Breath of fresh air

March 26, 2012 | By | Reply More

Our family vacuum cleaner had seen better days.  Like most things that break these days, it wasn’t that old; my wife and I bought it less than five years ago. Thus, the frustration and an opportunity.  We were aware that there was a vacuum repair store less than a mile from our house, and we decided to see whether we could save our vacuum.

Upon entering, we spoke to “Dan,” who has been running his vacuum repair shop for fifty years. He is a affable fellow with a small shop filled with more than 50 used vacuum cleaners.   After a quick test of our machine, Dan announced that $40 would get our old vacuum working again.  That would have been much less than $200, the price we would pay for a new vacuum cleaner.  But for $100 and our vacuum as a trade-in, we could upgrade to a significantly better “commercial vacuum” that someone else had traded-in and which Dan had already repaired. My wife and I decided to upgrade, and we are now happy with our powerful “new” vacuum (not so powerful that it sucks up pets and children, but quite powerful).

It occurred to me that this is an unusual way of doing business in modern America. As Annie Leonard explains so well in “The Story of Stuff,” most things that are manufactured these days are designed for a single use (including immense amounts of packaging).  My family makes regular use of other kinds of re-sell-it shops, including Goodwill, Salvation Army and private garage sales.  But how nice, to also be able to make use of a store for fixes things in order to keep them out of the landfill, especially when these things are expensive household appliances.  Perhaps a vacuum cleaner is about as cheap as appliance can be while it is still expensive enough to make it worthwhile to offer a repair shop.  At least, I don’t remember seeing any smaller appliance repair shops; a look on the Internet tells me that such shops do exist, however.

Dan had more than a few noticeably old (repaired) vacuums for sale, a sight that made me think of the phrase “planned obsolescence.”    I do think society would be better off with fewer big box purchases and more repair shops.   And since Dan was such a competent and friendly fellow, I’ll mention that he is an avid bowler who recently bowled his second 300 game.

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Category: American Culture, Consumerism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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