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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:33 AM

They don't make 'em like they used to, but did they ever?

Had a string of annoying appliance failures. Most recent is a Maytag microwave whose door latch broke. Little plastic sproggy inside that the spring clips to failed. 50 cent part, not sold separately, please buy a whole new fucking door at $300 to fix and see problem repeat in two years.

So, should I pay more for quality? Doesn't work that way. There's nothing good on the market. Durable goods is a myth. Dishwasher's touch panel fails due to damage from moisture intrusion. Steam in a dishwasher? What a surprise!

Central air units used to go 20+ years. Now they're recommending changing in 10 and you're lucky if they make it a year past warranty.

I'm reminded of a book on the Third Reich I read where the same complaint was made in the 30's, manufacturers cheaping out on quality. The Nazis blamed it on the international jew, naturally. I suppose we can find graffiti on Roman walls complaining that chariots aren't made like they used to, either.

I think this is likely a cyclic thing where manufacturers race to the bottom up to the point where one can break away from the pack by being known for quality. I think the tipping point will be when we can't afford to throw away a whole working unit every three years, when the cost of repair is still cheaper than the cost of replacement. My microwave, for example, is useless for lack of a single part and the cost of replacement is nearly the cost of a full unit. This madness has to end, doesn't it?

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Reply They don't make 'em like they used to, but did they ever? (Original post)
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 OP
JaneyVee Feb 2013 #1
WinkyDink Feb 2013 #2
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #4
Ron Green Feb 2013 #3
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #5
lastlib Feb 2013 #12
woo me with science Feb 2013 #23
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #34
Initech Feb 2013 #19
tridim Feb 2013 #6
sinkingfeeling Feb 2013 #9
GoCubsGo Feb 2013 #37
canoeist52 Feb 2013 #7
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #10
sinkingfeeling Feb 2013 #8
HooptieWagon Feb 2013 #11
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #13
raccoon Feb 2013 #14
hunter Feb 2013 #15
matt819 Feb 2013 #27
hunter Feb 2013 #35
narnian60 Feb 2013 #16
slackmaster Feb 2013 #17
NCTraveler Feb 2013 #18
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #21
NCTraveler Feb 2013 #24
hunter Feb 2013 #22
NCTraveler Feb 2013 #25
MicaelS Feb 2013 #20
gateley Feb 2013 #26
rustydog Feb 2013 #28
Mosby Feb 2013 #29
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #30
leftynyc Feb 2013 #31
MadHound Feb 2013 #32
pampango Feb 2013 #33
phantom power Feb 2013 #36
jollyreaper2112 Feb 2013 #40
Scuba Feb 2013 #38
hobbit709 Feb 2013 #39

Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:40 AM

1. Because we used to make things here in the USA with pride. Things were made well & sturdy and

out of far better material. Now steel is replaced with aluminum, plastic is replaced with even thinner cheaper plastic, wood is replaced with particle board, a fender bender costs 1000's in repair, etc. We've outsourced everything to other countries who pay their workers 30 cents a day to poison baby formula and put cyanide in toothpaste.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:40 AM

2. My mother is using a 50-yr-old Hoover vac. My hand mixer is 40+. Dishwasher, fridge, stove: 26.

I've had several new cars, a new roof, and a new microwave in that last time span.

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Response to WinkyDink (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:44 AM

4. those companies managed to make money

I guess they just weren't making enough.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:44 AM

3. When a business cares more about shareholder value

than about goods and services, this is the result.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:46 AM

5. magic of the free market

This is where I want to slap a libertarian in the face. This is exactly the sort of problem the free market is supposed to fix, right? Except if there are no better choices, I can't vote with my wallet. That's the problem. If all the food is tainted, I can't vote with my wallet for untainted food. But this kind of market failure can't happen because magic.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:17 PM

12. BINGO!!

When all the choices the market gives you are bad ones, you HAVE no choice. Hence, the "free market" is no longer free. The pure profit motive ultimately kills the choices.

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Response to lastlib (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:00 PM

23. +1

Same principle for "choice" in elections. When all candidates are corporate, we no longer have a functioning democracy.

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Response to lastlib (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:17 PM

34. +1

 

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:43 PM

19. Plus they're unregulated and have all their goods manufactured in China.

That's a huge reason for the drop in quality. Goods are manufactured by the cheapest labor businesses can find and when they have no standards and regulations that results in crappy products.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:48 AM

6. IMO it's the plastic parts that are screwing us.

I'd say 90% of the time it's a plastic part that breaks, and every time it happens I say to myself, "Why the hell did they make that part out of plastic?". The answer is getting to be pretty obvious.

My Mom's 40 year old electric mixer still works great and it works much better than all the mixers I've bought. Old appliances are often stronger, but they're also quite a bit less efficient.

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Response to tridim (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:09 PM

9. Yes! I spend $699 for a Troy-Bilt weed wacket on wheels and they put a plastic gas

container on it. That lasted 2 years. Same with a chain saw, the oil vessel was plastic.

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Response to tridim (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:20 PM

37. Yep. And, it's cheap, brittle plastic, to boot.

I refuse to buy a new hand mixer. The last time I did, it lasted two years, and that was with only occasional use. I broke it when I pushed one of the metal beaters into it too hard and broke some plastic part inside the thing. The current mixer came from a second-hand shop. I paid fifty cents for it, because it had no beater blades. Fortunately, I had some at home that fit.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:52 AM

7. I'm hearing ya.

23 replacement windows - one third of them failing because of felt seals coming unglued and cheap plastic side latches breaking so the top windows fall out of the frame. Can't afford to replace them so we're monkey fixing each one to make them safe to open.

Refrigerator
Stove
2 water heaters
Washer
Dryer
Snow blower
Lawn mower
2 faucets
Home phones
Toaster
Coffee maker
Coffee grinder

All within the last 4 years. Nothing lasts. And now we find that we need to replace the septic system! Can't afford this on a 45,000 dollar salary. We're losing ground in the battle in the fight against going into debt.

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Response to canoeist52 (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:09 PM

10. I hear you

The costs go up as salaries stagnate or disappear. Something has to give and it's gonna be us.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:07 PM

8. We decided to become a 'disposable' society. I have an USA-made color TV that was

manufactured in 1978, still works, been moved across country 8 times, and has never had a repair call. I also have 40+ year-old mixers, blenders, and even an alarm clock.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:10 PM

11. I bought a house a few years ago.

One of the selling points was that most of the appliances were new. Now? Touch panel on Whirlpool oven doesn't work. Touch panel on GE microwave doesn't work. Automatic defrost of Maytag refridgerator doesn't work. Only one burner on Magic Chef stove works. Belt in Kenmore dryer had to be replaced. The lid switch in Kenmore washer had to be fixed. Water heater leaked and had to be replaced. None of these appliances were more than 5 years old when they failed. Not to mention, I've bought several coffee-makers in the past few years....no matter how expensive, they only last a year or two. Appliances these days are absolute crap.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:21 PM

13. This will take an act of congress

Pass laws to make appliances and durable goods repairable. Fine companies whose failure rates are too high. Same way Nader tt safety built into cars. They won't do it without being forced to at lawsuit-point.

Alternatively, the maker movement may see us bringing this sort of manufacturing into our very towns. You don't need to buy the fridge from the box store when it's assembled from fabricated parts a at the community factory.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:24 PM

14. Vance Packard says they never did.


The Waste Makers (published 1960)
Vance Packard
(Author), Bill McKibben (Introduction)


The Waste Makers was the first book to probe the increasing commercialization of American life—the development of consumption for consumption's sake. Packard outlines the ways manufacturers and advertisers persuade consumers to buy things they don't need and didn't know they wanted, including the two-of-a-kind of everything syndrome—"two refrigerators in every home"—and appeals to purchase something because it is more expensive, or because it is painted in a new color. The book also brought attention to the concept of planned obsolescence, in which a "death date" is built into products so that they wear out quickly and need to be replaced. By manipulating the public into mindless consumerism, Packard believed that business was making us "more wasteful, imprudent, and carefree in our consuming habits," which was using up our natural resources at an alarming rate.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Waste-Makers-Ig-Publishing/dp/1935439375

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:25 PM

15. $95 for a computer in a dryer.

The electronics got fried by a power surge.

We didn't have a spare $95 at the time (my wife was recovering from major surgery) so for a couple of months we ran it with a timer I had in my junk box, the kind of wall timer you might use with a bathroom heat lamp.

The dryer lost all it's automatic features like cool down at the end of the cycle, but it still dried clothes.

Special features like permanent press cycles in dryers are nice, but not at the expense of increased failure rates and difficult to replace parts.

Car stuff makes me crazy. I hate electric windows and all the integrated electronics in modern cars. A couple of years ago my wife's car was working fine but it couldn't pass the smog test because the car's computer wasn't talking to the inspection station's computer. Repair places don't even mess with stuff like that, they simply replace the whole damned computer and wiring harnesses. I found a website that discussed the problem and was able to trace it back to a bad solder joint on one of the circuit boards. But it was more shit than I ever wanted to know about fucking modern cars.

I drive a car made in 1984. It has roll down windows. It did have electric door locks, which were sort of nice, but those have failed. The locks still work just fine manually, however.

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Response to hunter (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:27 PM

27. $95? That's a steal.

My 9-yr old piece of crap Bosch dryer bit the dust a few weeks ago.

None of the appliance stores in my area - even the one that sold me the dryer - service Bosch.

So I called Bosch. None of their authorized service reps serve my area.

I called a local guy, who confirmed that the dryer was dead. It needed a replacement circuit board. That'll be $65, please.

Price? $380, plus another $65 to have it installed, for a total of $485 (including the first visit).

This is nuts.

I went to shop for a new dryer. The lowest price for a sensor dryer is $550 for Maytag/Whirlpool, identical but for the door opening. By the say, this one says assembled in US, but the sales rep didn't know where the parts were made.

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Response to matt819 (Reply #27)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:19 PM

35. It's a Kenmore. I ordered the part from the Sears website.

It was interesting that the new computer looked nothing like the old one, it had a much less crowded circuit board and extra connections that are unused in our dryer. But it works the same.

You would think that the most important feature of a machine like a clothes dryer would be safety, reliability, and ease of repair, not how many specialized settings it has.

If the dryer becomes unusable and expensive to repair because of rarely used special features, then the designers have failed.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:30 PM

16. Even small things like bobby pins are total crap.

Use 'em once and the tips come off.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:31 PM

17. My mom bought a Maytag washing machine new in 1957

 

Of course it needed occasional maintenance, mainly because of the hard water where we lived.

In 1978 she decided to sell the machine rather than move it to a new house. She wanted something with more features. The machine was still running strong at the time.

She put an ad in the newspaper offering it for $25. A week went by, and nobody called.

She raised the price to $50. It sold in one day.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:34 PM

18. There is a lot of truth in "a well educated consumer is a good consumer".

Corporations spent large amounts of money every year trying to educate the consumer the way they want them to be educated. Taking the time to really educate yourself about products will greatly help in purchasing high quality products at a decent price.

I would argue that just about everything today is built better than it use to be. For example my boat motor. You could not buy anything even comparable to it just a mere 30 years ago. It is more efficient, costs less to run, will last longer, is safer, ect... I also find the same to be true with other things. Central A/C units. A good Trane unit will last 15 to 20 years and it so much more efficient than one built in the 70's. Those old A/C units would also have problems after 10 years. Freon had to be added, leaks would form, and coils had to be cleaned. Just like todays units.

I do see a problem with many items made to be thrown away instead of being repaired.

Many old houses were also built more structurally sound. That is not saying they were better, just that the walls themselves were better.

So overall, I think things are built much better than in the past. But if one is not educated on the product they are buying, they may end up with a hunk of garbage.

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Response to NCTraveler (Reply #18)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:56 PM

21. I dispute your claim

There's a survivor bias where if 9 out of 10 of product x die over the decades, we'll assume that survivor is representative of all the rest. Same way we say movies were better when we wave a hand at a decade where there's five movies in a genre worth remembering and only two in the last year.

But we're all experiencing shorter product life cycles now.

http://fixitnow.com/2004/03/appliance-tip-of-day-how-long-should.htm

How long should they last? Doesn't seem long enough.



This is an economic crime.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Reply #21)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:00 PM

24. I don't know.

How long did computers of the past last. lol.

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Response to NCTraveler (Reply #18)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:59 PM

22. If I ever turn into a "good consumer" just shoot me.

Am I ever going to buy a new car? No. A boat motor? No. A new computer? No. A new cell phone? No. An air conditioner? No. Any kind of home electronics? No. New clothes if I can help it? No. All that stuff rapidly turns into garbage. I know because my car, my computer, most of my clothes, and my cellphone were headed for the garbage or recycling when I intercepted them. I don't like to buy anything new unless I can eat it, maybe wear it, or it's going to last a century or more.

I do like good food, wine, and beer. Everyone has to eat.

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Response to hunter (Reply #22)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:02 PM

25. Could very well mean you are a good consumer.

I appreciate a number of the things you wrote. You are probably a better consumer than most.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:52 PM

20. Americans have proven time and again...

That saving money is more important than quality. Otherwise WalMart would not be where it is today. Otherwise we would not let ourselves be treated like cattle when flying. We simply think saving $5 or $20 NOW is more important.

And the price of parts is a reflection of the "just in time" system of manufacturing. Companies want just enough parts for their current production run. They are constantly changing production runs, and the parts that fit on an older run, may not work on the newest run. It takes a lot of money to manufacture, warehouse, inventory, stock and ship spare parts. Just because the part cost $5 during production doesn't mean it is still going to cost $5 after all the added costs. By the time you factor in the labor costs to replace the part, yes you are nearly the price of a new unit.

Companies don't even stock whole replacement units of certain items depending on the season.

True story: I bought a $100 tower fan with a 5 year warranty. After 18 months the fan just failed. So I call the company to get it replaced under warranty. They told me "Please call back in 2-3 weeks, we do not keep any fans in stock account it is winter."

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:04 PM

26. I thought you might be talking about Biden.



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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:30 PM

28. Guaranteed profit. you make more if you sell a replacement every 10-years instead

of every 20 or 30 years.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:46 PM

29. I think it's a mixed bag

Some stuff is made better than in the past, autos for example. But as someone upthread said, the problem is plastic parts. Companies could make small appliances last virtually forever or be repairable at least but they focus on cost not quality.

My pet peeve has always been hair dryers, they all use a plastic mounting system for the motor, once it breaks or cracks its done. If they wanted to clairol or whoever could make a hair dryer that never breaks and if parts wear out could be replaced.

Weed wackers last 3-4 years, the last two I had the plastic switch mechanism broke, I rigged it up which worked for a while but it gave out later.

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Response to Mosby (Reply #29)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:50 PM

30. my blender is lasting

Cheaper ones had rubber shafts connecting motor and blades. This one is metal through and through, 4x the price. Lasting so far.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:00 PM

31. They don't make things like they used to

Both my tv's died at the same time. The one in my bedroom was 21 years old (Sony), the one in the living room, 6 years old (mitsubishi). And it was the one in the bedroom I'd leave on some days, all day, to keep the kitties company.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:08 PM

32. No, they don't make 'em like they used to.

 

That generally applies to most goods. I have a microwave, handed down from my wife's grandmother. It was built in 1978 and still going strong. Just got a new dryer. The old one that it replaced finally died after nearly forty years. Built in obsolescence has become an increasing problem in nearly all goods and services. Worse yet, especially in regards to electronics, it has become cheaper to replace something rather than repair it, if you can find a repairman. For small appliances, that is impossible.

But built in obsolescence makes corporations the big bucks.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:14 PM

33. I remember my parents and grandparents saying the same thing in the 1950's. It may not

have been true but they sure said it a lot.

The two things that come to mind that are made with much more quality than they were 50 years ago are cars and televisions.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:33 PM

36. I have a theory about this...

I also constantly scratch my head that nobody fills the niche for "costs more but lasts longer". My theory about why appliances use to be made better is: 50 years ago the market was less saturated - a business could make a product that lasted forever, but there were still new people to sell them to. The market for standard appliances is now pretty saturated. Everybody owns them, and so if you made them to last a really long time, you'd cut directly into your ability to sell more.

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Response to phantom power (Reply #36)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:22 AM

40. Couldn't find a cite for this

This is one of those things I fear might be a just-so story, sounds right but might be wrong. I don't think so but I like to be sure before spouting off.

I can't find the cite for this right now but there was a TED talk with a guy who designed an electric sports cycle. He worked in aviation and an old greybeard told him the DC-3 was the worst airframe ever made. He was shocked and said that there are models that have been flying for 70 years. Companies specialize in making engine conversions, making them turboprops with modern avionics. Yeah, says the engineer. But we aren't selling any more airframes, are we?

You will note that the commercial jets don't last as long. There may be some other concerns with stress fractures since they do through massive pressure changes the unpressurized prop jobs don't. There may be an economic reason. But damned if it doesn't meet my suspicions, you know?

Same with that recent article about how our food industry is designed to feed addictions. Republicans bleat about personal responsibility and the corporations aren't at fault. Well, the corporations are at fault. The food environment is different from years back. People didn't have to put so much effort into not getting fucked by their food. It feels like being in a city and dealing with muggers. Don't make yourself vulnerable, deal with the facts to keep yourself alive, but why do I have to worry about being mugged going to the bus stop? This is no way to live!

Libertarians should be really up in arms over the food thing. That's a direct assault on personal liberty so why aren't they seeing it as such? Myopic.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 06:55 AM

38. There is one product, still made in the USA, of very high quality ...

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 06:59 AM

39. My Panasonic microwave is 25 years old and still working

I've got a 30 year old Kenmore dryer.
And I drive a 20 year old truck.

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