Friday, June 22, 2007

Obsolescence Foils Frugal Shopper

Planned obsolescence has been on the social critics’ agenda since Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders was published in 1957. Yet, 50 years later, our society is a card house of credit debt and endless shopping.

Recently, my frugality has run plumb into planned obsolescence. I needed to reconfigure some wall shelves, including the purchase of new boards. Even though the shelving is less than two years old, RubberMaid has stopped making the honey pine veneer. A Home Depot representative reassured me that the new color, natural, is the same. It is not.

I priced custom-made shelves, but that was too expensive. A home decorator suggested that I create a belly line of shelves in the center, or perhaps a top and bottom accent line of shelves in a different color. He saved the day.

I visited every Home Depot from North Miami to South Palm Beach. I sorted through board after board, finally managing to round up three honey pine shelves. That was enough to make a belly line in walnut possible. The darker color coordinates with some darker wood furniture. Blond wood is all wrong for my room, so the natural veneer was impossible.

My new quest is for a small hot pot to boil water for morning tea and, more importantly, to take with me when I travel to use in motel rooms. The nice metal one I’ve had for many a year has burnt out. New models are plastic. I even saw one with a plastic plug. I am not sticking little plastic feet into the wall.

I've also been on an endless quest for a special kind of hinge that folds flat in both directions to build a folding screen. "Like Mae West used to stand behind if a man was in the room and she was changing clothes," said a nice man named Bill at Grove Hardware -- a store I highly recommend. He called suppliers, including one that was importing the hinges from China. Apparently these hinges aren't being made any more. So what do manufacturers use for folding screens sold retail?

I'm doomed to these quests for products that are discontinued and nonexistent as long as planned obsolescence is the motor that keeps the economy running. So is everyone else who wants shopping to be simple and for good products to stay the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These things?