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Buying Cheap — Oh the Humiliation

May 14, 2016
My old Cheap clock.jpg

The second hand must have moved in rigor mortis, because it never budged when the battery was in.

I confess, three years ago, in a moment of weakness and poverty, I bought a wall clock for $10.39. I didn’t even like it. It was ugly, but I was desperate for something to hang in my bathroom and I, clearly, didn’t want to spend much.

Within one year it was running less than accurately, in two years it was way worse and by year three, it was kaput. The second hand tried desperately to make it up the left side of the face, but once it hit 30 minutes after the hour, it just twitched pathetically until I removed the battery and put it out of its misery.

So, I did what my parents would have done, I took it back to the K-Mart where I bought it. When I pulled out the receipt for the clock (yes, I am anal enough have kept it) the clerk at the service desk actually laughed at me. He said the clock probably didn’t have a warranty that lasts that long. He was right. (The warranty was only one year. See, even the manufacturer didn’t have faith in their product!) He said the store wouldn’t take it back, if it was out of warranty, even though I had the receipt.

My parents' clockHis reaction made me think, with longing, about the clock in my parents kitchen. They probably bought it in the 40s.  That clock is still running, and keeping perfect time. It’s in my brother Bob’s garage. My parents were not big spenders, so I’m sure it wasn’t expensive, yet that G.E. clock is still running 70 some years later.

What happened?

There are lots of articles that talk about America being a throw away society, but this clock really cemented it for me. It seems very few things are built to last anymore. Even the refrigerator I bought four years ago already has cracks. Thank God my espresso pots last or I’d be suicidal.

It’s the same with clothes. My daughter and son sometimes go to stores that sell very inexpensive clothing, then wonder why a shirt is misshapen after they wash and dry it — once. Those clothes either get tossed out, or go to Goodwill. Imagine how much stuff Goodwill throws out.

good plastic bag dryer

My plastic bag dryer  –I love it!

And don’t get me started on plastic forks and spoons. I always reuse mine. If one breaks, I recycle it. I get sick when I think of all the parties I’ve thrown or  attended in the past, where I threw out all that cutlery and now it’s in some landfill taking up space. I’d rather throw a party, use real silverware and wash it, than use plastic. I even recycle plastic bags, which got me so much ridicule, a friend bought me a plastic bag dryer, just to mock me. (I use it all the time.)

I sort of give technology a pass, but maybe I shouldn’t. Why should we have to buy a new cell phone after just two years? You’d think they could use a little foresight when they design them, unless — could it be — they just want us to buy new ones so they can make more money?  Stunning.

I always used to wait and save up money to buy what I really wanted instead of going for the cheap alternative. But somewhere along the line, delayed gratification got old and I just wanted a damned clock.

So, here’s what I learned:

  1. Always buy products with a warranty that’s good for at least five years.
    Where it's made

    The info on my clock


  2. Stop being so cheap when it comes to things I want to last a long time because, when I factor in the gas to drive me to the store and back, (definitely more than the clock)  time wasted, frustration, and embarrassment over being ridiculed — at K-Mart nonetheless, plus the cost of another clock to replace the defunct one, a cheap clock is never worth it
  3. Never buy anything you think is ugly, just to have something. It’s like going to the prom with someone you don’t like, just to have a date — you always regret it.

I’m not trying to guilt you into feeling bad, but if you gleaned something from my K-Mart humiliation, then I’ve not suffered in vain. I think we all need to start thinking more about this. If you want more articles on our throw away mentality, check these out:

How We Became A Throw-Away Society

Our Throw-Away Society

Consumerism, Mass Extinction and Our Throw Away Society

And I invented a new, fantastic Coffee Cake Biscotti, which I will be writing about in my next blog post, coming very soon, since this one was late!  Sorry about that.



  • Reply
    Mary J Tunno
    May 21, 2016 at 9:51 am

    A plastic bag dryer?? Had no idea they made any such thing. Cool, where do I get one?? I re-use mine too. I’d rather spend money on better stuff than plastic bags.

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    May 16, 2016 at 10:21 am

    OK, I don’t know why you are so upset about the $10.39 clock that lasted 3 years. That’s $3.46 per year or about a penny a day. I’d say you got a good deal. What else can you get for a penny a day? We built our house 10 years ago. We got new appliances in our laundry room – all first rate expensive brands. The washer lasted only 4 years, yet the light bulbs in the can lights are all original but one. If they can make bulbs to last 10 years, why can’t they make a washer that lasts more than 4?

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Technically Chas, it stopped working about six months ago, but I was too lazy to take it down and try to return it. They would have laughed at me then too. Sorry about your washer…it should last a lifetime!

  • Reply
    jan bonjovio
    May 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    Fran, “You’d think they could use a little foresight when they design them, unless — could it be — they just want us to buy new ones so they can make more money? Stunning.” Yes, it’s quite intentional. It’s called “planned obsolescence.”

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Hi Jan, yes they have been doing it for years, but for some reason it took me until now to get upset enough to devote a blog to it. (Hopefully, you got the sarcasm – sometimes it doesn’t come through in print.) I think planned obsolescence should be banned from our vocabulary, maybe it would force businesses to find another way to make money. It’s all food for thought over a glass of wine or three.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2016 at 7:14 am

    I need a plastic bag dryer too! I haven’t been able to stop using them altogether yet, but I reuse them all the time. And, um, coffee cake biscotti…. Woo Hoo!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      I really do use it every day. It’s on my sink now filled with plastic bags! I think our parents would be proud of us! xoxo

  • Reply
    Mandy Gustafsen
    May 14, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Very enjoyable read!! Glad you wrote it!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 15, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks Mandy for always reading. Yeah, this subject has bothered me for a long time!

  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    May 14, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Love the plastic bag dryer. Do they make a plug-in version or one that slowly spins around powered by one AA battery? I should get one for my sister, she’d appreciate it.

    Coffee Cake Biscotti? OMG! Can’t wait to see that. 🙂

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 15, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      You’ll have to check on Amazon or one of those natural food places, they might have them. I have never seen a battery operated one but nothing would surprise me.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Really nice!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 15, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks Don, so glad you liked it!

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