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Products designed to fail, a documentary

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In case you need yet another thing to piss you off in this world,
Here's an interesting documentary I found that confirms what I always suspected: how nowadays products are designed to fail from the start...

Not sure if it's that one or another one similar, but I've seen one of them before -- excellent video(s). :)

It goes across so many industries as well.

e.g. I have clothes that are 20+ years old and still very good. I still wear them. I also have clothes that are a year old and they're dying. ;-(

Edit: I think that's the one I saw.  :Thmbsup: A VERY worthwhile watch!

I only watched the start of this doco up to the point when the soft voice of the women speaking over it said, as though announcing something incredible and new:
"Planned obsolescence - the secret mechanism at the heart of our consumer society."
--- End quote ---

The opening credits didn't say when the film was made, but it would presumably be within the last few years if it is now on YouTube.
I have to say that I am surprised at such apparent naiveté in a film-maker and it makes me suspect a potentially deliberate attempt to mislead on their part.

Recommended reading for me in my studies in the early '70s was an excellent book: Vance Packard's book The Waste Makers

Description of the book on Amazon for Vance Packard's book The Waste Makers

An exposé of "the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals," The Waste Makers is Vance Packard's pioneering 1960 work on how the rapid growth of disposable consumer goods was degrading the environmental, financial, and spiritual character of American society.

The Waste Makers was the first book to probe the increasing commercialization of American life—the development of consumption for consumption's sake. Packard outlines the ways manufacturers and advertisers persuade consumers to buy things they don't need and didn't know they wanted, including the two-of-a-kind of everything syndrome—"two refrigerators in every home"—and appeals to purchase something because it is more expensive, or because it is painted in a new color. The book also brought attention to the concept of planned obsolescence, in which a "death date" is built into products so that they wear out quickly and need to be replaced. By manipulating the public into mindless consumerism, Packard believed that business was making us "more wasteful, imprudent, and carefree in our consuming habits," which was using up our natural resources at an alarming rate.

A prescient book that predicted the rise of American consumer culture, this all new edition of The Waste Makers features an introduction by best-selling author Bill McKibben.

Vance Packard (1914-1996) was an American journalist, social critic, and best-selling author. Among his other books were The Hidden Persuaders, about how advertisers use psychological methods to get people to buy the products they sell; The Status Seekers, which describes American social stratification and behavior; and The Naked Society, about the threats to privacy posed by new technologies.

--- End quote ---

What Packard described was and apparently still is an accepted result of Western civilisation creating the concept of a Corporation to produce goods for consumers to consume. If you search the DC Forum for references to the film The Corporation, and the terms "psychopath" and "legal person", then you should be able to find more material about this and it will save me the trouble of duplicating it in this comment.

I should add that most Corporations seem to try to operate within the law most of the time, and that includes some degree of consumer protection within the duration of a product's consumer warranty/guarantee. These warranties are usually something to the effect that the product is guaranteed to be free of defect and, if it fails, then it will be replaced/repaired at no cost for a period of 12 months from date of purchase.

From experience, built-in product obsolescence tends to kick in within 18 months to 3 years for most computer-related products, and often is cunningly designed into a slow electro-chemical breakdown within the capacitors in the circuitry. When they fail, there can "unfortunately" be resulting damage to other associated components. I read somewhere that a firm in Singapore (I forget it's name) was reputedly highly proficient in supplying capacitors that fail like clockwork in a planned/timed obsolescence, and they supply the major computer hardware manufacturers.

The exception to this obsolescence is typically when the manufacturer has - presumably by mistake - produced something that is effectively "built like a truck" and likely to have a useful working life of 100+ years - like my trusty HP ScanJet 3400C scanner, for example.
In the latter example, HP deliberately and without warning forced the product's progressive obsolescence.
They did this by removing support for the drivers in XP (where Microsoft instead provided a basic driver) and in Windows 7 (where Microsoft had presumably been asked by HP not to provide a basic driver, so there was nothing). Of course,  when I bought the scanner, HP omitted to tell me that they were going to use this ploy. If they had, I might have bought something else.
The scanner worked fine - or could have done - except that it just didn't have any software that could drive it was all. (I posted about this in the DC Forum a while back.)

I have to say that I am surprised at such apparent naiveté in a film-maker and it makes me suspect a potentially deliberate attempt to mislead on their part.
-IainB (November 01, 2011, 10:24 PM)
--- End quote ---

I think that's just being dramatic as the fact that it goes on is utterly beyond comprehension. I don't think that they're trying to mislead. (I don't speak or read Swedish or any of the other languages used in there though, so I could be at a disadvantage in trying to determine that.)

+1 for The Corporation. Wicked video! A must see.  :Thmbsup:

In case you need yet another thing to piss you off in this world,
-Gothi[c] (November 01, 2011, 07:29 PM)
--- End quote ---
I forgot to thank you for reminding me how utterly pissed-off it makes me every time something I buy suffers from PO (Planned Obsolescence).    :mad:

A bit of a rant:
Start of rant.
In the UK in the '70s, the Consumer's Association drew public attention to the PO of the common incandescent electric lightbulb. Most lightbulbs employed a single tungsten filament strung in a small array inside the bulb. After not more than a few hundred on-and-offs, the filament could take the repeated expansion and contraction no more, and snapped, melting at the point of fracture - as it arced and overheated whilst the filament was parting. This made it "flash" as it failed. The bulb had "blown" - on the same principle as a common electric fuse.

For years, the lightbulb manufacturers had planned for this in their production schedules.
After the Consumer's Association had drawn public attention to the PO, some manufacturers belatedly started to produce coiled filaments and then coiled coil filaments, using already well-known technology, which used a coiled tungsten filament instead of a single straight filament. They could have started manufacturing these years before, but they did not until the Consumer's Association drew public attention to the PO.
The life of these bulbs was much longer due to the coil taking up the expansion/contraction as a whole, rather than it straining a single straight filament.

The UK government had pretty good consumer protection laws - e.g., to protect consumers from unscrupulous product/service suppliers. I think they eventually introduced a ban on the single filament lightbulbs as they were clearly a ripoff and wastefull, and the manufacturers were clearly not going to stop pushing the lightbulbs into the market unless they were prohibited from doing so. Why should they? The single filament bulbs were highly profitable.

The Consumer's Association in the UK was very effective in publicising this and similar cases of consumer ripoffs, and corresponding change was brought about as a direct result.

When I went to New Zealand in the '80s, it was like going back in time to the "dark ages" of consumerism in the UK. I was surprised to note that the NZ Consumer's Association seemed apathetic, utterly weak and ineffective - a complete waste of time.
A few years later, whilst on a management training course at NZ's Massey University, we were given a talk by the then CEO of the NZ Consumer's Association. In the Q&A time after his talk, I asked him why the NZ version of the Consumer's Association was not so proactive, agitative and forcing of change in consumer rights protection and regulations. I gave examples.
His reply staggered me: "Well, the NZ Consumer's Association reflects its members' needs. The character of NZ people is a lot more laid back than the British people, so we don't like to get too pushy." (OWTTE)
This explained a lot to me - it made sense - for example, the NZ Automobile Association seems to be equally apathetic and useless when compared to its UK counterpart.
In any event, the next day I cancelled my subscription to the NZ Consumer's Association and I have not renewed it since.

I have kept my eye on their magazine though, but sadly I think the NZ Consumer's Association still seems to be apathetic and a complete waste of time, and the NZ consumer protection laws (e.g., consumer advertising standards) are virtually non-existant, and what little they have lacks teeth or is otherwise ineffective - especially where the NZ Consumer's Association might have been able to claim that they had been involved.

With this as a background to ignorance, the typical NZ consumer is relatively undiscerning and remains a sucker waiting to be taken advantage of, and "Caveat emptor" is certainly still the best advice for consumer protection.
The manufacturers, producers and retailers are seemingly well aware of this, and the products in the marketplace, TV advertising, and selling methods all reflect this situation. The corporation is king and has control over production and the consumer. What few consumer protection laws exist also reflect this - even extending to statutes limiting people's employment contract rights. (Employed people are the best consumers as they have a personal disposable income and thus the propensity to consume.)

So, do not be surprised if you find, if/when you visit NZ, that the single tungsten filament bulb still dominates, and most NZ consumers wouldn't have the foggiest idea of what a"coiled coil" tungsten filament was. Only relatively recently have the low-wattage fluorescent bulbs been pushed into ("flooded" might be a better term) the marketplace - apparently at the manufacturers' behest. These bulbs are unnecessarily expensive, and - from my experience - typically have a limited life, starting to go dimmer and dimmer, so you have to replace them before they actually fail. Vance Packard was spot-on.

This sort of thing in a modern Western-type society would usually reflect the power of manufacturing lobbies in government, rather than anything accidental, and it probably could not have got that way without corruption and/or coercion being involved.
End of rant.


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