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Quality Is No Longer Job One, But That's OK

from the longing-for-the-good-ol'-days dept

The saying “they just don’t make them like they used to” may be more than just pure nostalgia. First brought up in the 1970s, declining product quality is back on the radar as a concern for American society. Since the 1990s, there has been a suggestive trend of declining quality in consumer products. Has our society become too disposable? Products now improve so quickly, you can frequently get a newer, more feature-laden product for less than it would cost to repair the old one. The premium afforded to a higher quality product is less than in years past. This short-term focus may not be all the fault of the corporations designing these products, however. Percentage of savings as compared to disposable income has steadily declined since the mid 1990s. Is this indicative of an increasing short term focus of the MTV generation? Is our disposable society or planned obsolescence to blame of the decline in product quality? Are we doomed? Does it even matter? Faced with quickly improving products, consumers are willing to make the bet that a few dollars saved today will be more worthwhile than the investment in product longevity. They can then use the money they’ve saved to buy more stuff that will break in about a year. Everyone is happy. Manufacturers sell more product. Consumers have more stuff. Junk scavengers are ecstatic. Oh, right… environmentalists aren’t so happy with this trend.

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Comments on “Quality Is No Longer Job One, But That's OK”

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Freed says:

Doesn't surprise me at all

I have a cheap 3 year old Laser printer with a damaged drum, necessitating a cartridge replacement. It’s $40 cheaper to buy a brand new laser printer from the same manufacturer (with a toner cartridge included) than it is to buy a replacement cartridge for my old printer.

Must be some sort of planned deterioration built into the product to inspire you to buy a new one.

– Freed

xonk says:


Subscriptions are the world of the future. When you buy a laser printer, you’ll pick it up at the store, but instead of paying for the printer, you actually establish a subscription for, say, $10 a month. Forever. If it breaks, you go get a new one “with no additional charge”. If you don’t use it, cancel your subscription and the printer disables itself (via some DRM mechanism), and perhaps return it for a (small) refund. You won’t really own anything anymore. The same thing for your car, refrigerator, even your dog.

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