Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is the Art of Repair Obsolete

From the bean of Green Bean.

"You are in luck," the voice said on the other end of the connection.  "They don't make the part any more so we will just give you a new washer."

I guess it is lucky.  A new washer is better than one that does not work but what happened to repairing products? To replacement parts? To high quality items that would last and last and last? At 4 years old, our washer is not exactly ancient yet, apparently, its manufacturer has left it in the dust - or more appropriately the landfill.

It is not just appliances and its not just businesses.  Our society as a whole views most things as disposable or transitory.  When my iPhone 4's screen cracked, I got it fixed.  Everyone and their mother asked why the heck I didn't just get the iPhone 6.  I mean, iPhone 4s are so totally two years ago.

Visit any thrift store and you will see that our collective lack of interest in repair touches on anything that is broken, torn or stained.  Just last month, I picked up an Athleta hoodie that was like new - except the zipper sticks some time.  I also scored a white collared shirt with a cracked button.

I'm not one to judge, though.  I've got a pile of clothes that needs to be patched and another of Nike socks (everyone is wearing them, please mom!) that need to be darned.  I might eventually get to them ...

Just as I am ready to throw my hands up, I noticed a gaping hole in my Patagonia parka. I vaguely remembered hearing something about Patagonia repairing their products and gambol about the internet.  I find the company repair page, send in my jacket and wait.  Ten days later, a package arrives from Patagonia Repair Department.  My sassy black jacket is inside, patched up, nearly undetectably, for free!  Now that is the art of repair!

How regularly do you repair items?  Have you ever tried one of those repair clinics that are popular in Europe and showing up more in big cities?  Are companies like Patagonia the wave of the future or a denizen of the past?


Kath said...

We totally agree! I have actually had the washing machine guy show me how to take the door of my front loader off and make simple repairs (such as to reset the 'flooded' switch that gets triggered when the water on the ground hits a certain level). Same for the car guy who does my maintenance, he showed me how to change the air filter, for example. It is good to have repair skills, saves time and a TON of money. My husband can get pretty adventurous with this as this post shows:

Kath said...

shows a DIY mending trick for my daughter's down jacket, though I'm pleased to learn about Patagonia. I buy their stuff due to their many great company policies.

Anonymous said...

We repair as much as we can. My husband bought good quality shoes and was able to send them back for repairs for half the cost of new. Clothing gets mended (sometimes slowly). We did send some worn out clothes, well darned socks, and a 50 year old blanket that was shredding to clothing recycling.

We did end up selling a 15 year old car to scrap because the mechanic could not figure out why it would not start periodically and we could not get replacement parts so the windows leaked when it rained.


Green Bean said...

@Kath - You guys do a great job! I'm impressed.

@Ave - I think you mention the key right there. Buying good quality to start out with. Good quality is what is more likely to be repaired.

Betsy Escandon said...

Wow, hard to believe that it's cheaper to replace a washer than to just create and maintain a stock of repair parts. Kind of tells you how cheaply these appliances are made -- and how many of the costs the companies are NOT bearing. Love that we are on the same wavelength with topics this month :)

Green Bean said...

@Betsy - These appliances are so cheaply made these days! Our dishwasher caught on fire a year or so ago (yikes!) so we had to replace it. I did my research and bought a high end model that was very energy efficient. I figured it would be high quality and therefore last longer. Not so. This thing is so cheap feeling and flimsy. I feel like there has been a big drop in quality just in the last few years.

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I would rather repair since most times the item is made so much better than newer products.

Green Bean said...

@Anna - I'm with you! I have been known to buy vintage tools on ebay because they are much higher quality.

robbie @ going green mama said...

We agree! It is so hard to do repairs anymore... Good quality counts though!

Lisa said...

I have a hole in my sock right now and was thinking I need to learn to darn socks.

A big goal of mine for 2015 is going to be to learn how to mend clothing and do other repairs to avoid having to buy new things.

Green Bean said...

@robbie - You are so right. Sometimes, items are of such poor quality that the repairs aren't even worth it. Something to keep in mind when buying new.

@Lisa - My goal too! Which includes the socks still on my mending pile. I can manage smaller repairs but darning has eluded me thus far.


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