Quality just isn’t a major priority anymore. Part of this, of course, is due to the rampant outsourcing, and the attendant difficulties that brings into play. You have one group of people designing a product, and another group from an entirely different country, language, culture, skill set and education level tasked to build it in a sweat shop half a planet away.
On top of that, as an article on Zerohedge tells us, continuous expansion of the money supply has resulted in an environment where quality is deliberately sacrificed in order to keep production lines open that, in our recessed economy, ought to be kept closed.
The combination has resulted in what I find, in my personal experience, to be an unmitigated disaster. Allow me to explain.
The house I currently own was a new construction home. It is modest, but also not the cheapest thing around either. We’ve had very little trouble with most of the home, as it was built with decent quality components, and the builder seemed to genuinely care it was done right.
But the appliances were another story entirely. The A/C unit has continually failed, necessitating a replacement of most major components. The coils developed a leak within 2 years, a large enough one that the unit had to be replaced. Then the fan motor froze due to a bad bearing, and this was part of why the capacitors went bad around the same time (they were also semi-defective themselves – the fan start up cycle was never quite right). Now the compressor is going bad, drawing far too much amperage, a sign of impending failure.
The unit is 3 years old. The A/C technician said he’s seen 20 year old units that didn’t look this bad. And it’s not like we overuse the unit — I keep the house between 78 and 80.
My father is an electrician, and he lamented this problem in his own line of work. There’s an old GE unit running at one of the properties he maintains that has been there since the 60s, and still has most of its original components. The owner is thinking about replacement only because regulations around Freon usage are forcing many property owners to upgrade otherwise functional units (thank the environazis for this one). So an older A/C unit has lasted more than 50 years, whereas my new one can’t handle 3. The government solution, of course, is to replace the good 50 year old units with defective new ones that will fail within 3 years.
You might say this is a fluke, except that in my neighborhood, several other units from the same manufacturer have had the exact same problems. Some of the residents bit the bullet and completely replaced what were, essentially, brand new units. One neighbor explained that it cost him $10k to have this done, but it was worth it for not having to pay hundreds of dollars in repairs every month.
But it’s not just the A/C unit. Our refrigerator’s water pump went out after 1 year. And then again after 3. Also, the produce doors are exceptionally low quality and prone to breakage with the slightest application of force. Then the dishwasher mounting bracket broke off.
The house was built fine. No trouble with the plumbing, or the construction, or the electrical wiring, or anything. The appliances were an unmitigated disaster. Of course, every part replaced on these appliances was labeled “made in China.” So much for Chinese quality control.
But it goes beyond that. We’ve bought three TVs in the last 5 years. 1 went bad after a mere 2 years. The Blu-Ray player we bought had a bad remote control that never worked right. One of the other TVs has a remote control where the volume buttons never worked. We bought a kegerator for the bar area, and the thermostat on it was broken out of the box (I ripped a thermostat out of similar unit and replaced it myself – better than spending the money to RMA it back to the manufacturer).
For my battery-powered power tools, about 1 in 5 batteries are completely dead out of the box. And another 2 out of 5 fail within 10 charge cycles. So if I want 2 operational batteries, I must purchase 5. It’s so bad, I’ve gone back to buying everything with cords again. Meanwhile, the old circular saw I have that dates back to the 60s still works, while the new battery powered one jams up every time, and has never worked quite like it ought to.
Meanwhile the microphone on my cell phone failed after 6 months. But, oddly enough, the speakerphone and Bluetooth still work, so as long as I want everyone else in the world to hear my conversations, the phone still works.
I’d say about half of everything we buy is at least partially defective, and around 20% of it critically defective (i.e. you can’t even use it in diminished capacity, or fix it). You might say “well, Dystopic, stop buying cheap brands.” Except that these are major brands. LG, GE, Samsung… if they can’t even get a handle on this, I don’t want to know how bad the off brands are. And never mind the fact that, for many types of products, the off brands and the name brands are built side by side in the same Chinese sweatshop factories anyway.
Then if I go through the drive thru after a hard day’s work, I’ll ask for a burger without mayo. That’s the only “odd” thing I ask for. No fucking mayonnaise. The mayonnaise failure rate for fast food is, in my experience, hovering around 20%. Sometimes I even get extra mayo instead of none. Remember that next time you see the “we need $15/hour” signs around your local street corner. I submit that if an aeronautical engineer’s aircraft fell out of the sky 20% of the time, you might not pay him very much… Or consider that $15/hour is pretty typical for EMS workers in my area. What if 20% of the time they got their directions screwed up and the poor victim died at the scene?
No, I’m not directly comparing my burger to those scenarios. If I wind up halfway down the road, and notice my burger has mayo on it, I won’t die. But nonetheless, the utter disregard for quality is ubiquitous and irritating. Besides the cost of having to return a product, or call the warranty service, or fix the damn thing yourself (more common for me), there is the waste of time dealing with these problems. My wife could have been doing any number of things this afternoon, but she was stuck dealing with the A/C technician repairing the defective, piece of shit unit for the third time this year.
And as I’m typing this, I realize that the soles on my three month old shoes are worn far too thin for the age of the shoes. I’ll have to replace them soon. I’ll try a different brand, of course, but I have no confidence that the next pair will be any better…