I often feel that what has put me in more of an anti-consumerism mind frame as I get older is horrible customer service, and cheaply made products that break too easily. I just abhor spending my hard-earned money on crappy products bought from a store with a crappy attitude. I used to think that maybe I was just cheap and that’s why I didn’t want to buy new stuff, but now I realize its because I actually value my money.
For instance, on his last visit, my dad showed me a wrench that was my grandfather’s back when he was a mechanic in WWII. We compared that wrench to the same gauge wrench made by the same manufacturer – but 50 years later and the difference in quality was beyond shocking! Comparing them side-by-side, the new wrench seemed like something our 3-year-old should play. It had been slimmed down and so much metal had been taken out of the design over the years, that it looked like a weight loss before and after comparison. It was eye-opening to see the effect of decades and decades of a company cutting corners on a product to increase profit. It just saddens me that nowadays the quality of 90% of what we buy is so shoddy, but we still just keep paying, mostly for lack of other choices. And, I’m guessing that another factor that weighs into all this is that if items last forever, then companies can only sell to us once – but if items are wear out quickly – well, then they have repeat consumers in another year or two. We’ve turned into a disposable society.
Another perfect example is our cordless drill. We bought a new one when we got set up after grad school, since we were outfitting a house, and we tried to not cheap out and go with a quality product. It lasted less than 3 years before it died. Sure, the company will fix it if we pay shipping to them, and return shipping, and pay for the parts that are broken. When we got the estimates for shipping alone, the repair would have to be less than $30 for it not to be cheaper to buy a new drill set. Ridiculous!
I sometimes think that manufacturers are focusing on battling the natural trend of inflation by cheapening the project, rather than increasing price. Like how they made yogurt and ice cream containers smaller, so they could sell less product at the same price. Or how jeans manufacturers started making the fabric thinner, but still charging the same price. This decrease in the quality of clothing really bothers me. I noticed that my jeans would tear or wear through more quickly. My favorite clothes stores were now selling clothes that would tear or lose their shape after just a season or two of wear. Even the shoes I was buying were worse quality (and I do not skimp on shoes – so these are relatively high-end shoes). Elastic breaking, leather stitching snapping after a few months on $130 shoes!
This cheapening of products just turns me off of consumerism. I can’t stand throwing away my money anymore, and I would gladly buy some new shoes, if I knew that they would last me for years to come. But, alas, instead I just squirrel away my money, and walk around in shoes that are 7 years old, and I can’t bear to give up, because I know they are irreplaceable.
What is sad, is that I could go on for pages and pages about all the items I’ve bought, and not at discount prices, that have disappointed me in terms of quality… I look around my house, and can just feel the disappointment in my heart with the amount of money I’ve lost on items where I honestly thought I was buying quality. No wonder I’ve become a jaded consumer, as everywhere I look I see products that I would be ashamed to sell, if that were my business.
I wish I knew where to buy higher quality items that would last for years. I’ve tried shopping at higher end boutiques, specialty stores, and the like, and mostly I just end up paying top dollar for a sub par product. Sometimes the best items come from second-hand shops or a garage sale.
Does anyone else feel the same way? Do you have any secret sources of quality items you want to share?