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.
His 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.
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.
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:
- Always buy products with a warranty that’s good for at least five years.
- 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
- 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:
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.