Modern Appliances: the Inconvenient Truth
I’d like to request your pardon while I outline a very inconvenient truth. I know you have better things to do than have something you don’t want to believe in brought up and pointed out. But every consumer who is contemplating the purchase of a new appliance for their home, whether to upgrade the looks of their place or out of dire necessity really needs to know and consider what I’m about to say. And it’s not from a place of being preachy. It’s just the facts of our current reality. So here it is.
Starting from the manufacturing angle, let’s briefly consider what goes into making an appliance and bringing it to you for purchase. There are the component parts: let’s say that ore has to be mined and metal smelted and refined through all the many, many industries that have a hand in this and then it needs to get forged into something an appliance can use, say a motor, in this case the motor which drives the washing machine. Wire has to be extruded and spools of it shipped to the winding plant where it gets wound on the armature and encased in a metal housing with all the connections hooked up and ready to assemble into the machine. A water pump has to be manufactured and assembled, boxed and shipped to the washing machine plant. Plastic parts have to be refined from the petroleum industry and then the little plastic beads have to be heated and pressed into shapes and sorted, boxed and shipped from Czechoslovakia or wherever, then laid out and assembled in the washing machine plant. Rubber has to be gathered from trees and vulcanized and processed with fibers into belts for the belt drives and so on for the pulleys and screws that were all carefully designed by some team of engineers, and other industrial engineers brought together the manufacturing process and perfected it so that a product could come into being.
So right away we can see that a whole multitude of very expensive processes had to be intentionally, even forcibly at times, brought forward in order to bring you your new appliance. In fact, labor everywhere was exploited, very harshly in some countries, simply for your consumer benefit and pleasure. Blood was spilled in revolutions and coups d’état and political complications were exploited by wealthy Industrialist monopolies on behalf of your shiny new appliance. But of course you can’t be held responsible for all that.
Mercy Me the Ecology
Beyond this, Large-scale Ecological damage has wreaked havoc upon the Earth and our Environment in the gargantuan-scale mining operations, the Petroleum extraction and refining Industries, the Coal-burning Steel and Power Industries: all in the name of making your house-hold tasks a little easier.
Closer to Home
Now, at the washing machine plant, there is a physical building that has to be built and run, which requires personnel and manpower, materials such as steel and girder construction, lots and lots of concrete, heating and air-flow, safety inspection and compliance, land use taxes, taxes on materials, and of course there is the construction cost (labor and so forth) for building it. Let’s not forget maintenance cost for the up-keep of the building, which is a constant thing.
Cost of Production (so-called)
So now we are ready to begin the construction and assembly of your appliance. There will be labor cost, overhead, licensing fees, shipping cartage and storage and inventory, book-keeping and acquisition. But we mostly dream that it is all automated and performed by machinery; so there would be enormous operating expenses around that and exorbitant maintenance cost including specialist mechanics who fix the automation and keep it running so that there is no down time.
Getting to the Bottom Dollar
Already, the cost of your new little machine is well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and growing without stop. More than your house is worth I feel sure. And it hasn’t even rolled off the line yet. It still has to be painted with enamel lacquer or plated with stainless steel (an expensive, high-carbon metallurgy) and cleaned up and polished. Then it has to go into a box (which had to be manufactured and printed, then shipped and assembled).
So you see that the expenses involved in bringing to you your little marvel of Industrial Ingenuity are quite prohibitive and that there is no way a family of modest means could ever afford one. But we shrug all of this off and pretend that the cost of mass-production will off-set all of this manufacturing expense and that you can have your very own customized and faultless piece of high quality machinery for a couple a hundred bucks. Max.
But it doesn’t stop there. In order for your family to even get close to affording something, Environmental concerns have to be waived and the Ecology simply must be thrown under the bus so the Materials are secured from heartless dictatorial countries that ravage the Earth in enormous government-sponsored strip mines and the waste water flows into the villages with impunity. No matter for their people’s health though because they will be exploited for their labor from childhood until they expire (at a very early age, say 30 perhaps) with no consideration given to their health-care or comfort: let’s just say under harsh and inhumane conditions. The mass exploitation of such populations under such heartless governance is largely responsible for the grand erosion of our own labor economy here at home and everybody knows it but we all shrug it off.
A Few Examples
LG and Samsung are South Korean companies which have mfg. plants in China, Korea, Viet Nam, and other places. Frigidaire has mfg. plants just across the border in Juarez Mexico. Whirlpool has US plants and by comparison, boy is that labor expensive. Which now brings me to my main point: the inconvenient truth.
A Grand Deception
There is a Grand Deception being played out in the Appliance Industry daily, with the sale of every new Appliance. You are being duped on a Grand Scale.
In order to perpetuate this phony-baloney, the entire genius of marketing hocus-pocus has been summoned to assist in the endeavor. Everything from well-trained and professional Sales-Floor Associates, to slick Internet Marketeering has been amassed in order to help you keep busy, deceiving yourself that you can not only covet, but easily acquire at your pleasure and whimsy, the mechanical assistant of your dreams for practically nothing; or less if you ruthlessly shop around, playing one store off against one another.
The Reason for All This
And the reason why is because you are holding the money. Nobody has gotten paid one penny for all this until you open your wallet. All this has been done for free, up to the point of sale. The entire financial Industry has availed itself to you at your beck and call to enable your self-deception at the purchase of high-quality, long-lasting machines for a song and a dance.
You are deceived. The Whole Cost of any Industrial Manufacture, no matter how efficiently run, is unaffordable and beyond the means of any modern individual to acquire. Even Collectively, at reasonable prices, the Whole Cost is Utterly and Incontrovertibly Unsustainable.
A Co-Dependent Swindle Operation
All the way down the line, everybody else is getting gypped and by the time it gets to you, you have been co-dependently enabled to fool yourself into believing that your $200.00 machine is built to last. Under these conditions, it is a miracle that it even runs (and sometimes it doesn’t, but you can bring it back under thirty days when purchased from the store).
The Truth About Appliance Sales
So the Truth has now been told: you cannot afford a well-built Appliance, built with good materials and workmanship, that could be expected to last any time (much less to even run), yet you have conned yourself into believing that you can and even go out and force one store to sell you something cheaper than another. The farce of Industrial Manufacturing is entirely unaffordable and yet the consumer clamors for a bargain.
After the sale, everybody gets good-vibes and pats themselves on the back at getting the cheapest deal; after-all, it was the American Consumer’s hard-earned money that made it all possible.
But let the cheap little trifle break down and Dr. Jekyll breaks out in the show-room floor, ranting and hollering about ‘that’s why Sears/JC Penny/Local Appliance Chain is going out of business!’ And how ‘somebody’s gonna pay for this!’, ‘I’m going all the way to the top of the command-chain, til I get my way!’, ‘I wanna see a manager!’. Of course, in modern society, there are policies and Dr. Jekyll will eventually leave the store angry. Anger is one of the stages of reality therapy, where we begin to recognize that we have been played for a fool (though we may not ever come to recognize that we were merely co-enabled to because that’s what we wanted from the get-go).
The Inconvenient Truth
And so this little essay is just to bring up the fact that there is a self-induced, mass deception going on in America, with respect to the fact that gypping everybody out of their fair wages is neither good business, good politics, nor Good Stewardship. Yet it is what is going on unilaterally across our entire culture where everybody wants something for nothing. Good luck with that because every farmer can tell you that we reap what we sow.
What Can Be Done?
It is not really upon me to assume the position of Leadership for our country, whether in Politics or in Industry. But it is clear from the foregoing that Manufacture of New Goods from raw materials is unaffordable and unsustainable. Driving down the cost of brand new Appliances to the cheapest level has only resulted in the proliferation of disposable appliances. Oddly enough Appliance Repair is one of the few non out-sourceable occupations left in our economy. (That and Emergency Convalescence). We need to bring back the Repair Industry in this country. The time is already upon us where we will be paying more and more for Manufactured Goods; prices are already starting to climb.
Disposability and Obsolescence
Disposability will become a thing of the past and durability will become a premium feature, not cheapness. But we are not there yet: better get that maintenance agreement on everything you buy.
But doesn’t that drive the price of the Appliance up? Yes, we have been robbing Peter to pay Paul so that you can have a cheap little facsimile for pennies on the dollar; whole retail chains are going bankrupt because of it. The extra price of the Insurance is the best bargain of all because all of that money stays at home and goes to support the Repair Industry personnel and his family. He is your neighbor and whatever is good for the Community is good for you.
You may have a twinge of Conscience about exploiting third-world labor and circumventing Environmental Protection regulations in the purchase of your shiny new appliance, but you can hold your head high and feel proud to support non-disposability alongside the local repair crew with that inconsequential little maintenance agreement!