Saturday, September 28, 2013

Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence

We made our last payment on our car after 3 years. 

It was now ours and we were free of auto debt.

In the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and even the 80’s that would have meant we would be out shopping for a new model. 

Everyone “knew” that the car manufacturers designed their cars to fail after three years so you would have to trade it in and get a new one.

My father, and everyone I knew traded in their cars every three years because of this and because the models actually changed year to year.

Now, manufacturers supposedly make cars with longer lasting components, better warranties, and models that hardly changed year to year, or at least not so you’d notice.

I was planning on keeping this car for at least 10 years, since that was when my warranty ran out.

Since Barbara and I no longer work, we don’t put on a lot of mileage and this car has low miles and no problems.

Or so we thought.

Just a month after the last payment was made, we went to the gym, stowed Barbara’s pocketbook in the trunk and went inside to work out.  We returned to the car, opened and closed the trunk, having retrieved Barbara’s pocketbook, and got in the car.

Barbara opened the glove compartment, put her workout gloves (that’s why it’s called the glove compartment) into the glove compartment and tried to close the compartment door.

It wouldn’t close.

It sounded like something jammed in there preventing the glove compartment from closing.

We emptied out the glove compartment, but still couldn’t close it.

We drove home with the idea that I would try to see what was blocking the closing and see it I could remove the block.

Try as I might, I could not locate anything blocking the closing of the glove compartment door.

In addition, the light in the glove compartment would not turn off, leaving open the possibility of draining the battery if I couldn’t get the door closed or the light off.

I pushed various buttons and tried to locate the sensor for the light, all to no avail.

Still wearing my workout clothes, sweaty though they were, I drove to the dealer.

One of the service writers came over and I explained my problem.

He looked at me, maybe sniffed a little, and properly determined I wasn’t fit company for others waiting in the waiting room. He then stated he would only be a minute to fix the problem, took my keys and left me there.

Usually that meant an hour’s wait.

Lo and behold, he appeared after 10 minutes and told me the problem was fixed.  The cabin filter, located behind the glove box had fallen down, preventing the glove box from closing.  They had dropped the glove box down, resecured the filter and closed the glove box.

I was happy and amazed.  They weren’t going to charge me; I gave the guy a twenty for working so quickly, and left.

I had lost about an hour between driving back and forth to the dealer and waiting the 10 minutes to get it fixed, but I considered it time well spent.

The next morning, I drove over to my friend’s home to play golf.  Our intention was to drive over to a golf course, play a round and then go for breakfast, the real reason for playing.

I pulled in front of his house and pulled the lever that opened the trunk. 

I didn’t hear it open but figured the radio was on and the music was blocking the noise of the release.

My friend knocked on the window and informed me the trunk hadn’t opened. 

I tried the lever again and felt no tension in it.  I got out of the car and tried to use my key fob to open the trunk.

No effect.

I next looked for a key lock I could open manually.  This car didn’t have one.

We looked at each other.

I hadn’t opened the trunk since Barbara got her pocketbook out at the gym.  I keep my clubs in the trunk unless I need the room.

Now, I’m thinking what could I have done yesterday, that first the glove compartment, and now the trunk wouldn’t work. 

Was I cursed?

No, that would be crazy.

Son of a Bitch, I knew what it was.  Planned Obsolescence.

The car was designed to self-destruct slowly after 3 years to get me to buy a new one.  It must have a hidden sensor or means of communication with the dealers to inform them when my car was either paid off or more than three years old.

I suddenly remembered salesmen approaching me every time I took the car in for routine service, trying to get me to trade it in and get a new one.  I pictured the many advertisements I got urging me to trade in my car and get a new one without “increasing” my monthly payments. (I know it’s BS, they know it’s BS, but they still try to get you).

I envisioned a long list of seemingly minor problems that would begin to crop up until finally, I would be so frustrated by them, I would acquiesce and buy a new car.

My friend offered to accompany me back to the dealer and so we set off.

I arrived at the dealership prepared to complain bitterly about the beginnings of what I saw as a long line of problems.

I was also resentful that the trunk hadn’t malfunctioned yesterday so I could have gotten it fixed when they fixed the glove compartment. 

Or was that part of the plan???

As I drove into the service area, a young lady service writer approached me and inquired what was wrong.

“It’s the damn trunk,” I said. “It won’t open.  I was here yesterday getting the glove box fixed and now the trunk won’t open.  What is going on here?”

“When was the last time you opened the trunk?” she said.

“Yesterday, before I brought the car here”, I answered.

“Hmmm,” she replied.  “Let’s look in the glove compartment to see if the secret trunk lock button was pushed”.

“Secret trunk lock button?” I exclaimed.  “What the hell is that?”

“That’s a button in the glove compartment that you push when you valet the car.  It prevents the valet from opening the trunk,” she explained.

I opened the glove box, and she showed me the secret button.  I pushed it, pulled the trunk lever and it worked. I must have pushed it thinking it was a sensor for the light in the glove box.

“Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about it before?” I asked.

“This car has so many little wonderful features it’s impossible for us to tell the customer about all of them,” she replied smiling.  “Didn’t you study the manual when you got the car?” she inquired sweetly.

“No,” I replied, inferring that guys didn’t do that, we didn’t have to read manuals.

Besides her belittling comment about manuals, I was very happy and relieved.  I thanked her profusely and drove away.  Mollified for the time being that the “planned obsolescence” was at least delayed.

Now we had to decide if we should go back to his place, retrieve his clubs and play a round. Or skip golf and go straight to breakfast.

We looked at each other and headed for the diner.

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