Planned obsolescence (again)

How to destroy a documentary?

Today, to change a little bit, I was looking for another state of mind than usual. I wanted to find somebody who argues that Planned Obsolescence was an idea destined to occupy the lovers of the conspiracy theory.

I finally found what I was looking for: on “Econoclaste”, a French blog whose description can be translated by “Economy for Dummies”. Alexandre Delaigue properly destroyed “Ready to throw”, a really successful documentary made by Arte about Planned Obsolescence. Here are my favourites pieces of his article…


Economists point of view

First, Alexandre states that economists don’t agree on planned obsolescence utility for companies. If you can sell a product for a higher price thanks to its durability, you’d better do it because it will give you more money !
example: Nylon stockings
Indeed, the documentary stated that nylon stockings was a good example of planned obsolescence : Companies could make unbreakable nylons stockings but promoted low durability ones instead in order to make more money.

The author of the blog underlines that :

If stockings cost 4€ and last 2 weeks, a normal customer would be ready to pay (4×26 weeks) 104€ for those.

However, if 1-year-durable nylons stockings are more expensive to produce than other, they are probably not going to cost 26 times higher, and so a company would find an economic advantage to produce durables stocking nylons and sell them higher.
I like this argument, but I found different economist`s works which state the contrary:
Avinger, among them, state that companies in both monopolistic and competitive companies could find an advantage in decreasing the durability of their product to be more profitable. Of course, it always depends on markets structures and desires of customers.


Simple production matter

Alexandre also states that, to product something, you have to choose between several criteria, such as durability, quality, design, cost etc. in order to present the optimal product for consumers.
Even if we would like to have durable, beautiful, efficient and not costing products, it is not always possible.
The low durability of products are often (indirectly) wanted by customers.

Is this documentary lying?

The documentary said at a moment that electric lamp cartel Phoebus was judged and had to pay a specific amount of money after a consensus to reduce lamp durability.
A research on other blogs permitted Alex to find another comment on another website, whose writer made the effort to read the abstract of court decision: if the cartel was judged guilty, it was not for reducing the durability of their product but for other antitrust violations.

For me it is the most revealing point of his argumentation:
This documentary is really putting incomplete information as facts, which is really disturbing.

What happened to you Arte?

If the point of view of this blogger on planned obsolescence is not exactly the same as mine (Indeed, I think that goods could last longer and that their short durability is also due to corporates business strategies, and not only to customers purchasing behavior), I totally agree with him on the fact that this documentary is clearly trying to attract viewers attention by misinform them.
I find shameful the way of reporting that have most TV’s documentaries, and I find myself sad to notice than even Arte has this way of working.
It is not the first time that I note this fact, since I already had this point of view with another Arte documentary ”Goldman sachs, the bank ruling the world”, a poorly directed documentary trying to scare the spectator on not proven facts
Arte, you were my best friend among TV channels, what happened to you?


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