HTT: How To Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence.

or . . . 

Design obsolescence.

Either works unless you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . in which case . . . grab a piece of paper and a #2 Ticonderoga.

The concept is rather simple.

A company wants to make things for you to buy.

So far so good?

When you buy that thing . . . you become a customer. A consumer if you will.

However, if what you're buying isn't readily consumed like a potato or a cup of coffee, lets say you're buying a couch or a transister radio, then once you've made that purchase, you've stopped being that company's customer.

Get it?

You might buy one car every ten to fifteen years.

Bananas don't last that long.

So a company that makes bananas wants to make sure that your banana needs are met, but also that you don't get too frustrated buy buying a bunch that go brown. You don't like to waste money, and you don't have the time to bake bread.

So they sell them in all sorts of different sized bunches. Directly tailored to your banana needs.

I hate bananas.

But I love cars.

Yet, the practicality of me purchasing three cars on my monday trips to the grocery store . . . is well . . . unlikely.

This was a problem since history began.

Make a product that will last forever, like a hammer or a Toyota Echo, and yes, maybe you will have a loyal customer, but you also have a loyal customer who never needs to buy anything from you again.

They solved the problem in the 1950's by creating a term call "Planned Obsolescence" or "Designed Obsolescence."

And since capitolists hadn't learned to sin with the kind of veracity that they do now, the term actually meant that a company would bring out a newer more glamorous product just about the time that your local mechanic told you that you're gonna need a new transmission.

Your mechanic might say something like "It's gonna cost about $500." (remember, this was the fifties)

And you might think "That sucks, but I guess so."

And then you might look across the street at the car dealership and see the 1958 model with all that shiny chrome and two extra cup holders in the back seat, and you're like "Gee, I could spend $500 for a new transmission, or $3500 on a new model with extra cup holders and I won't have to spend Saturday washing the old one."

Which worked pretty good.

Cause you people really love your cup holders.

But once Eve of Wall St. took a bite of that apple, and the back seats started running out of space for new cup holders, it became evident, sinnister, but possible, that maybe, it's just a thought, but maybe the company should consider, now stay with me, maybe the company should consider building a transmission that might not last ten years.

Maybe eight years.

Maybe five.

How about three?

How about three years or 100,000 miles?

And why just focus on the transmission?

Why not make everything to last about three years and 100,000 miles?

Hell, we could even sell the schlub an extra warranty. For an extra $500, we could promise to replace anything that goes wrong with the car in 3 years or 100,000 miles.

Planned Obsolescence: To create a sparkly, glamorous, new machine at right about the time you get sick of your beater.

Designed Obsolescence: Hyundai.

You may now put down your #2 Ticonderoga.

The reason I write this is because today, Apple will announce a new set of products. Probably the iPhone 6 with a bigger screen and nearfield technology. Probably an new iPad with a screen that doesn't absorb so much finger oil. And probably some sort of wearable that plugs directly into your soul for recharging.

Now I am a man who has drunk deeply from the Apple koolaid cup.

But I will most likely buy none of these things.

The main reason, of course, is I have no money for these things.

The other reason is because I plan for planned obsolescence in everything that I buy and today's "How To Tuesday" is about how to do . . . just that.

Step One: Need.
Always start with asking yourself the question "What need does it fill?"

And the answer does not have to be sensible. Don't listen to people, like myself, who lean toward pragmatism. If a new blouse makes you feel pretty, I don't care how many identical blouses you have in your closet. Buy the damn blouse. Feel pretty.

I do, however, spend almost all of my consumer curiosity deliberating over this question. Recently I bought brand new piece of equipment that I didn't actually need, but I hoped . . . just hoped . . . that it would revolutionize my live sound. It did and I'm happy. Did I need it? No. Does it make me feel pretty? Yes it does.

In the case of the iStuff about to be launched today, there is absolutely nothing they could come up with that I actually need.


Step Two: Longevity
Every Mac that I've owned has lasted forever. The only reason I've ever upgraded is because the next one did things that the other one simply couldn't. Some may claim that that is a form of Design Obsolescence, but I'm not buying that argument. My current Mac is six years old and still runs like a champ. The PC it replaced was crap six months after I bought it.

But getting back to the blouse analogy, if you need that blouse for one night and one night only, buy it. The shelf life of fashion is only around six hours. About the same as a banana.

And if you find yourself in the place where you're purchasing a lot of bridesmade dresses, then you don't need to rethink your spending habits, you need to rethink your friends.

There's also a second part to this one, and that's durability.

I take care of my things, so they have a tendency to last longer. But you take the case of my step-son who likes to drop his phone in toilets, wash them with his clothes, drop them, kick them, and leave them laying about in common dorm areas, then he's always gonna have to consider nerf products that have a leash.

and in his case . . . 

Step Three: The Cost/Value Equation.
Things cost. They just do. That's how all this works. So once you've considered both need and durability, it's time to give some serious thought to how much something costs in comparison to how much value you get out of it.

Don't forget that JOY is VALUE.

We'd get more joy out of a family trip to DisneyWorld than we would just puttering around the house this weekend. But . . . a trip to DisneyLand would cost about $3,000 less.

DisneyLand it is.

No honey, we're not going to DisneyLand, that was just an example.

Or like if my wife wants a new blouse for our date-night, I don't mind nursing a single glass of wine throughout dinner to balance the expense, but if she wants one for a special occasion where other people are involved, I don't even consider the price, I just insist that she not tell me.

I don't know why she always wants to tell me.

And there is the producer/marketing department concept of Feature Overload to raise the perceived value.

Like cup holders.

Or a refrigerator with wifi capability.

Or wider screens (on phones, not TVs, when it comes to TV's go big or go home. Phones on the other hand have gotten, well, out of hand. If it doesn't fit in my jean's pocket then it is no longer a phone it's a computer.)

Step Four: Don't be Cheap.
You will undo steps one thru three if you try to scrape the aftermarket barrel. I once tried to save lots of cash on a simple blu-ray player cause we didn't need a single damn extra option, but we like movie extras, and Blu-ray Discs now come with all the extras.

Bad mistake.

It's been nothing but trouble.

But I'm not in the market for a new one, cause this one works okay enough . . . mostly.

And finally . . . 

Step Five: Enjoy your things.
I know that sounds weird. The politcally correct want us all to move to a post consumerism ideal, where we only fill our lives with the bare necessities, but I love books and music and food and movies. I like having the right tool for the job and musical instruments that are as much decoration as they are playable. You might walk into my house and think I'm a bit garrish with my product lined shelves and garage full of . . . well . . . things . . . I guess.

But I like my stuff.

You should like your stuff too.

And even though I won't be queueing up at the Apple Store in two months to buy a watch that gives me real time data on my body mass index, but I'm sure there are those of you out there who will.

So enjoy it.

At least until iOS 15 comes out.

Then you're screwed.

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