There’s a Yiddish proverb that goes, “Man plans; God laughs.” Well, the Creator has certainly been laughing at me for the past four days. I expect His laughter ended today when I bought a new Sony DVD player at Best Buy for roughly half the cost I paid for my recently retired device. Indeed, if my recollection serves me, the combined cost my second (purchased in 2007) and third (purchased today) DVD players was less than that for my first one (purchased in 2001).
I had made this great plan for the two weeks of the holiday season. I would spend the first one largely alone, watching lots and lots of DVDs and considering some important career and personal issues. I would only venture out to buy and ship last minute Chanuka presents–and for a special Chanuka dinner with a close friend. After that, I would make no major purchases, save those related to my dissertation.
As I may detail in a subsequent post, in that quiet period, I had no major insights, resolved none of the issues with which I was wrestling, only reached partial resolution on one issue — and that in a chance conversation with a then-stranger, now potential friend.
Well, back to the new DVD player.
My recently retired player (all of 18 months old if that) had begun to freeze up while I was watching those Bette Davis flicks. I ended up watching a few of them on my computer. It didn’t freeze up on all DVDs, just a few. So, I assumed the defect was in the DVD, not the player. Well, last week, on Christmas Day, it froze up on every DVD I tried to load, even those I had watched previously on that machine.
So, I had to change my plans and venture out to go shopping on a week that was to be dedicated to study and writing. . . .
But, as I bought the new player, spending considerably less than I had anticipated spending, I thought of two closely-linked things, the wonder of capitalism and the disposability today of items which were once considered luxuries.
Was it just over a decade ago that the first DVD players retailed for close to $1,000? Now we have sleeker, better machines for 1/20th that cost. All because capitalism encourages innovation. Through innovation, entrepreneurs make increasingly better products at an increasingly smaller expense.
Yet, where we once valued our electronics, now we just dispose of a product when it outlives its use. Or need repair.
I remember my Dad taking me Swallen’s when I was in high school so I could buy a tape deck with money I had earned as a busboy and had received for Chanuka (and/or my birthday). I was just shy of what I needed to buy decent model, so my father offered to chip in the rest, telling me that I was making a major purchase, something which should last well into my adulthood. He paid for the difference, reminding me to take good care of my new machine. I’d be responsible for repairs if it broke.* I followed his instructions and gave the machine away only when I moved out here. (It still worked)
I thought of that tape deck not long ago when, for less than half its cost (in dollars far weaker than they were when I bought it), I bought a boom box with sound just as good as my component stereo system.
I guess I’ve still retained the mentality I gained when my Dad told me to take good care of that tape deck. I thought there would be some great cost to getting a new machine.
But, now like so much in our society, our products last us now more than a few years. They’re cheaper to replace than to repair.
*Have you noted how few TV/Electronics repair shops you see nowadays where once they dotted the urban and suburban landscape?