Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Recently I had the misfortune of dropping my cell phone in a sink full of water. Off to the AT&T store to hopefully get it fixed. Wrong! The sales guy at the AT&T store reminded me that they don't fix those anymore - too expensive, but they would be happy to replace the unit, or even upgrade (at a very substantial premium)! Ouch... did the repairman move to the Philippine Islands or something?
Wait: isn't that exactly what we do with many houses today? Are we now building them to be "functionally obsolete" within years now instead of lifetimes?
When I started in the business in 1978 the firm I worked for was just completing the biggest home imaginable on Inwood Road for a wonderful couple. Easily 10,000 square feet of living space with everything you could possibly conceive. The pool was "ginormous" and the tennis court was beautiful! For years I drove past that house wondering what that wonderful family was doing, until one day when I went by, AND IT WAS GONE! Someone wanted the land under the house, pool and tennis courts to re-create life in their own image! No telling what THAT cost!
We live in a world where everything seems to be disposable. Maybe it started with kid's diapers - cloth was too hard to keep clean so someone invented disposable diapers (admittedly a much better idea!). Onward the trend went to paper plates, plastic forks and spoons, toiletries, clothing, cars, appliances, electronics, cell phones etc. Even marriages! The whole world is disposable!
To learn more about this topic I looked up "functional obsolescence" for a definition. Oddly Wikipedia also gave me "Technical obsolescence" or when a new product or technology supersedes the old and it becomes preferable to utilize the new technology in place of the old (see: my cell phone!); "Planned obsolescence" or when marketers deliberately introduce obsolescence into their product strategy with the objective of generating long-term sales and repeat purchase (seems grossly unfair!); "Style obsolescence" which is when a product is no longer desirable because it has gone out of style (they highlighted Jimi Hendrix's bell-bottoms - gross!); "Postponement obsolescence" which is something altogether different; even "Obsolescence management" which I guess has to do with managing the obsolescence.
You mean to tell me that a whole generation of "obsolescence" has been created to cheat us out of what used to be built to last? Understanding that the almighty dollar seems to rule in our society, isn't this somewhat unethical? I am finding it hard to believe that people would deliberately build a product and take my money with the sole intention of having it either break or go out of style so that they can take my money again by selling me the "new and improved" version of what I already had! Am I the only one here who finds that unfair?