Saturday, August 15, 2009

Build Mine to Last

Just get a new one. That's what we usually do when something breaks. Overseas manufacturing is so cheap and local skilled labour is so expensive that when things break, it very often makes more sense to replace it than it does to repair it.

Even worse, it seems that for business that this is good way to make money.

For example, you can make more money selling five toasters that last four years each than you can selling one toaster that lasts 20 years. Once you, as a businessman, sell that high quality toaster, you lose that person as a customer, because their toasting needs will be met for a long time. Selling disposable toasters to repeat customers becomes a predictable revenue stream.

So even though everyone would rather have the good toaster, the company that makes the lousy ones survives. Eventually the company selling good toasters runs out of people to sell them to.

The obvious advantage of the disposable toaster is that it's cheap. As humans, we tend to make decisions on the basis of how much it costs right now. It's hard for us, when buying toaster number one, to think about the displaced cost of toasters two through five in the next few years.

With the quality toaster you don't get the feel good benefit of saving money by not buying the second one. The toaster just endures. It calmly continues to cook, just like when you purchased it those many years ago. By not buying that second (or fifth) toaster, you actually save the money, but it doesn't feel like saving. The numbers don't actually show up anywhere.

At least that's how it should work. We are in danger of losing our local self-reliance with respect to appliance repair. If few appliances are repaired, then that job disappears. If we lose the ability to maintain our appliances, and cheap overseas manufacturing and shipping disappear, we could be left with a bunch of expired toasters.

Being able to produce and repair things ourselves is a skill we shouldn't let slip. Local appliance repair means local jobs, and the money stays in the community. Just getting a new one, though expedient, means the money goes elsewhere.

Demand quality products that are built to last. You get what you pay for, but remember to appreciate it when your toaster stands the test of time.

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