Relationships that last

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It was 1987 when Connie and I moved from Hannibal to an apartment in Owensville. It did not include a refrigerator. So, we purchased an Amana side-by-side. That was 35 years ago. The Amana now serves as our secondary fridge in the basement. I like relationships that last, and this side-by-side has not disappointed me.

Sitting next to the Amana is a small chest freezer. We purchased it used in 1988, so I have no idea how old it is. But it still works.

Another long-term relationship I have enjoyed is with my wife. Yesterday we celebrated our 36th anniversary.

It was 2013 when the Amana was demoted to our secondary refrigerator cooling beer and wine in the basement. Its downfall was the color — cream.

All our other kitchen appliances were black, so we purchased the second fridge of our married life, a black French door model with water and ice in the door. It was the manufacturer’s “Gold Series.” Connie and I were looking forward to a long relationship with our new ice box.

Something went wrong in its first year. Still, under the manufacturer’s warranty, the company replaced it. In 2015 we again called the repairman.

I was getting worried, but I was still cautiously optimistic. In November 2019, we summoned the repairman for another problem. Maybe it was an early case of COVID.

Have you noticed Maytag doesn’t run the lonely repairman commercial anymore. It last ran in the ‘90s.

I now have the repairman on speed dial. A few weeks ago I called with a new problem. The ice maker stopped working — which I can live without — and the freezer was cooling only to 17 degrees. It should be zero.

The news was not good. It’s terminal. The repairman told us nothing could be done. Our fridge is dying a slow death.

I have never heard those words before for anything I have ever owned. The fridge can’t be fixed? 

The newspaper owns a 1998 Dodge Caravan that we use to deliver newspapers. Its air conditioner does not work, and the shocks and struts need replacing. To fix each of those problems would cost more than the vehicle is worth, but it can be done.

Why can’t my refrigerator be fixed?

They don’t make things like they used to. In fact, some manufacturers incorporate what has been termed “planned obsolescence” into the production of their products. 

This is nothing new. Manufacturers have been deliberately engineering their products to break after a certain amount of time since the 1920’s. 

In 1924 light bulb manufacturers met in Geneva to create the world’s first cartel called the Phoebus cartel. There they decided to reduce the life of the incandescent light bulb from 2,500 to 1,000 hours.

Other forms of planned obsolescence include continuous redesigning and restricting the availability of spare parts.

General Motors started this in 1924 when they were the first to launch cars with new design changes each model year. This resulted in a huge increase in car sales making GM the dominant car manufacturer in the U.S. Other companies followed suit.

Now all car manufacturers advertise their latest model with great looks and features. Soon, the same model is redesigned with a more stylish look, more features and improved engine performance.

This gives the impression to the consumer that their vehicle is now old-fashioned.

It’s no secret that the refrigerator industry has seen a decline in quality and longevity of parts for the past 15-years, with compressors lasting only 25 to 33 percent as long.

On top of that, the once familiar black condenser coils — which need cleaning to increase the fridge’s life — are practically impossible to access.

One downside of our throw-away society is it fills landfills with unnecessary waste.

I have shirts older than my soon to be deceased ice box. Other long-term relationships I hold dear include a Levi’s jean jacket I have had since high school. I purchased a used Olympic chain saw at an auction in 1987. It still cuts great. 

Next Thursday, June 16, we will start a relationship with the third refrigerator of our married life. Before the purchase, I did my research with Consumer Reports. Sadly no refrigerator ranked higher than a three out of five for predicted reliability. 

I’m not optimistic. I purchased the extended warranty for the first time in my life.

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