They don’t build things to last anymore

Posted on: December 13, 2018, by :

Commentary, Others
Durability, Kanken Backpack, Kqueen, long lasting, Philips Aquatouch

This may sound old or stale, “they don’t make things last anymore” is the key theme of this article. It seems that durability of products is no longer a key consideration. Often an expensive piece of appliance is rendered worthless because of the lack of durability of its control system, often because it is very electronic-based. In some cases, the crucial electronic system though durable but the appliance is not functional because of the poor quality of the interface, i.e. the LED panel!

An airfyer that failed by its LED control

When I was working and living alone in Penang (Jan 2015 to late 2016) I bought a few electrical appliances to make my stay more pleasant. One of these was a Kqueen airfryer that I bought online (shipped from China). The decision to buy this was fully influenced by my wife’s (then) favourite kitchen gadget, a Philips airfryer. After I moved back to Subang Jaya, Selangor upon the completion of my stint helming a university college we decided to make the Kqueen airfryer as the main fryer reserving the Philips airfryer for bigger loads or cooking that required higher power.

Just over 2 years into its service, the LED panel of our KQueen airfyer just suddenly decided to go off completely. Without a control panel, and despite having all moving parts and heating parts fully functional, the KQueen airfyer was rendered utterly useless. Well RM450 (US$107) that this Kqueen airfryer only gave us utility for 2 years for RM225 (US$53.5) per year! The part that failed was the LED control panel. I often wonder why manufacturers often overlook the most important part of the design, if you can’t control the gadget it is as good as scrap. Why simple mechanical/electrical thermostat plus radial timer could not have been used instead. The over reliance on electronic control in household gadgets should be reviewed. This could have given a much longer lifespan to the gadget. This Kqueen airfyer was just sold as scrap, I guess it fetched around RM1.00 (US$0.24) today!

A malfunctioned shaver that came back to life!

I bought a Philips Aquatouch shaver just over three years ago. This was a shaver that can be used for wet shave, which means one can put on shaving foam and shaves with this shaver. But just about 8 months ago, after charging my Philips Aquatouch’s battery (well I charged it overnight and forgot to unplug it from the charger, but I think this shaver came with the ability to avoid overcharging), when I press the “start” button, it only worked for 2 seconds then stopped. I was having the impression that my RM275 (US$65.50) investment was heading to the scrap heap.

A search on the internet yielded a very informative Youtube video which showed two things: firstly, the shaver was indeed malfunctioned and, secondly that the repair process was more for those who are skilled in doing electronic repairs (which excluded my attempt!). Further, Philips authorized service centre has a price tag of RM20 (US$4.76) for inspection and RM60 (US$14.29) for repair workmanship where the cost of replacement parts would be extra. I was resigned to the fact that it would not be worthwhile to repair this shaver as the overall cost of inspection-workmanship-parts could be close to the price of a replacement shaver. I just left the shaver in the bedroom where the air-conditioning would often be switched on at night.

After about three months of lying idle, this shaver was picked up by me recently. The temptation to press the power/start button was too much and I did what I had been doing very often: to try to test if the shaver would run. And surprisingly, it stayed working for longer than 2 seconds. In fact it was working as well as before! The long period of lying in close to the path of the air conditioning’s air flow perhaps helped to dry the interior of the shaver out so that the electronics were no longer malfunctioning! I gained back the utility of my Philips Aquatouch shaver, but I refrained from putting it anyway near  “aqua” , i.e. wet shaving and only used it as a “dry” shaver now. I wonder why the manufacturer did not pay enough attention to ensure that the “aqua” functioning of this gadget could stand the test of times! Perhaps this was a case of the gadget being designed to fail after 3 years of use?

Kanken: A backpack that lasted 31 years!

I bought a Kanken backpack in late 1985 after seeing this brand being so popular when my parents, my younger brother and I was on a holiday tour to the Nordic countries. The only thing that I dislike about this bag was the signature badge. It looked too childish for my taste and I foolishly removed it without knowing that it was a reflective badge that conferred safety. It was not cheap. I recalled paying something like £20 (US$28.8) in 1985 for this bag. Its exterior was splash-proof and this feature lasted for at least 20 years!

Today this bag cost around US$80, if you want a “Real McCoy”.

Of course there are plenty of imitation Kanken backpacks in the market that costs a fraction of this. But the quality differential is very easily detectable.

In late May 2017, after close to 32 years of utility, the straps of my classic Kanken backpack finally started to literally break apart. Reluctantly, I had to say “goodbye” to this trusted old workhouse that had accompanied me to the work in a summer camp in the USA in 1986; daily usage when I was working on my Master’s and PhD;  my tours of the UK and Ireland and countless domestic holiday trips. Unlike my electrical items, at least the Kanken backpack were made (still being made) to last!

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