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Not quality

September 18th, 2011

Seems everything has a built-in lifespan these days of a-whole-lot-less-than-it-should-be. I got the Marshall Major Headphones less than a year ago. A week after I got them the little gold plate on the inside just above the left ear cup just fell off. Seems they are hot glued on and the glue is less than good:

The matching place on the other side fell off a month later.

And now, 10 Months into owning the headphones they have completely fallen apart:

When I pay US$100 for a pair of headphones I expect them to last more than a year. And not to single out Marshall here; it seems that every consumer electronics company is building their products with 12 or 18 months expected lifetimes. And it seems to be a relativity new thing. Time for some then and now, walk-uphill-both-ways-to-school, bitching…

Exhibit one: my Nokia 3310 and N95

Circa 2001 I got a Nokia 3310 as a cheap prepaid mobile when I moved to England. It was a brick. I used, and abused it all over Europe. Dropped it down the stairs of the London Monument. Dropped it in the snow in Amsterdam. Drop it, over and over around Europe. And then I dropped it over and over in the US, the phone was such a brick I used it for 3+ years as my daily phone, alarm clock and watch, in England, backpacking around Europe and back in the US when I had to get a job. I used it till my work furnished me with a blackberry and all kinds of color phones to testing MMS in late 2004. And you know what. I still have it. And; it still works. It’s a brick. And I mean that in a, very, good sense.

Then in 2008 my company got me a Nokia N95. It lasted 14 months. By the time I finished with it the battery cover was replaced twice, the screen flickered and you could not keep the dame thing open it would keep sliding shut if you didn’t hold it open. Piece of shit. It broke within weeks of the warranty expiring. Didn’t even make it to the 18 month average life expectancy of most users phones — a life expectancy based not on the item breaking but on it being replaced by a newer device. And I’m not a special case; all the guys in my office got N95s around the same time. They all broke to various degrees within the same timeline. Nokia has simply stopped making high quality handset and moved to cheap manufacturing designed to limp along just long enough so people could upgrade when their contracts allowed it. A cynic might say that Nokia was artificially inflating their sales by making a substandard product designed to break and be replaced by a new, Nokia, handset.

Exhibit two: Maytag washer and dryer made in Malaysia

Two months ago I had to replace my Maytag washer and dryer after less than 4 years. The dryer heating element died and the washer motor sounded like a jack hammer powered by a jet engine. I had the repair guy come out — which is the height of irony given how board and lonely we are all lead to believe the Maytag man is [YouTube.com]… — The repairman was quite nice and explained to me what needed to be done to fix the problems and how much it would cost. Then he advised me to buy a new set. He also advised against buying Maytag if I didn’t want to go though the same thing. He reason was that, while I was familiar, as an American, with the quality of Maytag washers and dryers, the ones I purchased in Asia were not the same, they were not made in the US or Mexico like the ones I was familiar with, they were made in Malaysia and had a life expectancy, in his opinion of not more than 5 years. I bought the Maytag’s based on my experience with Maytag. The ugly 70’s green ones that sat in my parent’s basement for most of my life and worked like dogs washing and drying 6 people’s cloths and bedding. I think the dryer died first when I was like 12 and the washer 5 years later. Which means they lasted 12 and 17 years or more (I don’t know if they were purchased when we moved in in ’78 or came with us…) This is the quality I expected paying the same price in Singapore. I got shit. So I replaced my washer and dryer with ones made in Europe, by Germans, I can only hope they are better.

Conclusion

Manufacturers are no longer worried about quality; they want to sell us the cheapest thing that will last just long enough that we will by from them again when it breaks. Short term, stock price planning at it’s best. Consumerism at it’s best — Buy and throw away.

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