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  • Tuesday, October 18, 2005


    Cheaper is Not Better

    I bought a dish drainer not too long ago from a nameless chain store whose stock includes various household items, LINENS aNd other THINGS. It seemed much better than the usual cheap plastic ones we usually use, made of shiny steel and pleasing to the eye. My only concern was that the tray/pan used to hold drained water was flimsy. I imagined it would bend or crumple the first time I washed it.

    Imagine my surprise when I noticed rust spots on the pan's surface. I realized it didn't say stainless steel on the box when I bought it. I just assumed that such a pan, which in normal use is in contact with water, would be designed to resist rust. The only way it would last is if you actually dried it immediately after using it.

    Why am I writing about such a minor annoyance, duplicated often in our consumer lives? Because it says something about our society and the "convenience" products sold in it.

    Have you ever bought a product that failed and broke the first time you used it? Has it ever seemed like the effort it would take to return it and receive a refund was more trouble than the cost of the item? Would you feel embarrassed that you bought such a piece of crap in the first place? This is the cost of so-called cheap consumer items. When prices reach a certain point, we accept that disposability becomes an inherent part of the equation. Not when the object wears out, not when it can no longer be repaired, but from the moment the object is bought.

    We are trained to desire things we don't need, to feel unfulfilled by our possessions and yet as if more or different possessions will create contentment and happiness. I always get a grim amusement out of the fact that tuberculosis used to be called consumption. I think: consumers are engaged in consumption and it will eventually kill them with empty desires. This is what I think.

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