When a company makes a manufacturing decision to make consumer products in such a way that they become out-of-date or useless within a known time period, this is called “planned obsolescence.” The main goal of this type of production is to ensure consumers will have to buy the product multiple times, rather than only once.
Probably one of the best examples of planned obsolescence is in the phone industry as you would be hard-pressed to find anyone owning a phone more than five years old. Even before Apple admitted to consumers it deliberately slowed down the performance of older models without users’ consent, the strategy of continually producing phones that are better and faster has been the American way for a good long time.
Imagine, for a minute, if you had one battery charger that would work with your drill, saw, flashlight, etc. But, no, each device has its own charger. Why? Because if it wasn’t this way, the companies that manufacture chargers would not be in business.
The business practice of deliberately outdating an item (much before the end of its useful life) by stopping its supply or service support and introducing a newer, (often incompatible) model or version is the accepted practice. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer to this depends on if this question is asked to the buyer or the seller.
The garment industry for years sold stockings with the inevitable “laddering” which forced consumers to continue to buy new ones. This discouraged all manufacturers from even looking for a fiber that did not ladder. Why would they, as this would be shooting themselves in the proverbial “manufacturers’ foot.”
Could car makers, theoretically, manufacture a car that lasted forever? The answer is that they probably could; however, this would cut out all the car sales, and car repairs in the world. Plus, who would be happy driving their 1962 Ford Fairlane around town?
Personally, I don’t mind paying a little more for a fishing pole, if I know that if I break the tip off, for instance, I can get it replaced for a small fee — rather than just tossing the rod in the trash and starting over.
As consumers, today, we are all in charge of doing the proper research before the purchase of any product. If you are paying more for a product, are you truly getting more “bang for your buck?” Is there service and support of the product you are buying? Are there replacement parts made for the product? These are but a few of the questions to be considered before the purchase of any product. Happy shopping.
Tim Schumacher represents Strategic Financial Partners in Hays.