Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just *don't* buy a new one

My coffee maker, in happier days
A common response to something we own breaking down or otherwise going on the fritz is to simply toss the offending item and rush out to the store to buy a new one.

For instance, the other day I noticed a nasty crack in the glass carafe for my Bodum coffee maker. I must admit, I'd gotten careless with it - just tossing it in the sink and letting it get banged around with other kitchen stuff. Entirely my fault. The old me - spendy me - would have marched straight over to Starbucks and shelled out $30, with the justification that it's something I need, hence it needs to be immediately replaced. I might have tried to find a replacement carafe first, but I probably would have given up after realizing you can buy a whole new french press for about the same price.

In my new mode of saving, I took a different approach: First, I looked into whether I could repair it. Fail. You can easily get a cracked windshield replaced, but small jobs like coffee pots aren't profitable, I guess.

I then asked around if anyone had one I could borrow. A friend offered up a travel version to tide me over.

I also posted a want ad on the Toronto Freecycle board. Patience is key. Someone in this city of 1.5 million must have a Bodum they want to give away. How soon I connect with that person is entirely unpredictable; I can't throw cash at that scenario to make it more convenient or less random. Kind of like life, actually...

We live in a culture of planned obsolescence; products simply aren't built to last a lifetime - heck, many don't even make it past a year or two. The logic is simple: An item that lasts forever never needs to be replaced, and capitalism works on the concept of material recidivism - in other words, companies want you to keep buying the same item over and over again. Add our culture's need for instant gratification to the mix, and you have a recipe for financial success - for the people who are selling, that is.

We can throw a wrench into the works by making best efforts to buy quality items, learning how to make repairs, and reserving "buy a new one" as a last resort, rather than our default mode.

Sadly, the process I've described above is simply common sense and would have once been considered obvious. Maybe it is? Unfortunately I suspect our collective common sense isn't what it used to be. A post for another day...

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