Service of Maintenance

November 15th, 2012

Categories: Uncategorized

My mother was one of the few people I’ve known who didn’t want to own a home because she knew them to be money pits. Who listened?

It’s not just homes that are costly to maintain. There are countless things that may not cost that much to buy but that cost a relative fortune to use. Take printers. While you can get one in the $100 range the cartridges can cost you $60+ a set. An office mate bought retread cartridges on line at huge discount and they didn’t work. You either live without a printer or you are stuck.

You can buy a flashlight for a few dollars but the cost of D-size batteries? Twelve+ dollars for four–if you can find them when bad weather portends power outages. Using candles for light when you don’t have electricity is plain dangerous.

I broke the glass container of my electric coffee pot and bought a universal replacement for $11. I was thinking that I should probably buy a new system for $20 but there was nothing wrong with the rest of the appliance-only that I’d had it a long while. I then tossed a part that came with the universal replacement that my husband said I actually needed. [There was no such appendage on the broken pot. Who knew?] So in order to get coffee, after the percolating happens, I push up on a protruding element under the basket that holds the coffee grounds to unleash the liquid that collects inside. Irritating. Time-wasting. Grump. Impatience will drive me back to the store for a new system.

My nephew has had hard drives die on a new computer and umpteem laptops in the last year and I don’t think he uses them as hockey pucks. He runs several businesses and doesn’t have time to dilly dally waiting for fixes. It’s less expensive in time for him to buy another computer or laptop. Is this the marketing plan?

I must have Collyer Brother tendencies [siblings known because they hoarded compulsively]. I hate waste but what else can I do but play-and pay-along?

11 Responses to “Service of Maintenance”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    I smiled when I read your latest, Jeannie, recalling the bargain cordless shaver I bought at my neighborhood discount store a couple of years ago. It was a respectable brand, Panasonic, and it needed only a quartet of batteries to work. Best of all, it cost less than $25.

    After using it a year, I realized that my shaves were taking longer and the results were gradually getting less than terrific. I went online, found the model and proceeded to order a new blade and screen. By the time I added a sales tax plus shipping/handling to the subtotal, I realized that I’d be paying several dollars more than the shaver cost originally.

    Actually, I don’t begrudge the expense, though I was kind of surprised. The shaver works fine when its accessories are new, and I can travel with it without having to plug it in or worry about AC/DC conversions, etc. Still, knowing that maintenance is more costly than the original product does give me pause.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I did the same thing, Merv, with my $25 Timex watch paying for umpteen batteries and bands over the years. I no longer use a watch–something new after a lifetime of using one. I check the time on my handheld or on the car clock.

    You can’t give up a shaver unless you strive for a Santa Claus look, and your battery variety solves all sorts of problems that fall under the category of the anxiety of charging things that haunts us all daily.

  3. Jim Polk Said:

    I’d go one step further. One the signs of a mature civilization used to be the degree of sophistication in its structure. The more specialized (and dependent upon one another) its participants became in their daily pursuits, the more civilized the society. The miller converted wheat into flour, the baker converted flour into bread, and so forth. The idea was that most specialists could perform the work in which they specialized, better than most generalists.

    For a variety of reasons, we have moved a long ways away from this concept, thanks, I believe, mostly to the do-it-yourself movement. Instead of hiring someone to cut my lawn, I, who know nothing about engines, buy a mechanized lawnmower and cut the lawn myself, taking three times as long to do a job that turns out to be a quarter as good as the professional would have done. More importantly, I don’t maintain the machine properly because I don’t know how to. Consequently, it breaks down, becomes not worth being repaired, and I start all over again buying a new machine.
    Forget the evident waste involved, I have ended up spending more money than I would have spent had I hired a pro in the first place and used my skills to do what I know best how to do.

    The people who make and sell us these gadgets know all this full well. However, it is to their benefit if we don’t or can’t maintain it. That way, they get to sell us more stuff.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Jim,

    I laugh as I respond to your fresh take on the subject. I at times try to be a do-it-yourselfer as I am always hopeful.

    I have more stuff that was so-called easy to install or apply to fix a ton of things that gather dust. What a waste! Good for the economy though.

  5. Kathleen Fredrick Said:

    Built-in obsolence is the key, but this was not true of things built 50 years ago. We finally gave up a toaster we loved that was probably 70 yrs. old. It made the BEST toast, but it finally gave up the ghost. Now we’re lucky if a toaster lasts 5 years. And getting replacement parts is not usually the best answer because you still have an used appliance that will be obsolete before you know it.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    We have a piece of junk new toaster that either doesn’t toast or burns everything we put in it. Drives me NUTS. I, too, remember when appliances lasted and would be fixed.

    Frankly, we should return to that model. If we are not making the stuff here we should fix it here as a job-generator and garbage-reducer if nothing else.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    I think the situation you are describing is the end result of years of planned obsolescence. I simply give up when products apparently fall apart.

    My husband who is Japanese, is constantly distressed by the wastefulness of our habits, and will often ingeniously repair and extend the life of an item by using spare parts or even improvising them. However, he also cautions about apparent bargains or promotions, such as printers, which will only generate excessive costs for maintenance and upkeep.

    The ramifications of our lack of skilled repair persons and short-lived products also result in enormous amounts of non-perishable waste that creates environmental problems! There does not seem to be any solution in sight.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    You are SO LUCKY to have a handy husband with patience to fix things. Hope springs eternal with me–I try and can say in 99.99999 percent of the time I am unsuccessful wasting time and money. Grump.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    I hope my computer, along with a number of other conveniences aren’t listening, but a number of them have been working very well without incident for years. Willingness to get the best (not the costliest) and patience to wait for sales and/or knowing where to buy, provides a healthy hedge against breakdowns. Savvy friends are also a help.

    Let’s not sit there and whine over poor quality, when there are a great deal of people out there insisting on high standards, and companies willing to accomodate. Start looking around, and be amazed at the availability of fine products which do not cause emptying of purses.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Friends are a great resource–so true! Kathleen Fredrick’s sister Marguerite is a tech-maven and she did a huge amount of research when digital cameras first came out. When it was time for me to get one, I rode on her curtails and I still have the camera after many years and love it.

    Martha’s husband warned as you did–buy quality: it’s there!

    After I published this I thought about my wonderful animals, all of whom came to me through shelters except one that was given to me. One, a dog, cost $28 at the time and the other, a cat, $80-something. In all cases, vet bills ran to the thousands. I don’t begrudge a penny and in my opinion, all were tops!

  11. Claire Coleman Said:

    Add vacuum cleaners to that list. I just had mine repaired and I couldn’t believe the cost.

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