Durable Goods – not!

16 Aug

So we recently reclaimed our house after renting it out for a year to total strangers.  I hired an agent to manage it so I wouldn’t have to worry about collecting rent or dealing with broken things. I think dealing with all that would have been easier than dealing with my agent, but that is another story.  Upon re-entry, we found that the dishwasher, microwave, and fridge were either completely broken or sufficiently lacking peak performance and warranted replacement.  I guess that is not completely unreasonable since they were all purchased when the house was built eleven years ago.

It wasn’t too long after that tremendous outlay of 2001, that I heard an interesting story on NPR.  A guy had calculated a way to measure his own longevity in terms of durable goods, the things that are supposed to be built to last.  He explained why he was not going to include cars because he often just got bored with a car long before it was worn out, so that didn’t count.  He did count washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators, though. He concluded that since his current fridge had lasted 25 years, and he was over fifty, it was safe to say, he most likely had one-point-five or two fridges left in his life.  He thought it was something to celebrate.  I have to agree.

Anyway, I thought about this when Steve and I went to Sears and bought round two.  It wasn’t until we got home and unpacked the dishwasher that I got really worried.  See in the “Longevity in Durable Goods” world, low numbers are good.  It means you don’t waste what precious little time you might actually have left with stupid and mundane things like shopping for, waiting on the delivery and installation of the durable goods.  They are built to last, thus the name. It’s the thing in your life you are supposed to take completely for granted. Durable goods are supposed to be sturdy and stand up to what life throws at them without complaining.  They are supposed to take a licking and keep on ticking – to steal a phrase.  My first clue that things were not all hunky dory was the clip that keeps the door securely shut was so flimsy, we were convinced it was just part of the packaging meant to keep the door from rattling around during shipment.  Then I realized that my new dishwasher was made completely of plastic inside and out. 100% poly something or other.  I could actually alter the shape of the drum by pressing on it. The whole thing is made with maybe a total of one pound of metal parts. My first thought was, “Oh dear, I am going to be buying one of these suckers every four years.”  That means I might have up to 10 more dishwashers to live through, and that is utterly depressing.

3 Responses to “Durable Goods – not!”

  1. Greg Goth August 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    My car, the Saturn Touched by the Gods, is 17. So is our washer. Our range is a mid-70s Caloric with an upper gas oven as well as the big lower oven. When we were debating fixing it or replacing it, the repair guy said, “Oh, keep this going as long as you can! You’ll never find dual gas ovens and this restaurant broiler again!” My wife is getting a new car within the next month, but other than that, we have entered a perverse world wherein we grit our teeth and hold our breath, but still expect the old buzzards to work.

    • Allison Mahaley August 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      No one will convince me that plastic is better than steel – and it sounds like you probably some good old American steel in your midst. I stand with your repairman.

  2. Goat August 17, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Durable goods vs. planned obsolescence… guess which one wins out every time?

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