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Just how useless have we become?

I was sitting in a birthday party recently and heard one of the fellow parents mention their washing machine wasn’t working and it was time to get a new one. From their description, I volunteered that I had recently had that same problem and it was their lid switch, which could be ordered from the Sears outlet right next door for $30. I know when I’m being blown off (I’ve experienced it enough) and this was it. Just how useless have we become when someone would rather replace a washing machine rather than spend $30 to fix it? It wasn’t hard. I’d never worked on my washer before but easily replaced the part with some internet diagrams.

I’m not sure its useless. I think sometimes it is pathetically bored with little way of establishing meaning in life. For a lot of people, finding an excuse to buy a new appliance is as exciting and meaningful as it gets. If you fix it, you’re just stuck with the same old stuff. I watch my wife do this sort of thing as I insist that things can be fixed and/or work just fine the way they are.

I get a lot more meaning out of fixing something than just buying a shiny new one. But I know what you mean when you say things work just fine the way they are but people what to replace them with shiny, sexy, new models.

"Just how useless have we become?"
We have little time to advance our skills…mine is taken up jumping from one forum
to another and surfing. How do you expect me to fix the sewing machine ?
Bet you couldn’t do that 20 years ago.

I’m with you - which is why I’m always trying to fix things that my wife wants to replace.

Look at it this way–At least that “useless” person is supporting the economy by buying a new appliance!

Yes, it is more economical and less wasteful to repair, rather than replace, an appliance, but in the present state of our economy, I would not discourage anyone who can afford it from spending some money on consumer goods. Using Sears as a prime example, that corporation is currently in fairly dire financial straits.

If enough people buy new appliances from Sears, at least they will still be around in a few years in order to sell spare parts to those who prefer to repair their appliances.

I try to extend the life of appliances to the limit. I bought a house that came with an old washer and dryer. When I built a new house, the dryer was still working so it came to the new house. I replaced the belt twice. When my wife was in the hospital for surgery, the door latch mechanism failed. When I checked out parts at Sears, it was going to be rather expensive if they could get the parts. I “fixed” the door by installing a barrel bolt. This held the door closed so that the dryer would run. I figured that when my wife was back on her feet, she could go pick out a new dryer. She thought my repair was fine–we used the dryer two more years until the heating coil failed and then decided that, after over 30 years, it was time to get a new dryer.

The other possibility is that the other parent isn’t useless, they’re a show-off. I heard something similar, but worse: “Our tires are worn out, guess it time to get a new car!” And they were serious! They very much wanted everyone to know they could afford a new car any time they wanted.

We also keep things for a long time until it is no longer economical to fix them. Examples; microwave 21 years, Fridge 22 years, GE range, 36 years, cars 10-18 years.

Consumer Reports is not helping with their annual “Fix It or Toss It” Article which tells readers when to get rid of things when they need repairs. Lawnmower about 7 years (ours is 22 years old and OK), and other appliances they recoomnd tossing at a very short life. We normally get at least twice the economical life out of appliances than CU recommends.

I agree with you about Consumer Repors “Fix It or Toss It” article. One problem today is that many consumers seem to be absolutely helpless when something goes wrong. Repairmen have to eat, so repair prices may seem high. Repair parts are also high. Consumer Reports bases its “toss it” criteria on whether or not it costs more than half the cost of a new unit to repair the old one. This makes the repair business less profitable and reduces the number of technicians that are in the appliance repair business.

In the vacuum tube days, I repaired my radios and televisions. When my last CRT television quit during a thunderstorm, I decided that if I couldn’t do the reapair, I would toss it. When I looked on the back, it said “Do not open. No user serviceable parts inside”. I opened it up anyway and found a fuse on the circuit board that had blown. I was back in business with a 50 cent fuse–the set really was meant to be repaired.

I don’t understand why televisions can’t be designed with circuit boards that are easily replaced. The Setchell-Carlson company marketed a television set back in the 1950’s with sub-chassis that were connected by plug-in cables. One could remove the offending sub-chassis and take it in for repair. We could do the same today.

The original VW Beetle had an engine that could be removed in half an hour (15 minutes by a skilled VW mechanic). If VW could make an easily repaired vehicle back in the 1960’s, our auto makers should be able to do it today. In fact, I’m certain that they can. On my 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the heater core is under the hood–took less than an hour to replace. My Ford Maverick had the heater core under the dash–the air conditioning had to be discharged to remove the evaporator to replace the heater core. On the other hand, the Maverick had the drain plug on the side of the oil pan and the filter where it was accessible from under the hood instead of under the car. I could change oil without driving the car up on ramps.

“Yes, it is more economical and less wasteful to repair, rather than replace, an appliance, but in the present state of our economy, I would not discourage anyone who can afford it from spending some money on consumer goods. Using Sears as a prime example, that corporation is currently in fairly dire financial straits.”

Huh? Are you one of those stealth marketers? If people didn’t waste so much and spend, spend, spend, our economy wouldn’t be in this mess.

I was wandering through the appliance section of Lowe’s the other day and it seemed to me that most of the washing machines on display were front loaders. Perhaps the fellow parent wanted the latest in technology for the washing machine and wanted to replace the top loader with a front loader.

I’m old enough to remember when the first automatic washing machines came out and they were Bendix front loaders. The new design of the 1950’s was the top loader. Now we are back to the front loader again. I just hope the new front loaders get the clothes cleaner and don’t twist them up the way the old Bendix machines did.

If these front loaders really save energy, it would have to be quite a savings over what it would cost to repair a lid switch on a top loader.

Is this person really useless? If I had to guess, I would say he/she wanted a new washer and was waiting for an excuse. A new washer will save you lots of money in electricity and water and will get your clothes cleaner than the old style top loading washer. Perhaps he/she is redecorating the laundry room and wants a washer that matches the curtains? A friend of mine just upgraded his refrigerator and there was nothing wrong with the old one. He just wanted to save money on electricity. Is he useless too?

And as long as that washer has some life…it goes to Good Will, or as we often do (40 year old sewing machine, 2 cars, furniture etc.) goes to our kids as they set up house keeping. Neighborhood kids and mine got my old bicycles that I deemed too “outdated” to ride. So it’s what you do with your old stuff, not what you buy new.

Our dryer motor went out, it had worked fine for 15 years, and wifey was happy with the one we have but wanted a new fangled one that was at least $1000 if it was going to be replaced. I got a new motor, belt and felt for $125, she is happy I am happy, my mother in law lived through the depression and has a tight grip on every penney, I feel that way sometimes too, Yes I think many people are in the replace vs repair mode, but given the planned obsolescence of things that is not all bad as a strategy.

From what I’ve been told, our front loaders(Whirlpool/Kenmore) use about 1/3 the water of the top loaders. I remember riding with a repairman as part of our company’s “extracurricular activities” we could sign up to take part in. This woman has 3 girls and was doing atleast 3 loads of clothes per day, and has a water bill. I told her, not to sound like I was trying to be a salesman or anything, but using 1/3 water(equal to 1 load of the top loader) and detergent/softner would probably justify spending the money for a new front loader. I believe someone said the front loaders are made in Germany, but I’m not quite certain on that. I work at the plant where the matching dryers for those, and many of the top loader matches, are made.

I know one of Whirlpool’s fridges claims to use more more electricity than a 75w bulb. Granted, the thing costs like $2400 retail, but if you keep it for 10+ years, the electricity savings makes up for it.

These all just sound like excuses to spend money to me. Maybe useless isn’t the word for it but whatever word would fit is not a positive one. If one really wants to save electricity, why not keep one’s working fridge and spend the money on insulation, better windows, etc.?

No, I am not a stealth marketer.

There is a major difference between a person who “buys” a home that he/she cannot afford to pay for, and a person who fuels the economy through purchases that are rapidly paid for. Our current economic problems stem chiefly from the rapacious overselling of real estate, at inflated values, to those whose incomes did not allow them to actually pay for those homes when their adjustable rate mortgages converted to a higher rate.

Of course, those who buy on credit without ever paying off their bill in full do not help themselves, but they do help the banks and credit card marketers. My policy is to buy only what is necessary, and to either pay cash or to pay off my credit card bill in full when it comes. I always buy new cars, I pay cash for them, and I keep them for many years. As a result of my personal fiscal policy, I owe no money to anyone, except in regard to my mortgage.

And, I “beat the bank” when it comes to the mortgage by taking a variable rate mortgage with a low rate, and then paying approximately 90% of the principle prior to a rate increase at the end of the 5th year. The result is that my mortgage payment is now $122.17 per month on a home whose valuation is approximately $450,000. (Banks hate me, I guess.)

No, I am not a stealth marketer. Perhaps I am merely someone who is more attuned to economic fundamentals than you are.

You pick your “fights”…if your mate really wants that new machine, a repair job is not what she gets…where as, your old truck could easily get a new transmission. Again, as long as the old unit is recycled, even through someone else, it’s a win-win.