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Speaking of gadgetry. . .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Week35_waste_Beth_Terry.jpgI received a perfectly-timed email from Beth of Fake Plastic Fish this morning -- if you're sick and tired of gadgets that break and can't be fixed, and especially if you've got a story to share, you'll want to keep reading.

Here's how it happened: Beth's HP computer monitor broke. She brought it in to be repaired, and the repairman figured out what was wrong with it and what part he needed to fix it. He called the company, and they refused to sell him the part he needed. They would only sell a whole, brand new monitor.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what's called planned obsolescence, and it is absolute-- well, this is a family blog, so I can't say exactly what I think it is. But you get the picture. When a company intentionally makes products that won't last too long and can't be fixed or upgraded, they're disrespecting the planet and their consumers. If they can't find a better way to make money for their shareholders, maybe they ought to find a different line of work.

The Electronics Takeback Coalition normally works to get companies to take back and recycle their broken electronic products, but after receiving an (angry) email from Beth, they replied that they're interested in expanding into a campaign about dead gadgets. To quote extensively from Beth's post, which quotes extensively from an email she received from the ETC:

We have focused on the recycling end of the e-waste problem. But we want to do more on promoting reuse, and green design concepts that allow us to hang on to our electronic products longer, and to upgrade them to keep up with advances in technology. So far, the industry has focused on energy as the primary criteria for “green design.” While we don’t disagree that energy use by the product is important, the energy used to create new products is even more significant, and could be reduced if our products simply lasted longer.

We want dead gadget stories!

We would love to receive stories just like the one you documented on your blog, showing clearly how products simply can’t be fixed or upgraded, because of clear choices made by the product designers.

Please send your stories to [email protected] and include the following information:

  1. Make and model
  2. Year they bought it. Is it under warranty?
  3. Why it’s dead. (Doesn’t turn on, won’t reboot, can’t upgrade it to run certain software, etc)
  4. Steps taken to try to fix it, or cost to fix it. (Here’s where your story was incredibly compelling. You didn’t just say your monitor died – you found someone who tried to fix it, identified the part needed, made the call, and then was rebuffed. So asking your readers to fill in this part would be great. Making the call to get an estimate on what it would cost to fix it (vs replace it) is good. But actually getting the company to say they WON'T sell you a replacement part gets to the heart of the issue. So that’s an extra step, but if you could ask them to document this, it will help us tell this story. Feel free to include whom they spoke with at the companies, so there can be no question of misunderstanding.)
  5. Picture of the dead gadget. (Be sure we can see the manufacturer name or logo!) For our dead gadget gallery (soon to come).

    This request includes broken TELEVISIONS, not just computer-type devices.

    Barbara also added that if there are any serious reuse and upgrade geeks out here, she'd love to talk to them in more detail about how they could do a more thorough “study” of this issue, trends they see with different companies, etc.

So. If you're sick and tired of broken gadgets and you want something done about it, send your story to [email protected] -- and tell your friends, too!

Photo: Week 35 Waste, including HP monitor, from Fake Plastic Fish.