It’s so bad that dishwashers are so cheap
LAST WEEK, OUR dishwasher went on the blink. The same day we received our combined gas/electricity bill. These two events are not connected in any way — except for the fact that when we looked into the price of replacing the dishwasher it came to less than the monthly power bill (admittedly we have a very cheap dishwasher and used a lot of electricity and gas last month)
The obvious thing to do was to buy a new dishwasher, seeing as the charge for fixing it was likely to be almost as much as buying a new one. We agonised about it for a while, looked into the prices of new dishwashers and decided that we would go ahead and buy. But before we did, I thought it might just be worth cleaning out the filter. And lo and behold, the dishwasher worked as good as new (which of course it was more or less).
The fact remains that goods which used to last for decades are now more or less disposable. A couple of years ago we were given a Noddy DVD at a time when my daughter, Lucy, was obsessed by the goings on in Toy Town. So we bought a DVD player at Sainsbury’s with the weekly shop — no agonising , no payment plans, and the bill was not markedly more expensive than any other week. How long before you start seeing “three for the price of one” digital radios and “HD Ready TV — buy one get one free”?
Contrast this with previous generations. My grandmother and grandfather bought a fridge years before I was born. They still had it when they moved into the old folks home more than 30 years later (they were told they could not take it with them). Admittedly it didn’t keep the food particularly cool, but as they didn’t have central heating, their house was always cold anyway.
Even my mum and dad had a different idea about household items. For example, despite being moderately well off, they never bought a telly — they rented one instead. This was at a time that televisions were both expensive and unreliable — so much so that we knew what biscuits to get in for the repair man when he came on his regular monthly visits. And as for buying a video, well there were reconnaissance trips to Dixons, extensive research in various catalogues and Which guides before they eventually decided to rent one (it went wrong after about three weeks).
My television was purchased specifically for the 2002 World Cup which these days makes it practically an antique (indeed, the fact that I watched England play in the final stages of a major championships on it makes me come over all nostalgic).
There are various conclusions to be reached. Perhaps we should launch a “white goods aren’t only for Christmas/Chanucah” campaign. Also, I know for a fact that the very act of leaving an old telly or washing machine out to be collected by the council, raises the global temperature by a fraction of a degree.
But most importantly, I miss the telly repair man who always seemed to have a pencil behind his ear and a van parked outside packed with a few extra cathode ray tubes just in case. I must have spent hours watching him pull off the panels, tweak the circuits, replace transistors, tune and re-tune the channels. Indeed I became so enthused by the process that I attempted to fix the telly myself when I was 10.
On reflection perhaps I should have waited until it broke first.