These days if you keep a product past its Planned Obsolescence Date it’s like an act of defiance. You are thumbing your nose at the consumer economy and all those who would have us believe that the global economy depends on the lower to middle class buying stuff.
Take for example our slow-cooker, otherwise known indelicately as a crock pot.
We bought it when we returned from Japan and finally were able to use the combined store credit at the Hudson Bay Company that we had been given as wedding gifts. We had misplaced the gift certificates and, having found them in a clever hiding spot, it was finally time to cash them in. It was 2001.
We got a hand mixer (which just burnt out last month), a popcorn maker, some other stuff I can’t remember and this slow-cooker.
It’s not something we do a lot of, slow-cooking, but when we do, we remember how great it is: easy, delicious and nutritious. Our slow-cooker has not seen a lot of use over the years, but we like it.
Unfortunately, it is a piece of crap.
However, it’s not your typical piece of crap which is designed to wear out so that you will buy a new one. The basic nature of a slow-cooker means that the major parts must be of a certain quality. The pot must be ceramic and the lid must be glass or ceramic. The heating element is simple and electric and we all know that electric stuff doesn’t break that easily (I’m thinking of electric cars vs. gasoline cars for example). The controls are so simple it was difficult to plan too much obsolescence there, either.
So it is the little things that must break to spur you to buy another one. It is the plastic handles. It is the plastic knobs. They crumble and fall apart leaving you with a screw sticking out from inside the base. Most people will toss the thing at that point, but it still works. I opened up the base and got that screw out, but now there is another one rattling around inside that I can’t get to.
Whose idea was it to use brittle plastic for the handles of this thing?
We have to be willing to spend money on quality stuff if we want it to last just like we have to be willing to pay into the transit system if we want it to function well.
Perhaps we are uncomfortable with the idea of something lasting. Owning something durable implies a commitment to it. What if I don’t want a crock pot in five years? I will have paid top dollar and it will hang on my neck like an albatross. I’d rather cheap out and expect it to break, then I can complain and move on to the next product.
Am I being too cynical or is this just the appropriate rage of my generation?