If you look up Planned Obsolescence in Wikipedia, here’s what you get:
“In economics and industrial design, planned obsolescence is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, so that it becomes obsolete after a certain pre-determined period of time upon which it decrementally functions or suddenly ceases to function, or might be perceived as unfashionable. The rationale behind this strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases. It is the deliberate shortening of a lifespan of a product to force people to purchase functional replacements.”
Originally invented by the bicycle industry, this idea was quickly embraced by the auto business, as evidenced by the yearly model changes that were a huge part of the business, and why we as young car nuts, had to learn about the new and improved models in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. But it was not just a staple of the auto industry. I clearly remember in the heyday of the Video Recorder when a new and “better” model would reach the market practically daily. Buy the newest model last week, next month it’s superseded by a new and improved model. Obviously Apple and everybody else making cell phones these days have embraced the idea too. Do we use or even understand every new development? Probably not, but it’s NEW and that’s enough!
Think back through the years of your life, and you will realize that you have been victimized by planned obsolescence many, many times. Take computer programing. How many programs have you used over the years, that worked perfectly fine, and for no apparent reason, suddenly were changed. They did what you wanted, you knew exactly how to do what you needed, and yet you had to learn it all over again, so that they could sell you a new one. But, why buy the new one, you may ask. Well, many times, it was because they stopped supporting the old one, or you couldn’t use it with a modern printer, or some other issue that was outside your control to remedy without buying the new version! I’m old enough that I remember when several programs I used in the early days of my computer use went from DOS to Windows. Loved the old one, it did exactly what I needed, but would no longer work, so I needed to buy the new one!
I also remember at work when suddenly the IT guy would come around and load a new version of Windows or Word, or Internet Explorer on my computer. Suddenly things changed, and rather than just continue to use the program as I had, I needed to re-learn the steps involved to do what I did. The reality was that in some cases, I never did learn how to do what I used to be able to do, but hey, that’s the price you pay for one IT geek talking to another IT geek and selling them on the new and improved version, with many improvements that nobody ever asked for! Hello Planned Obsolescence!!
This whole topic was brought to mind a couple of weeks ago, when a bank we use changed the way things worked with their Visa credit card. For as long as we’ve had a credit card with TD Bank, you went to a different site from their regular on-line banking site to look at your account, check out your statements, and even pay the monthly bill. But, in the middle of March, I went one day to see if a purchase had been charged correctly, only to see a notice that said the credit card website had been closed. The notice said that if I went to the TD on-line banking site, I could now do everything regarding our Visa card that I had done at this dedicated site. Okay, sounds like a good idea. All our TD Banking in one place, so off I went to the regular site that I use all the time to pay bills and transfer money between accounts.
Should have been easy, as I have this website bookmarked on my computer, and Susie and I also have the App on our iPhones and iPads. Only problem was that when I went to the website, or looked at our accounts on the app, it didn’t show our credit card! In fact, when I clicked on a place that said, “Manage Your TD Credit Card, “ the response I got was, “Well, it appears you don’t have a credit card with us!” WTF??
After trying it for 2 days, I decided that my best recourse was to head over to the local TD branch and see if they could help me. Quick answer…they could not! Why when you have a problem with something, does everybody always assume you are a jackass?? Yes, the computer is plugged into the wall. No, I didn’t try pushing the start button without having my foot on the brake, and yes, this is MY account I’m trying to access!! I showed my NJ Driver’s License no less that 3 times, I assured the person that I sign on this site almost daily, and even showed him my TD Visa card, that I’d just used that morning, when he too had the website tell him, “Well, it appears you don’t have a credit card with us!!” To say he was less than useless would be nice.
The one thing he did do was call somebody on the phone, and after I once again showed him my driver’s license, that person said, “Well it appears he doesn’t have a credit card with us!” Bottom line, nobody knew why they had changed this website or why our credit card didn’t show up when we signed in. Their excuse…”Its a new program,“ and their solution, “it may show up in a couple of days.” I’m sure this was a bold new idea, developed in order to fix a problem that didn’t exist, and for no other reason than to have a new way to do something, so somebody could prove that their job was needed, when the real thought should have been, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
My Granddad used to say to me all the time, “It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken!” Believe me, I weakened that day at the bank! I apologized to the man I was dealing with, but walked out shaking my head and muttering under my breath! Turns out, it was a work in progress, and the credit card did show up a couple of days later, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have the system up and functioning before they closed the original website? Ah the funny hands that modern life sometimes deals us!