Rapid technological advances in some fields - such as micro-computers - means you may want to change the model frequently. This kind of obsolescence of function is legitimate. Less acceptable is obsolescence of quality where something that should last has parts that repeatedly break down. And psychological obsolescence is the least defensible but most effective of all, making us want something new even when what we have is still working or wearing very well.
A date with death
Reducing the quality of the product to shorten its life is a sure way of forcing the consumer quickly back to the marketplace fora replacement. But if the product dies too soon, you won’t buy that brand again. So the manufacturers must use skill and judgementto predict the exact timing of a product’s demise - ‘death-dating’ as it is called. The US fumishing industry joumal Retailing Daily noted that ‘It is not only our privilege to obsolete home furnishings. It is our obligation. We are obligated to work on obsolescence as our contribution to a healthy, growing society.’
Tips: In general, goods perform better today but for a shorter time. It’s worth boning up on a product and if necessary spending more if you want quality and durability.
Better than wearing out products is just to wear them out in the owner’s mind. Fashion can destroy the value of possessions even though they are still perfectly good. Most design changes are made not for improving a product but for making it obsolete: ‘Every industry tries to emulate the women’s fashion industry’. This approach is most noticeable with cars. Genuine technological improvements are not that frequent. But each year new models are brought out to entice us to trade in our old model - it used to be tail fins, then the 5-door hatchback, black fenders and modelled hub caps. And it’s successful. In the words of a Ford executive ‘The change in the, appearance of models each year increases car sales.’
Tips: Don’t believe that ‘new’ means better. If you like what you have, then stick with it.