Common Error No. 93


93. "Some businesses deliberately build obsolescence into their products to force people to buy more when they wear out."

Some might economize on longevity where there's a demand for a cheaper product. If people want durability, they pay for it. If you recognize that fashions change and technology advances, you might opt for a cheaper product with a shorter life span. The pace of innovation is accelerating, and most customers seem to want the latest product. It depends on what you're buying.

There are products, such as houses, which people expect to last. Builders do not deliberately build houses which will fall down after a few years to force people to buy new ones. Instead they recognize that the market there is for durability.

For mobile phones and iPods, on the other hand, most customers would not want a product to last for decades. They prefer not to pay the extra costs of achieving this quality, and settle for one which will last them until they are ready to move on to a more up-to-date version.

There's a sort of urban myth that companies spend millions designing products that will fall apart or otherwise cease to function just three days after their warranty expires. This would cost extra, be difficult to achieve, and would probably result in customers buying a rival's product next time because the first one turned out to be no good.

More commonly there's a trade-off between durability and price; you can pay more for a product that will last longer, but you might not want to. Attics and garages are full of junk that people don't use any more. Waist high fax machines and desk top calculators are museum pieces now. Businesses don't deliberately equip their products with termination dates or auto-destruct mechanisms. They want them to last about as long as people expect them to. And for some of today's products, this is not very long.