Planned Obsolescence, the stepchild of Litigiousness
Sep. 21, 2011 3:11 pm
Updated: Oct. 16, 2011 12:26 pm
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday. He was driving his company car, a 2009 Nissan crossover of some kind. He rather likes the vehicle and in speaking directly about Nissans in general, I commented that I'd never own another one. That, because
of the first new vehicle I ever owned which was a 1985 Nissan kingcab pickup. While new, it was an ok truck but within a year of the warranty running out, the damned thing started slowly but surely falling apart, first the engine, then the transmission, so
on and so forth. Ultimately I spent $9000 on it new, and over $15000 on it over its lifetime just keeping the bleeding thing on the road.
It got me to thinking about planned obsolescence and just how good companies like Nissan, and General Electric and just about everyone have gotten at making certain that their products will last just long enough to escape the mantle of warranty responsibility.
What the heck has happened to the days of simply making a product as good as you can, period. Did we just throw it under the bus of fiscal gains? Yes and no is the answer. On one hand, business is in the business of making money, some of it ethically and responsibly,
some of it, not so much.
The better explanation would be litigiousness. Amerca has become the most tort happy civilization in the world and I'm thinking that the law of unintended consequences comes into play here. One of the direct results of companies being sued for making faulty
merchandise is that the very same companies have had to pursue knowledge of exactly what their merchandise will do. Initially so that they can prevent mishap and avoid being sued while just trying to make a buck. The knowledge that companies have gained in
this regard is a double edged sword. On one hand, they now know exactlly how a given product should perform and for how long and thats a good thing. On the other hand, they now know exactlly how a given product should perform and for how long. There was nothing
except their own consciences to prevent any one of them from then using this information to insure that the products they sell give us exactly what they promised and not an inch more. All the better to insure we buy another just as soon as possible. The fact
that corporate America likes to position itself three or 4 times removed from its conscience just made the whole exercise a wee bit more palateable. If it's really horiible, just divide it up into 20 easily justifiable portions.
So my Nissan? And your Toshiba? and your Whirlpool? Perhaps we bought and paid for the planned obsolescence of their products with every lawsuit brought against McDonalds for its 'hot' coffee. I had a neighbour, he died a couple of years ago hence the past
tense. He owned a large treed tract of land right behind my house, 3 or 4 dense acres. When my kids were little, they discovered that Bobs land was a veritable treasure trove of treehouses and little forts etc...Years and years before my kids discovered Bobs
back yard, other kids had discovered it and it became a traesure trove for hundreds of kids, dragging in discarded building materials. When Bob and I became friends, I became privy to how much Bob enjoyed having those children on his property and why he never
subdivided it and sold it off. He loved those rickety buildings, the laughter and living that took place back there, so much so that Bob would scout garage sales and find bags of old tools and cans of nails etc and spirit them throughout the property for kids
to find. Then early every morning he'd be out inspecting the latest builds making certain they weren't going to fall apart when the whole gang climbed up into a treehouse. The result of this is that hundreds of kids over the years have left their childhoods
with fond memories of time spend on Bobs property.
That is of course until one kid fell and broke his leg. He wasn't the first who got injured on that property but he was the first who was the spawn of parents who thought that the broken leg was directly attributable to the 'gross negligence' of the lands owner.
That incident and the lawsuit ended the use of that land for the pleasure of those kids. Bob simply couldn't afford it. The year after he had to spend thousands of dollars tearing out all of those constructs, he died in early retirement.
That story doesn't have so much to do with planned obsolescence as it does to the law of unintended consequences. Those, especially from ill founded torts.
What does all this have to do with AR and food? Not a darned thing, I just felt like writing something I was thinking about.