Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Global Warming?

My Hyundai CD/DVD player, aged 1 1/2 years, has been stuck at "Loading" for over a week, and nothing seems to get it unstuck. Unplugging and replugging, changing from CD to DVD, pressing all combinations of buttons. Open/Close works, but nothing else. My unusually honest electronic equipment guy says nobody repairs these things because it's cheaper to buy a new one. Why is this wrong? Discuss.


Anonymous said...

"Why is this wrong?"

I'm not sure it is wrong. How much does a new one cost? How long would it take to fix a broken one? Do you know how much education and training would it take to be able to fix it? What is a fair hourly rate for someone with that much education? How does a repair person keep up to date on all the different types of consumer electronics that keep coming out?

If someone could make a decent living fixing electronics they probably would. If a new unit was very very expensive then it might be possible to run a business fixing broken units. This could occur either in a third world economy or in a more developed economy where the units are very very expensive to buy new. I'd would not like to live in either one.

This is how we fix electronics in the US:

He's armed with a power screwdriver, some prying tools and told to be like Nike and 'just do it'. Of course, this often leads to other parts being damaged or broken from improper repairs. And when it happens - trust me, this isn't an 'IF', it DOES happen, and pretty often - then Timmy has to order more parts to cover what he damaged trying to fix the real issues. And then, sometimes those parts aren't replaced at all. Ones that are damaged cosmetically are often covered up, repaired using Super Glue (yes, seriously), or swapped out with parts from dead units. After what may take several days, or even WEEKS if parts are ordered from an outside vendor, Timmy has replaced the faulty part in your laptop. If said part didn't fix it, guess what? You start the process all over again, but this time with an added challenge for the senior agent doing the diagnosis.

BTW, I like your blog I wish you had time to post more. You are the only Israeli blog I still follow since I looked at so many last summer.

samirah said...

i have no idea why it's wrong. sorry.

but i have news! i let my friend pierce my lip in the bathroom of our dorm with a safety pin. it's badly infected now which came as a surprise to no one.

Slim and Slam said...

"My unusually honest electronic equipment guy says nobody repairs these things because it's cheaper to buy a new one. Why is this wrong?"

Your question is ambiguous. You could be saying "Why is my electronic equipment guy incorrect?" or you could be saying "Why is this an incorrect/immoral/dissatisfying societal approach to the problem of malfunctioning electronic equipment?"

Context would suggest the latter, and the first anonymous commenter would agree.

Now, to answer the question: the wrongness of this scenario is linked to the inequities of wages in different parts of the world, as well as the econimies of scale.

Construction of a new unit does not require individualized attention, and can be done where the labor is cheap. Also, it doesn't take much (if any) more skill to manufacture five thousand units as to manufacture one. It just takes some time, and automation, cheap labor, and the efficiency of repetitive labor keep those time costs down.

Repair or reconstruction, by contrast, has to be done indivually. None of it can be automated, and each unit's problem is different. (If there is a problem that replicates itself on a wide scale, there's often a mass-produced patch to fix the problem.) Also, the consumer desires that the repair be done in the consumer's part of the world; for Israelis, this means that the per-man-hour labor costs for repair are much, much higher than the costs for construction (in China or wherever).

If the unit is constructed in the same place that it is used, and in small enough numbers that each unit is essentially hand-crafted, then it would make economic sense to repair these products. That is not the world we live in anymore.

As to fixing the problem: have you tried giving the unit a good shake?

Liza said...

It seems to be a standard answer these days, which I'm sure is far from comforting. We may be in the same boat soon enough, given that we can't seem to get our copy of Pooh's Heffalump Movie out of the DVD player, and even though the movie runs perfectly, I'm getting a little tired of it.

You should check the prices for a new player in duty-free the next time you fly. They often have some very good deals.

Udge said...

Definitely wrong, but also definitely a sign of the times. It probably contains no separately identifiable electronic parts, just a single board; and since the motor presumably isn't what's broken there is nothing that could be replaced. I'm not saying this is morally or ecologically correct, I share your discomfort with and distaste for the notion of throwing away yet another thing as the ultimate way to solve any problem. Disposable humans is the logical next step.

Udge said...

Er, where did you buy it? In Germany, consumer goods are guaranteed by law for two years, no matter what the store tells you.

JoeinVegas said...

It's probably sad that it's a Hyundai and protesting.

MotherPie said...

Two words:
Planned obsolesense

Savtadotty said...

Dear, dear commentors, all of you: my electronic karma has been so bad that a) my flat screen monitor died last Thursday, just after I posted about the DVD, and b) blogger decided not to send me gmail notifications of your comments, even though I've been checking my gmail at friends' computers until I got my new, improved, larger flat screen. Now for individual responses:

anonymous - I guess you've explained why it's more economical to replace the broken thing than to repair it, especially if repair persons are as ill-prepared as you describe. And thanks for continuing to read my blog; I have time to post more, but my tools won't let me!

Samirah - Your brilliance has rendered me speechless! And possibly you as well?

Slim - I meant morally, as you assumed. Are you telling me that globalization may one day equalize wages so that I won't be able to afford either to repair or to replace my electronic equipment? I think I'll try to shake that thing.

Liza - If shaking it doesn't work, I will buy another one at duty-free next week. Odd that it broke when I was trying to watch "The Incredibles."

Udge - Disposable humans...I think we're partially there already.

Joe - You really think it would be happier if it were a Panasonic or a Sony?

Motherpie - I guess you're right (sigh). Don't like thinking about being thrown out myself (see Udge).