Planning for failure: Why do we buy breaking products?

Why does everything break as soon as we buy them? Sometimes it may feel as if that new coffee maker is brand new when it breaks. Can we blame the manufacturing and maybe bad design choices for this?

“I remember in my day things did not break as often. They were more expensive but they never broke.” Customer I spoke to not long ago.

He has a point here. Products years ago may not have been as cost effective as they are today but it meant that not many people could afford them. Now with the lowered cost of production and supplies people can afford all sorts of expensive products.

Just think of the cost if you had to buy a brand new, hand crafted, wooden canoe for a trip. It would not only be very expensive but it would also be difficult to take care of. There would be a ton of labor that went into caring for the wooden structure of  the vessel and it would make maintenance very rigorous. Instead plastic canoes took the world by storm. Not only are they cheaper to manufacture, they also cost less than a hand made, wooden canoe.

One of the topics we cover in my classes, especially when it comes to technology, is planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is defined by Investopedia as “purposefully implemented strategy that ensures the current version of a given product will become out-of-date or useless within a known time period. This guarantees that consumers will demand replacements in the future, thus naturally supporting demand.”



People seem to think that this always happens. Though I have my qualms with this video, it does explain the concept of planned obsolescence well. It shows that sometimes the manufacturing and design can be an issue. My main qualm is that she states at one point that only a small part of the motherboard changes each year. That is not correct.

Each year companies release new products and new models for older products. Industry standards have to be taken into account and to say that only a single item changes is not correct. Large components do change however there are usually ways to bridge the gap between old and new, at least initially.

What are your thoughts on planned obsolescence? Do you think that companies want us to believe we always need to buy more? Do you think it is just a money making scheme? Let me know with a comment below!


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