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Products designed to fail, a documentary

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Carol Haynes:
@Carol Haynes:
...'second hand' goods con turning swathes of Africa and Asia into open sewers.
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Could you explain this for me please (maybe in a PM if it is off-topic)?
I Googled the phrase and still couldn't really figure out what it was that you were intending to refer to.
-IainB (November 02, 2011, 08:02 PM)
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It was in the film. US Companies are not allowed to export dead electronics to be dumped in landfill in other countries but they get round the law by saying they are shipping second hand goods. Once they arrive they are simply dumped. There is a whole section in the film in Ghana where there is water pollution andother problems caused by the massive amounts of dumping - even from so called green companies (I won't mention the fruit company again).

Does anyone know a SUCCESSFUL and LARGE company that behaves "decently" towards it customers, and really creates fantastic products that stand the test of time?-Renegade (November 02, 2011, 06:58 AM)
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Not what you were thinking of I'll bet.......

I'd dare say that it's a fantastic product, does exactly just what the customer wants, damn near indestructible.  Just ask the millions of satisfied customers worldwide.


I guess I am surprised that some people in this forum seem to be so surprised and indignant about PO (Planned Obsolescence) in action. The reason I am surprised is that I have seen PO in action for most of my adult life. It is a common-place and ubiquitous fact of life in Western economies.

For example:

* Make sure it fails: The infamous case of the deliberate under-engineering of the tab of a locking washer on the end of the camshaft in the British Leyland Austin Princess 2200HL (a superbly advanced design of car for its time). The tab was a known design flaw that was never corrected, though it could easily have been. On assembly in the production line, there was a 50/50 chance that the tab would shear as the torque nut that held it was being tightened. In operation, the shearing would mean that the torque nut, having no locking washer to prevent it, would be rotationally pushed out on its thread. This would gradually give increasingly excessive end float to the shaft, which would perform as normal for typically about 18 months of its operation (i.e., until out of 12-month warranty), all the time moving in an out and gradually chafing its way through the camshaft end-housing. The housing would develop a hole, out of which engine oil would leak, ending up with oil-starved main bearings and eventual engine failure. A new/rebuilt engine was necessary. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind.
* Make sure it rusts: After the bare metal car chassis had been made, they would be stacked outside in the weather, developing a film of rust before being painted. So the rust worked away under the paint, pushing it off and exposing the metal to the elements. Through the long winters in the UK, it was common practice for local councils to have trucks mechanically scatter sand-and-salt mix over most of the major roads, so as to prevent black ice forming. It was very effective at that. It was also effective as a sand-blasting of the painted underside of the cars, exposing the bare metal so that the salt accelerated the corrosion through an electro-chemical effect. Perfect.
Unless you had never driven the car during a winter, new cars were all set to be converted into rust-buckets after about 2½ years. What a surprise. (NOT.)
* Kill threatening new technology: the General Motors EV1. The zinc and steel alloy invented and patented in the '70s. As strong as or stronger than just steel, this alloy became malleable when heated up to a certain temperature and coincidentally was rust-proof. It would have made pressed-steel manufacturing of car bodies obsolete. You could just heat the sheets of metal up so as to easily mould them into complex shapes using simple moulding or blow-moulding techniques. Cheaper, more efficient, and more effective - and how about that rustproof chassis and body, eh?! Buried without trace.

* Mainframes - make 'em fat and bloated: IBM invented the nifty trick of regularly releasing new updates/versions of the OS, and withdrawing contractual support for the older versions. You had to keep upgrading to the newer, faster, bigger mainframes because - well, obviously - the older machines became progressively more fully occupied just running the new OS (if they could run it at all), and couldn't get much productive computing done. (Does this sound familiar? It should do.)
* PCs, laptops, servers: (Enuff said.)

Carol Haynes:
Here's a thought - when a product fails and has to be put into landfill charge the manufacturer double the original purchase price for each item in dumping tax! That would make them think.-Carol Haynes (November 02, 2011, 11:34 AM)
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It wouldn't change them, any increased cost would just be added to the purchase price for the consumer.
-4wd (November 02, 2011, 10:58 PM)
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I can't see why not - if they have to increase prices to cover the cost of dumping then they would have an incentive to make sure things don't need dumping - either make everything recyclable (and make them pay the cost of recycling) or charge them an exorbitant rate for dumping (including any branded items that are dumped directly by consumers - say twice the retail price or $50 whichever is lower).

If they have to pass on that cost to the consumer they will soon be priced out of the market and only products that are economically viable (ie. have a long life and don't incur massive end of life costs) will survive.

As for the 'second hand export scam' it would be easy enough for legislation to be put into place to say that every item exported as second hand goods has to have a certificate that it works properly and still complies with environmental and safety limits of the country of export (so they can't export fridges that leak CFCs). Any corporation found to be abusing the system could have their export licenses revoked for all goods (including the new stuff they want to sell).

For a practical question: why do people need to constantly change to the latest model? Its one thing to chage to a new computer every 4-5 years as technology is changing rapidly but why do people need to buy a new MP3 player or a new mobile phone every year?

I am still using the first MP3 players I bought (and have a stock of spare batteries as you can no longer buy them), and in my life I have owned precisely 3 mobile phones and the first two were only scrapped because they stopped working. At the end of the day a phone is a phone and an MP3 player is an MP3 player - why do they need to be replaced so often? DO people grow extra ears every year or have I missed something?

I know that it's immoral, but I would actually prefer some of my stuff to break early in order to justify buying a newer, better version of it.
-phitsc (November 03, 2011, 05:21 AM)
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I don't think you could reasonably be called immoral for that.
There are many examples where changing/upgrading a technologically-rich device was necessary to make progress.
For example, I am please with my new Epson scanner, and it's much better hardware and software technology too. Yet I am annoyed that I was forced to dump my old HP scanner by HP artificially architecting its obsolescence by burying the OS support in XP and Win7-64.


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