Back in the Nineties I was standing in line at the grocery store behind a couple that must have been old enough to remember the depression as young adults. They were attempting to use coupons from the store that they were attending but the cashier, who was probably in her teens, said that they couldn’t do so since the fine print said that they were only redeemable at participating stores and this apparently wasn’t one of them. When the old couple objected she even laughed at them in a condescending manner as if they were daffy. The bag boy was probably about the same age and he chuckled a little too. These two kids were probably making slightly more than the minimum wage and they probably never had to worry about anything more serious than getting money for pizza or beer. The old couple ignored the impolite behavior and started complaining about the corporate manipulation; although they probably didn’t express themselves in a manner that might be considered educated or dignified. The majority of their shopping cart wound up being left at the store un-purchased; the only things they bought were the things that either were redeemable with the coupon or that they didn’t have one for it anyway.
(This was first posted on Open Salon June 6 2011; since then I have followed up on this more in a series of posts under the author tag A small success against planned obsolescence.)
I don’t remember exactly how old my sneakers were on this particular day.
On another occasion that must have been in 1993 or maybe 1994 I dropped something off at a store for the manager and he commented on my sneakers since it was slow and they were in pretty rough shape. I know the year must be accurate because that is the only time that I would have been visiting this particular store. After he pointed it out to me I had to admit that they were in rough shape which was surprising because they couldn’t have been that old. I was able to remember at that time exactly, give or take a couple weeks when I had bought those sneakers and it was about thirteen months earlier. This may seem like a long time for sneakers to last now but I was quite certain at that time that sneakers previously lasted much longer, at least eighteen if not twenty-four months back in the early eighties or late seventies. In fact I remember that after about a year the shoe laces routinely broke and we would just go out and buy a new pair of shoe laces so that the sneakers would last another year instead of replacing the sneakers. I’m still reasonably sure that that estimate is accurate and I’m positive about the thirteen month estimate.
Now sneakers routinely fall apart after no more than six months; and I’m not nearly as active as I was either in 1993 or in the early eighties. Not only that but I’m more likely to wear something else part of the time than I was back then so sneakers should last longer now than they did then yet they don’t.
I didn’t start saving receipts after noticing that sneakers fall apart much faster so the situation got much worse.
This isn’t just happening to me; this is a process called planned obsolescence that couldn’t be an accident at all; even if you doubt that this is a clear sign of gross incompetence. This is fraud! The corporations have been using this process to steal billions of dollars from consumers every year!! In fact if you assume that everyone in the USA has to buy just one extra pair of sneakers per year for twenty dollars then it costs six billion dollars per year for consumers. This is probably an underestimate since most sneakers cost more than that and if not for the fact that I wore something else half the time (I used to wear sneakers all the time all day practically every day) it would have fallen apart sooner and it doesn’t figure in appliances and many other things.
Once other things were figured in it would surely cost hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars a year for consumers for this fraud.
While buying a new pair of sneakers, and saving the receipt, I noticed the customer service department which was a little down the hall away from where people do their shopping. This is just barely out of hearing distance. I’m quite certain that they used to be farther away. My best guess is that consumers could see damn well why they put it so far away and complained so they learned to put it just out of hearing distance without making the consumers walk too far.
I have read a book (“Born to Buy” by Juliet Schor, this is only one out of many books and articles on the subject) that talked about how they were conducting research into how to market to little children as young as six or perhaps as young as three when they are old enough to learn how to talk. This research was considered proprietary, which means that the secrecy of it is protected by law. As indicated in a previous blog Proprietary information is by definition a conspiracy which is designed so that the consumers and workers have no right to access the information they need to make educated decision about their participation in the economy.
And to make matters worse Obama is considering legislation to increase the protection for these proprietary laws (another previous blog); they of course phrase it in a manner which is designed to sound legitimate. They are studying how to manipulate the children and instead of passing laws to protect the children the politicians pass laws to protect the secrecy of the manipulators. It is virtually guaranteed that they also have other people research how complacent consumers have been so that they can increase their profits by increasing the volume of planned obsolescence. The people that make the sneakers don’t make diddly squat, nor do the foolish teens that laughed at the older couple mentioned earlier who accept what the corporations tell them without scrutiny. The people that do the research to increase planned obsolescence almost certainly make much more money and the people in the corporate office are making a killing.
On top of that the workers in this country have to compete with sweat shop labor over seas so wages are being suppressed. Trade is being globalized without globalizing workers rights, consumer’s right, environmental protection or anything else that interferes with the profits of the corporations.
The reason this is happening is because the corporations have gained control of all the most powerful institutions and they are no longer accountable for much if anything. The Mass Media has been consolidated and they receive an enormous amount of money from advertising for these products so they don’t do more than a token amount of reporting on the subject; which enables them to make a lame claim that they are protecting consumers.
The politicians accept millions if not billions of bribes, thinly disguised as campaign contributions, openly and legally. These campaign contributions are also bossiness expenses which are passed on to the consumer; however just because they pass on the expense to the consumer doesn't mean they pass on any influence with the government. The only reason they can get away with this is because the people who take all these bribes redefined the definition so that they could make a lame claim that it is fair participation in democracy. Some of this bribe money is spent on research on how to manipulate the public during the campaigns and keep them from realizing how corrupt the system is; which I discussed in my previous blog on how Political Psychologists are suppressing democracy.
If the public want to address this problem we’ll have to stop being so complacent, start saving receipts and start electing people that actually represent the public instead of just pretending to do so. In order to do this it will be necessary to pass some form of Election reform or something similar so that the public can control the election process not those that have been corrupting it for decades if not centuries. It would also help if we had an Educational revolution that enables the public to access the information they need to participate in democracy.
The sneakers I now have WILL last well over a year; either that or the free replacements will! That isn’t in doubt; the only question is how much noise I will have to make or whether I will have to yell and scream and ignore foolish spoiled children who act like I’m daffy.
To read more about Planned Obsolescence see the following sites, the first few are the ones that I thought were the most productive:
The following provides a description of how Planned Obsolescence is used intentionally in a business plan:
The following site even brags about using Planned Obsolescence in their business:
There is very little coverage of this in the traditional corporate press, presumably because there is so mmuch money being made by the people that advertise on the comercial press. However there is plenty of material for those that know where to look, mostly at the grass roots level from people that are old enough to remember how long things used to last or from whistle blowers and even some old books that were written when this was openly discussed. The following are additional sites that discuss planned obsolescence; they may seem like a lot bu they're only a fraction of the web pages out there from people that are outraged by this:
Many of the people that have been expressing outrage over this often feel that there is nothing they can do about this; that assumption is false. Since posting this I have posted several follow up posts and found that at least one retailer is willing to respond and is starting to restore, at least partially the quality of merchandise and without raising prices; in fact they have come back down a little in this case. More on this is posted under the author tag A small success against planned obsolescence assuming you're not already on that page.