I wonder between the correlation of prices and longevity. Back then it was big investment so it had to last, nowadays many appliances cost a lot less, I suppose if you pay the extra, or even, you can buy extra guarantee, you are good to go.

The problem is, people won't pay twice more for something to last 3 times as long, for the simple reason that we expect things to improve over time. And to be honest my parent's old fridge that they had when I was a child it was cool to see the improvements generation over generation. The same for washing machines, though I am not saying there were huge leaps generation over generation, the ones we used in the 90s were absolutely terrible compared to the latest ones(even if there was the whirlpool sixth sense, which we considered whirlpool nonsense, because it was confused by the humidity in the bath which functioned as a washing kitchen)

Writing all this, I started to remember, and actually I am happy that most things from the 80s and 90s didn't last ;)

Reply Score: 4

RE: what about paying extra?
by Earl C Pottinger on Tue 21st Mar 2017 01:37 UTC in reply to "what about paying extra?"
Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

Sorry, in my experience people are just cheap!

I used to repair printers, I knew which ones broke down and which ones were workhorses. I also knew which were designed to be easy to repair and which were a pain and expensive to repair.

But time and time again I would be ask what is the best printer for a particular job, yet time after time the people would buy the cheaper poorly designed piece of junk because they were cheaper ... then a few months after buying the junk they would try to come back and try blame me for them buying a machine that has already broken down.

I have seen businesses almost fail because of cheap hardware, but still people buy the stuff.

Edited 2017-03-21 01:40 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: what about paying extra?
by Alfman on Tue 21st Mar 2017 06:18 UTC in reply to "RE: what about paying extra?"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Earl C Pottinger,

Sorry, in my experience people are just cheap!

I used to repair printers, I knew which ones broke down and which ones were workhorses. I also knew which were designed to be easy to repair and which were a pain and expensive to repair.

But time and time again I would be ask what is the best printer for a particular job, yet time after time the people would buy the cheaper poorly designed piece of junk because they were cheaper ... then a few months after buying the junk they would try to come back and try blame me for them buying a machine that has already broken down.

I have seen businesses almost fail because of cheap hardware, but still people buy the stuff.


Part of the problem is that users aren't privy to this information... The reason people don't pay more for a better product is that it's so difficult to actually identify the better products. Consumers, and I include myself here, don't really have much information to intelligently determine whether a product is likely to last longer.

It's complicated by the fact that high prices doesn't really mean much and sometimes premium brands are manufactured at the same factories with the same parts as others and you are literally paying for the name.

Theoretically if buyers were somehow entitled to know the return stats before making a purchase, then all of a sudden longer lasting products would have a real market value, and suddenly manufacturers would be competing on lifetime. But as it stands manufacturers keep their return rates a secret and when we remain uninformed there's no incentive to make products last.

Reply Score: 5

Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

You don't get it.

I would tell the customer what was wrong with the cheap stuff, even showing the parts that would wear out and why.

I would point out the good features in the better hardware and/or how it was easier or faster to repair.

And still people would buy the cheaper hardware.


I remember the briefcase sized Panasonic laser printer that was made for student work loads.

THE MANUAL FROM THE MANUFACTURER LISTED THE DUTY CYCLES.

Did you read what I wrote? The manufacturer themselves listed the limits of the printer and still people would buy this cheap printer and then put it in an office where it failed when people tried to print out a couple thousands sheets of paper!

People are cheap even when force-feed the facts.

Edited 2017-03-23 03:12 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: what about paying extra?
by Alfman on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 06:15 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: what about paying extra?"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Earl C Pottinger,

I remember the briefcase sized Panasonic laser printer that was made for student work loads.

THE MANUAL FROM THE MANUFACTURER LISTED THE DUTY CYCLES.

Did you read what I wrote? The manufacturer themselves listed the limits of the printer and still people would buy this cheap printer and then put it in an office where it failed when people tried to print out a couple thousands sheets of paper!

People are cheap even when force-feed the facts.


Not to second guess you here, I honestly don't see this kind of information for typical consumer products at any of the vendors I browse (ebay, amazon, newegg, etc).

I bought this printer not long ago, even looking in the manual, I'm struggling to find any relevant information. Can you find it?

http://support.hp.com/us-en/product/hp-laserjet-pro-m201-series/677...

I assure you that without a shadow of a doubt that I would factor it into my purchasing decisions - if this information were published and easily comparable at the time of purchase.

Even if only 1 in 10 of us used that information, so what? We should not take issue with people who knowingly buy a product with low durability, that's their right and it's great to have that choice. However for me personally, I've bought enough bad products to know that I don't want more bad products. My problem is that even in hindsight there was no way to know the products would be bad. I use product reviews as best I can, but honestly it's not a great substitute for hard data.

So I reiterate, despite what you've said, the hard data would create a market for more durable goods among people like me who actually do care about durability and are encouraged to pay more for durable products. A secondary benefit would be that some manufacturers would be publicly "shamed" into improving their durability. I'll concede to you right now that we may not be in the majority, but who cares? I just want the information to be easily available at the time of sale so that we can make an informed decision.

Edited 2017-03-23 06:19 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: what about paying extra?
by Lonney on Sat 25th Mar 2017 23:24 UTC in reply to "what about paying extra?"
Lonney Member since:
2013-12-12

Pretty much hit the nail on the head.

When televisions were first available they cost something like 6 months income? Today if a new TV cost $40,000 you'd damn well expect it to last 20 years!

Better off to have far cheaper appliances that are replaced and recycled every few years so you can take advantage of new technology and efficiencies?

First thing we did when we bought our house was get a new fridge, dishwasher, stove/oven, and washing machine to replace the clapped out old crap left in the house. My argument is is better for the environment to recycle that old junk and buy new efficient stuff.

Next the water heater started leaking, replaced it with a hybrid heatpump/electric unit, uses 70% to 80% less electricity.

Next, replaced the original forced air electric furnace with a 3 ton heatpump. Energy costs are way way down overall now.

Reply Score: 1

and for computers
by feamatar on Tue 21st Mar 2017 01:06 UTC
feamatar
Member since:
2014-02-25

Once when I was a kid I read somewhere that computers and especially transistors last forever. Yet, it is said to see how equipment fails over time. That by now computers made in the 1980s reached the time that not just batteries, but capacitors start to fail, and old technology, that looks to be in good condition is on the verge of death. And part of it goes not to planned obsolescence but cheap prices. Many Ataris and Commodore computers for example used the cheapest parts to remain competitive, and now have shorter life span than an IBM PC. But even then, microchips can fail over time for a variety reasons and voltages ;)

Isn't it sad that this great industry was never meant to last?

Reply Score: 1

RE: and for computers
by Earl C Pottinger on Tue 21st Mar 2017 01:43 UTC in reply to "and for computers"
Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

Really? I have a C64 that still works, I had a Commodore monitor that I had hooked to a VCR and has been working for decades.

Note: Those were the Japanese made ones, I believe the later models were not as well made.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: and for computers
by leech on Tue 21st Mar 2017 02:05 UTC in reply to "RE: and for computers"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

Out of all my old computer systems, so far the only one I've replaced caps on is the A4000, but I probably will need to replace the ones on my 1040STe as well. But so far I've tested my 8bit Atari computers and they're all fine; XEGS, 800XL, 800, and 130XE.

Reply Score: 3

RE: and for computers
by zzarko on Tue 21st Mar 2017 18:35 UTC in reply to "and for computers"
zzarko Member since:
2011-01-09

A non-profit I am involved with has in its possession around 200 home computers form 80's (Sinclair, Atari, Commodore, Amstrad and the like, not PCs) and most of them work just fine. Yes, there have been repairs, capacitors and RAM chips mostly, but they just work, something I can't say for my home PC which has a component failure about every 6-8 months (and I'm not buying cheap ones). My C64 bought in 1986, that has seen countless work/game hours (often turned on for days when I was doing programming on it), is still in top working condition.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: and for computers
by IndigoJo on Tue 21st Mar 2017 21:08 UTC in reply to "RE: and for computers"
IndigoJo Member since:
2005-07-06

We had two Spectrums in the 1980s, a rubber-key 48K and a 48K Spectrum+. I think we stopped using the + when we got our PC1640 in 1989 or so, but the first one lasted only four years or so before it had to be replaced; it would crash constantly, on one occasion just because a tape rewind hit the end. Were we just unlucky, or were C64's that much better built?

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: and for computers
by feamatar on Fri 24th Mar 2017 10:36 UTC in reply to "RE: and for computers"
feamatar Member since:
2014-02-25

Your mileage may vary, but If you have a component failure every 6-8 months, I would look for a surge protector, or I would really change my PSU.

Edited 2017-03-24 10:36 UTC

Reply Score: 1

motly nonsense
by unclefester on Tue 21st Mar 2017 03:36 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

Fifty years ago most appliances were 1-2 orders of magnitude more expensive than now in real terms. Wages were also far lower in real terms (except in the USA). So the cost of service and repairs was trivial compared to the huge initial purchase price.

Old refrigerators are criminally inefficient. It is far better for your pocket and the environment to send a 50 year old fridge to recycling and buy a new model.

My sister has an LG top loader washing machine. It looks and works like brand new after four years. She used to buy Australian made Whirlpool machines which which were total crap even 20 years ago.

Reply Score: 4

RE: motly nonsense
by Brendan on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 03:12 UTC in reply to "motly nonsense"
Brendan Member since:
2005-11-16

Hi,

Fifty years ago most appliances were 1-2 orders of magnitude more expensive than now in real terms. Wages were also far lower in real terms (except in the USA). So the cost of service and repairs was trivial compared to the huge initial purchase price.


Fifty years ago most appliances were 1-2 orders of magnitude more expensive than now because there was significantly more manual labour involved. We could produce exactly the same appliances now for significantly less than we could then.

Old refrigerators are criminally inefficient. It is far better for your pocket and the environment to send a 50 year old fridge to recycling and buy a new model.


Making something more efficient doesn't mean it has to be less reliable. Often it's the opposite - switches and thermostats have less current to deal with (and last longer); motors spend less time running (and last longer), etc.

My sister has an LG top loader washing machine. It looks and works like brand new after four years. She used to buy Australian made Whirlpool machines which which were total crap even 20 years ago.


Ours (a Simpson top loader) is about 6 years old. The clips that hold the main control panel broke 2 years ago causing the control panel (and power button, etc) to "fall back" inside (I fixed it with glue). The hot water solenoid became faulty 6 months ago (I fixed it with a replacement part).

How it works is that the manufacturer decides on the warranty length and how long they want to provide replacement parts (which is often the same thing); then they calculate how much it would need to handle for "heavy usage" for that length of time (e.g. 10 loads of washing per week for 2 years = 1040 loads of washing); then they design all the parts for that. If you don't use it heavily (e.g. only do 5 loads of washing per week) then it lasts longer than the warranty.

With a 2 year warranty and without heavy usage, it's likely that your sister's washing machine will last 4 years; but it won't last 10 years, or 50 years.

- Brendan

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: motly nonsense
by unclefester on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 09:11 UTC in reply to "RE: motly nonsense"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13


Fifty years ago most appliances were 1-2 orders of magnitude more expensive than now because there was significantly more manual labour involved.


The difference is that modern appliances (and cars) heavily rely on expensive non-serviceable modules. In the 60s even the smallest parts such as springs and clips were designed to be replaced.

I used to own a classic 1960s Mercedes-Benz. You could literally fix anything because every single component was designed so it be repaired by a competent mechanic. For example the headlight assemblies could be completely dismantled and individual gaskets, lenses, reflectors etc replaced. Now the whole headlight/indicator assembly is one (very expensive) piece


How it works is that the manufacturer decides on the warranty length and how long they want to provide replacement parts (which is often the same thing); then they calculate how much it would need to handle for "heavy usage" for that length of time (e.g. 10 loads of washing per week for 2 years = 1040 loads of washing); then they design all the parts for that. If you don't use it heavily (e.g. only do 5 loads of washing per week) then it lasts longer than the warranty.

With a 2 year warranty and without heavy usage, it's likely that your sister's washing machine will last 4 years; but it won't last 10 years, or 50 years.


I believe the LG washer has a 10 year warranty on the drivetrain. It has a tempered glass lid which can't rust, no unpainted metal surfaces, a direct drive motor which eliminates drive belts and electronic rather than electro-mechanical controls. This automatically avoid the vast majority of potential problems. I'm pretty sure it will still be running perfectly (and totally rust-free) in 10 years time.

Reply Score: 2

RE: motly nonsense
by ryanfinlay on Fri 24th Mar 2017 19:59 UTC in reply to "motly nonsense"
ryanfinlay Member since:
2017-03-24

But you also need to factor in new efficiencies in the manufacturing processes that have lowered the cost to build modern appliances. Also, a majority of appliance parts are manufactured in other countries to lower costs.

As far as old appliances being bad for the environment, it's true they aren't very energy efficient when only comparing electricity use when they are operating. But what about energy and resources it takes to create them in the first place and then recycle them 4 times? Is it a net gain to the environment to have to create 4 times as many appliances?

Reply Score: 1

BlueofRainbow
Member since:
2009-01-06

The overall cheapening, and resulting reduction in service life, of appliances is mostly driven by cost to manufacture and perceived value in the market place. Brands historically perceived as high quality can command a price premium for essentially the same unit with a cheap price/quality. It does not take to many lemons for the perception of quality to disappear.

Maybe it is not a question of willingness but rather one of capability to pay. For anyone having to purchase the full suite of appliances when moving from furnished rental to unfurnished rental or mortgaged house, it does not take much of a quality price premium to shift the purchase to lower quality units.

Reply Score: 3

You paid the price
by stooovie on Tue 21st Mar 2017 05:42 UTC
stooovie
Member since:
2006-01-25

Grandma's TV from 1980 lasted 5x the time her last TV lasted. It also cost 12x the money.

Reply Score: 4

Comment by Sidux
by Sidux on Tue 21st Mar 2017 09:01 UTC
Sidux
Member since:
2015-03-10

There is also the aspect of quality versus quantity and replacing entire manufacturing plants with robotic equipment.
Many things are being done differently now comparing to the '50s when people actually cared of what passed the QA status.
Quality differs even if the products are produced in the same location.
The main reason is that companies just became greedier over time and investors wanted to earn much more than previous year earnings just to keep people happy.

Edited 2017-03-21 09:02 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Grandpa
by MrPiccolo on Tue 21st Mar 2017 10:31 UTC
MrPiccolo
Member since:
2016-10-22

My grandfather has a fridge from the 50's that is still working. And what a coincidence, just 2 days ago my modern refrigerator got broken and today I'm going to buy a new one to replace it!

Reply Score: 1

RE: Grandpa
by stooovie on Tue 21st Mar 2017 13:22 UTC in reply to "Grandpa"
stooovie Member since:
2006-01-25

Compare what she paid for hers back in the day to what you paid for yours. Don't forget to adjust for average income and inflation. Hers was probably WAY, WAY more expensive and probably still much more expensive relative to its lifespan. It's also probably vastly more expensive to run as it consumes much more power.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Grandpa
by Alfman on Tue 21st Mar 2017 14:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Grandpa"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

stoovie,

Compare what she paid for hers back in the day to what you paid for yours. Don't forget to adjust for average income and inflation. Hers was probably WAY, WAY more expensive probably still much more expensive relative to its lifespan


Sure, today's products are relatively cheap, but let's not forget the reason it's cheap. Solid metal parts have been replaced with cheap plastic crap and it is manufactured in countries selected primarily on the basis of how little they can pay workers.

Some of the shift to disposable quality may be cultural, but on the whole these low durability products can increase external costs even though we may not factor them in at the cash register.

It's also probably vastly more expensive to run as it consumes much more power.


That is true, energy efficiency is one area we've made good progress. The EPA deserves much credit for that. The bad news is the new head of EPA is anti-EPA. Prior to being put in charge, Scott Pruitt was a leading advocate against EPA regulation and even fought the agency in court. Over time, without effective oversight, manufacturing will probably regress as companies optimize for their own cost savings rather than end-user energy efficiency.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Grandpa
by Earl C Pottinger on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 03:20 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Grandpa"
Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

I bet that also that old fridge will run a lot more efficient if the old insulation and old seals were replaced with modern insulation and seals.

The thermal switches and light bulbs could also be replaced but will make little difference in power use.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Grandpa
by ebasconp on Tue 21st Mar 2017 16:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Grandpa"
ebasconp Member since:
2006-05-09

I didn't see it in that way.

Thanks!

Reply Score: 2

The model T problem
by dark2 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 16:37 UTC
dark2
Member since:
2014-12-30

This seems like it's just the Model T versus modern cars, but with appliances. There are plenty of working model T cars around, however it's because the frame is made out of heavy cast iron so it won't rust away anytime soon. The massive trade off being it needs tons of gas and is severely under powered by today's standards. Same with appliances. They need to be lightweight and energy efficient, so thinner steel and lighter motors. The modern fridge versus the 50 year old fridge is probably the best counter argument against this. Sure the 50 year old fridge is still working, but the heavier duty motor powering the compressor is definitely something you're paying a lot extra for on your power bill. Our regional power company went so far as to offer cash rebates to get the old fridges replaced.

When it comes down to it, it's just that today's demands of being cheap, power efficient, and light weight enough to transport in significant quantities, don't match up with longevity in much the same way a Ford model T is now useless as a practical car, but still works just fine.

Reply Score: 3

RE: The model T problem
by Alfman on Tue 21st Mar 2017 21:21 UTC in reply to "The model T problem"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

The modern fridge versus the 50 year old fridge is probably the best counter argument against this. Sure the 50 year old fridge is still working, but the heavier duty motor powering the compressor is definitely something you're paying a lot extra for on your power bill.



I would argue that as technology progresses, it should be possible to make it more efficient AND more durable. EPA regulations (at least in the US) have forced manufacturers to become more efficient, but there's been no equivalent driver for durability. If anything, the optimal lifespan for a manufacturer is one day past the warranty.

On the one hand, it's hard to engineer such a precise failure mode. Thinner materials and less paint might help advance the onset of rust after warranty as suggested in the article, but I think one way they get you is with electronics that are very cheap for them to replace but very expensive for you to replace. This way if it does break before warranty it doesn't cost them that much to fix it, but if it breaks after warranty they'll charge you hundreds for the PCB, which you need.

(This happened with my parent's washing machine)


Simply requiring manufacturers to publish information about their failure stats, with absolutely no other mandates, would go a long way towards enabling the free market to demand longer lasting products:

"Honey, this one is a hundred more, but they median life is 12 years instead of 8."

I for one would pay more for better appliances if the facts suggested it would outlast the cheaper model. And suddenly because of informed consumers, manufacturers would be competing over durability and even setting new records.

Edited 2017-03-21 21:32 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: The model T problem
by Earl C Pottinger on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 03:27 UTC in reply to "RE: The model T problem"
Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

I saw that a lot when I had to do Apple repairs.

Under warranty the customer got it for free, but out of warranty the costs of parts were such that if you ordered all the parts that made up your machine the cost to you would be 4 to 8 times the cost of buying a new machine.

Handling individual parts does add so costs, that much is true, but it does not account for the high cost of individual parts.

Later, Apple change the rules - we had to return the old part or be bill even more. But we saw units damaged by fire or by lightening where the part was destroyed to the point you could not prove what it originally was.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: The model T problem
by Alfman on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 06:42 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: The model T problem"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Earl C Pottinger,

Under warranty the customer got it for free, but out of warranty the costs of parts were such that if you ordered all the parts that made up your machine the cost to you would be 4 to 8 times the cost of buying a new machine.


I believe it!


Handling individual parts does add so costs, that much is true, but it does not account for the high cost of individual parts.


An authorized honda dealer here wanted $850 to replace frigging tail-lights! Unbelievable, it's mostly markup because generic vendors sell the same set for $65 delivered and you can't even tell the difference. The dealer told me the generic replacements would cost $400, so I guess they were going to charge $335 labor for taillight replacement, man am I in the wrong line of business!

Incidentally, we actually did pay a several thousand dollar premium for a honda specifically because of complaints about reliability problems with dodge, although our dealer was dishonest about problems with the car so who knows if it actually paid off.

Later, Apple change the rules - we had to return the old part or be bill even more. But we saw units damaged by fire or by lightening where the part was destroyed to the point you could not prove what it originally was.


Wow, that seems extreme. I sympathize with right to repair supporters who want laws to do away with these shenanigans.

Edited 2017-03-23 06:49 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: The model T problem
by dark2 on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 12:22 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: The model T problem"
dark2 Member since:
2014-12-30

The LED headlights/taillights are kind of known for that. Best to avoid and get the old style incandescent bulb ones.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: The model T problem
by ggiunta on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 11:53 UTC in reply to "RE: The model T problem"
ggiunta Member since:
2006-01-13

@Alfman:

'I would argue that as technology progresses, it should be possible to make it more efficient AND more durable'

but more durable = less eco-friendly if energy savings of new models improve a lot

Edited 2017-03-23 11:56 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: The model T problem
by Alfman on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 13:53 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: The model T problem"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

@Alfman:

'I would argue that as technology progresses, it should be possible to make it more efficient AND more durable'

but more durable = less eco-friendly if energy savings of new models improve a lot


That's only if you accept the premise that more durable products can't also be eco-friendly, however lots of energy neutral product materials can contribute to product failure. As energy efficiency approaches it's upper limits, there's less efficiency to be had going forward just because of physics. The huge gains in efficiency we've seen over the years were possible because of how inefficient they were to begin with (especially prior to the implementation of energy guidelines). I'm not suggesting we turn our backs on that, but if we could remove the incentives for low durability, then engineers would be less hindered in genuinely optimizing both. The negative incentives are harmful.

Edited 2017-03-23 13:56 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Planned Obsolescence
by fretinator on Tue 21st Mar 2017 16:54 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

This is not a new concept, and has been debated for a long time. However, I don't necessarily think it is collusion for the most part. There are several factors driving this:

1. Race to the bottom - the entire economy is based on selling things at the absolute lowest price. To accomplish this, corners have to be cut everywhere. The ability to repair doesn't even factor into the equation.

2. Short-term thinking - people still tend to buy a product that is cheaper in the short run, even if it is more expensive in the long run. Businesses only think about the financials for the next quarter. Hardly anyone is thinking long-term.

3. Featuritis - we are always looking for new and improved. More zing, more pop, more options. My dryer should have 20 cycle modes, customizable buzzers and web-enabled to tell me when the clothes are ready. Far down on the list are - it dries my clothes.

4. Situational ethics - the quality of a product used to be a matter of pride. If your product lasted longer than your competitors, that was a plus for you company, something to brag about. Now everything is based on a balance sheet. A product that lasts 50 years and is simple to repair is bad for your bottom line. Without an ethical basis, there is no motivation for this outcome. The market will not reward you.

Reply Score: 4

Overproduction
by DonQ on Tue 21st Mar 2017 17:06 UTC
DonQ
Member since:
2005-06-29

This trend started already in 1930-ies - when average production capability get larger than consumption capability. Businesses din't want to go bankrupt, that easy. Of course not all production categories were affected in same way, then wars created more demand, so was technology not so advanced to produce items, lasting exactly 2 years (or whatever time was considered acceptable for warranty).

And people were not that easy to convert - it takes few generations to completely change priorities from 'lasts from father to son' (sorry, I don't know correct english idiom for that) to 'throw old one away and buy new and shiny one instead'.

Maybe there are some good and everlasting products (or brands) left in production; I haven't seen any lately.

Reply Score: 2

Lightbulb cartel
by Kishe on Tue 21st Mar 2017 21:35 UTC
Kishe
Member since:
2006-02-16

It all started when businesses decided lightbulbs lasted too long..

Reply Score: 2

Remembering the 1970's
by ameasures on Tue 21st Mar 2017 22:06 UTC
ameasures
Member since:
2006-01-09

Seeing the 1970's quoted as a high watermark of product longevity is curious. In particular: Ford cars sold in the UK were reckoned to have design criteria that included virtually every component lasting exactly 4 years! In those days there were vast numbers of Capris, Cortinas and Grenadas and it feels like virtually none remain!

Since then cars have improved massively. Crap product lifespans seem to be one aspect of a market evolving from one mode to the next.

Domestic appliances should have longer lifespans but, sigh, this is a value proposition you have to choose: it hurts the short term cash flow to buy it - but lasts 20 years when you have done.

Much of the pain of cheaper products these days is that they are not repairable - by design not repairable.

Unlike the 1968 Morris Minor in our garage.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Remembering the 1970's
by unclefester on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 09:26 UTC in reply to "Remembering the 1970's"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Since then cars have improved massively.


Volvos and Mercedes from the 70s are almost bulletproof and many are still going strong.

Modern European cars usually work perfectly for 100-200,000 Km. Then the automatic transmission fails spectacularly and often costs more than the car is worth to replace.

Reply Score: 2

He ignored the most import thing..
by bassbeast on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 04:28 UTC
bassbeast
Member since:
2007-11-11

Which is the garbage "green" solder they are forced to use on everything now. I have plenty of 30+ year old electronics that work like the day I bought 'em while I have chunked so many pieces of tech less than 3 years old it isn't funny and you open them up what do you find? Tin whiskers.

All of these appliances have circuit boards and thanks to the craptastic solder we have to use now they are ticking time bombs. IMHO its a perfect example of why you should tell the "We have to DO something!" crowd to bugger off, because SOMETHING often turns out to be the WRONG thing because they do not think about the long term.

Reply Score: 2

OTOH
by nicubunu on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 07:11 UTC
nicubunu
Member since:
2014-01-08

I am not sure I would really want a refrigerator from 50 years ago, with the power consumption and noise level which were normal at the time. Also, I am not sure about the freon.

Reply Score: 2

avgalen
Member since:
2010-09-23

I’ve bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950’s that still work perfectly fine

That is called survivor bias. 99.9% of those machines are dead and didn't last 50 years, but the 1 that you actually find and still works gives you a very nice tingly feeling so you rave on about how much better everything was in the past.

overall, new appliances last 1/3 to 1/4 as long as appliances built decades ago

Citation needed!

Recently LG and Samsung have gotten into the appliance industry

As recently as 1974? http://www.samsung.com/global/business/system-air-conditioner/ourbu...
or as recently as the late 50's?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_Electronics#1958.E2.80.931960s

In the past a new washer/tv/applicance was basically the spare money you had in a year (lets say 2000 Euro), so if the machine broke you got it repaired (lets say 100 Euro). Now the prices of appliances (material) went down (lets say 500) and the prices of repairs (labor) went up (lets say 250). If you repair appliances they still last a long time, but replacing them with new appliances that are quicker/more efficient/quieter just makes more sense.

Edited 2017-03-22 09:41 UTC

Reply Score: 3

ggiunta
Member since:
2006-01-13

I did not read the article, sorry!

But I worked in the studies that came up with the euro labels for energy savings for whitegoods.

All I have to say is: the energy saving obtained by changing a refrigerator after 10 years, instead of keeping the old one running for 20 years, make the shorter life span more ecological.

This is of course true for appliances which consume a lot (fridges, ovens), and only when there is a decent technological evolution related to energy consumption (this is otoh true even for tv sets)

Reply Score: 1

Value Engineering
by lsatenstein on Fri 24th Mar 2017 13:32 UTC
lsatenstein
Member since:
2006-04-07

GE was looking at the products they made and found that without adequate replacements, the market was getting filled and they had limited replacement sales.

They embarked on a project called value engineering.

It was an intentional decision to design a part to last the duration of the guarantee/warantee period, and not much longer. The reason was obvious. Replacement parts yielded higher profit margins, and it kept repairman at work.

Value engineering is now done by all appliance makers. In fact, since margins are slim, there are a very limited number of manufacturing shops for fridges, stoves, etc. The shop assembles the items for the big name brands, who then slap their logo onto the product.

Visit your local furniture store and look at the fridges. Look at the interiors, the shelves, etc. These items are all interchangable between brands.

Even the brands that provide extra years of warrantee come from that common manufacturing plant.

Value engineering is what keeps the economy rolling... It is a hidden consumer tax.

Reply Score: 1