Opinion: Blind to the specs

No Planet B

By Peter Mathews

I think I lost an argument with the wife last night.

She was telling someone about a pair of glasses; where she bought them and how much they cost. She obviously noticed my thinly disguised ‘harrumph’ and guessed correctly that I was reacting to my discovery of the amount of money she is prepared to spend on a pair of glasses.

“Well it’s better than what you do – you and your +2.5s for $9 from the supermarket. Exactly how many pairs have you bought in the past couple of years?” My reply is what got me into trouble “I buy them because they are always breaking or getting scratched and it’s cheap and easy to get a new pair”.

That was it really – I had walked blindly into the cactus.

“That’s not very green is it? Why don’t you buy a decent pair of glasses which isn’t going to fall apart in five minutes?”

Why indeed?

And so it is across a huge range of products. If something stops working it is often more cost effective to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to fix it.

And, of course, the manufacturers are happy with that. In fact ‘built-in obsolescence’ is a well known concept. The people who make the products want to sell as many as possible. Of course they do, you wouldn’t expect a company to limit its potential for profit by selling a product which was built to last – would you?

Well, yes I would actually, and some companies do – I’m sure there are a great number of Bose clock radios beeping their owners awake every morning or projecting a trio of shouting idiots direct from a studio in Auckland into the bedroom in the early hours. There’s something about banal nonsense at high volume which makes it impossible even to stay in the same room. So I go downstairs and make the tea. I can see what she’s doing there.

Still, I can’t argue with the quality of the radio – and we’ve had it for well over 20 years.

Then there’s our Nissan Maxima; it’s getting a bit rattly now but we bought it second hand 13 years ago and nothing has ever gone wrong with it.

On the other hand we do have two non-functioning washing machines, a dryer, and several bicycles in storage, as well as computers, iPads, and various phones. Did I mention built-in obsolescence? Speakers, CD, DVD, and video players and more.

Of course I plan to dispose of all of these things in the appropriate, environmentally responsible ways, I just haven’t got to it yet.

Recent years have seen the rise of the ‘repair café’, places where benevolent old men will repair almost anything with a screwdriver and a bit of gaffer tape. It’s a commendable step in the right direction but will probably not stem the flow of prematurely defunct appliances and products.

So when my current pair of glasses falls apart, what to do? Probably best to get the
wife to take me shopping

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