Defective by design

I recently watched Annie Leonard’s movie The Story Of Stuff ( It is a really interesting 20 minutes that I can highly recommend. In the video Annie addresses one of the modern phenomenon’s that really took society a step backwards.

This phenomenon is innocently referred to as “Planned obsolescence” but in actuality it is the practice of manufacturers and designers to purposefully design their products in such a manner that they break within a certain amount of time. There is a very fine line that must be aimed for. The faster a product breaks the faster it must be replaced but on the other hand the product must last just long enough so that the customer does not feel that they bought a piece of junk. This practice is the logical result of a capitalist system with profit as the only motivator, since more blenders sold translates into more profit.

My Russel-Hobbs blender also chose this week to kick into planned obsolescence mode. As far as kitchen appliances go Russel-Hobbs is considered to be at the middle to upper end of the spectrum which makes its demise all the more upsetting since the perception at the time of purchase was that of a quality product. From what I could see through the limited amount of air vents in the device it appears that a Zip-tag came loose and gummed up the inner workings. It would have been simple enough to remove this stray piece of plastic if normal screws had been used. Instead of a normal flat or Phillips head screw the designer decided to use a flower-shaped screw for which I had never even seen screwdriver. My question now is to what end was this choice made? If it is to prevent me to open the device then they succeeded.

My only option is to now either replace the blender or take it to an authorised service centre (if there even is one). I can only assume that it will probably be cheaper to replace the blender than to fix it. So basically a piece of plastic worth a fraction of cent made my expensive obsolete. All due to specific choices made by the designers to prevent me from even attempting to fix the product.

What ever happened to building things that last?

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