Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Planned Obsolescence

Our phone died on us last week. Hubby's in the middle of a call when it just goes dead. The phone says "Low Battery", so he assumes that's the problem and waits for his party to call back (it was one of those unknown numbers). They never do. Later I go to make a call and there's no dial tone, just static. Hm.

So we unplug everything and plug it back in, swear, stare cross eyed at the phone while patting our heads and rubbing our tummies, and finally call the phone company. They forward our calls to my cell and slate us for a tech visit.

The techs come five days later, hem and haw, run the line tester on everything they can think of, when one of them notices that even though both cordless phones are off their cradles and not on, the base unit says "in use/charging". The base unit is holding the line open.

The unit is not quite two years old.

I dive for my warranty folder. One year limited warranty. @%!%$!#$%

My grandmother had the same phone for ages and ages. It was a wall-mount unit with the classic 20-foot long cord so you could wander while you talked. With a real bell for the ringer. Solid state, baby. Back when they knew how to make things.

I don't know if consumer electronics are just slapped together cheaply or what, but it seems to me that nothing is made to last anymore. A coffee pot shouldn't poop out on you after 15 months. A phone shouldn't need replacing in under two years. A room fan shouldn't be failing after one hot summer.

Is it a conspiracy? Or just an attempt to keep prices consumer friendly? I'd rather pay $100 for a phone that was going to last me 10 years than $30 for a phone that's going to crap out a week after the warranty expires. I don't think we're especially hard on electronics, so why doesn't this stuff last? What happened to quality?

The manufacturers seem to know this too. Every warranty you read requires you to use the original packaging if you need to send it in for service. Generally on your own dime, too. Having had some bad experiences, our crawlspace is now stacked with empty boxes: monitor boxes, hard drive boxes, coffee pot boxes, phone boxes, DVD boxes, along with the original packing materials, owner's manuals, and receipts. And a copy of the receipt, since many receipts are printed on heat-sensitive paper and fade eventually, their own form of obsolescence. Do you think they'll quibble if I don't have their original twist ties?

I want a phone I can slam down on those phone survey people who aren't really breaking the Don't Call Laws. I want an old Schwinn that doesn't require an AST Master Certified Mechanic to adjust the brakes. I want a percolator that might take 30 minutes to make coffee, but is never going to leave me in the lurch when baby's been up half the night sick and I really need a cuppa.

I know my budget won't allow me to buy the really high-end stuff, but geez, is it really necessary to pay $150 or more for a cordless phone that is supposed to be a higher quality...

But still only has a one year warranty?


Anonymous said...

I have always and always will keep a corded phone in the house. I have never had one fail on me. And no batteries.

Kiddo & Baby said...

And they *always* work when the power goes out! We have one (that looks remarkably like my grandmother's) that lives upstairs, just in case.

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