Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Okay, call me old fashioned, but I am clashing with the consumer culture and have been for a long time. I still remember the days when parts didn't cost as much as the original item, when companies took pride in warranties and good maintenance for customers, when items were actually made to last and companies were actually sorry they let their customers down when a product was deemed inferior. It seems those days are gone, and I mourn the loss.

The change happened, historically, after World War II. All of a sudden, inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were demoted as heroes to be replaced by accountants, business leaders and managers. These people didn't have the slightest idea how cars or machines worked or even how to make or fix them, but they did know how to cut down on costs in making them, how to cut employees, parts, or design costs to save the "bottom line." "Bottom Line" became the new buzz word. Marketing went into overdrive to convince people that buying new was better than keeping old. Everyone needs a new car, why keep fixing the old one? With this mentality, maintenance and long lasting products were not a major concern. In the process, Board meetings became less customer satisfaction focused and far more stock price/investor focused.

I think we should rue the day this occurred. My laptop screen got cracked once, and it was over 50% of the cost of the laptop to replace it. My digital camera screen cracked once and the manufacturer suggested replacement. Replacement keys for my keyboard went up to $30 or more a piece. And they didn't seem to last they way they used to. Apparently, the way I play, care for my things, etc. is expected to change if I want things to last. Otherwise, I need to plan on upping my investment by replacing or repairing far more often. This makes me rethink what I buy, when I buy it, and whom I buy it from. And it also makes me sometimes regret not thinking harder in making those decisions.

I still don't buy the idea that when you make and market product, you shouldn't be willing to stake your reputation on it. To me, what I put out there is a statement on who I am, and I honestly don't relate well to people who don't think the same way. It matters a great deal to me when someone accuses me of not meeting their expectations. And I think our society would be a better place if more people still cared about that and acted accordingly. Especially manufacturers and service companies. The fact that they don't is proved every time one of us spends endless time with a computer voice on the phone, trying to reach a real person who can help us resolve an issue. I have come to despise those computer voices -- so impersonal and without emotion. I miss the days when doing business with someone was like building an important relationship. It mattered more and I cared about the seller too.

Call me old-fashioned if you want to. But that's what I believe. For what it's worth...

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