According to Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Shell, low priced products have become a national habit. From Walmart to Ikea to the Outlet Mall we purchase products at the lowest possible price without regard to whether the product will actually last. And the more we purchase these products the more prevalent they become. From TVs to vacuum cleaners, manufacturers have figured out how to produce items that look good initially but fall apart after a few years. In the past, I have seen many low quality photo books and gifts destined for unsuspecting customers.
Even supposedly high-quality manufacturers are being dragged into this race to the bottom. Cheap discusses how Coach and other manufacturers that we associate with quality produce low quality products destined for outlet malls. Manufacturers have figured out how to cut corners in ways that you wouldn’t even suspect.
I have a toaster from the 1940’s. I use it every day, and every five years or so, I pull it apart and repair whatever is not working. I put it back together and it works for another five years. You cannot do that with a discount toaster purchased at Walmart. Similarly, I recently bought an overpriced vacuum cleaner that was made in the U.S., primarily with metal parts. It’s not that I believed it was a great deal, I was simply tired of the plastic parts on previous less expensive models falling apart over time.
Cheap is a habit that we need to break. Here’s a suggestion on how to break the habit, following the guidelines in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
- Cue – When a product fails, examine it to determine why it failed. Look for the cause of failure.
- Action – Research the product you are purchasing online to understand other peoples experiences. The reviews on Amazon.com may be helpful, even if you don’t plan to buy from Amazon. Also, consider letting low quality manufacturers know that you are dissatisfied with their product quality.
- Reward – Fewer product failures and less time and money spent shopping for replacement products.
If everyone embraces this habit, then manufacturers will get the message and stop producing cheap products that fall apart, only to be replaced and wind up in a landfill somewhere.