Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles So, have you all noticed that everything kind of sucks now? And I don't mean, like, the general state of the world, I mean, like, the stuff we buy is just, like a little bit worse than it was 10 years ago. And I really started thinking about this because my coworker Izzie wrote about how she had to replace a bra. So I'm gonna do what any normal person would do which is buy the exact same thing from the exact same place. And then after a few weeks it just kind of... Just kind of fell apart. So this kind of started me on this journey of, like, okay, I'm hearing anecdotally from so many people I talk to in my life. From coffee machines... phones, computers, sweaters... They all tear or break or explode way sooner than they used to. So what's going on? And is there a way to climb out from under this pile of consumer trash? So let's talk about this in the most basic of terms starting with the design process. When a company wants to make a thing, let's say, like a jacket, there are three main factors to consider. Functionality: Does it work? Appearance: Does it look good? And manufacturability: Is it easy and fairly inexpensive to make a lot of this product? Generally, a good product will have a good blend of these three things. But in recent years this process has been thrown off balance. Let's look at clothes, for example. In the past, if you needed a new jacket, you used to go to a tailor, get measured, choose material, and have it made. Then for decades, instead of going to a tailor for a jacket, we went to department stores and bought things that were mass produced. By the 80s and 90s we had tons of options and stores to choose from. And now, many of us just kind of go online, click "add to cart" and buy a product without ever seeing it in person. But it's not just how we buy, it's how often we buy. And for that, we can kind of blame this man. Earnest Elmo, yeah, incredible name. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, he wrote this paper that was like, "Okay, the government should really support this idea of planned obsolescence." Except he didn't call it planned obsolescence. He called it "consumer engineering." Remember that jacket you bought? Well, it's a new season, and it's out of style. Buttons are out, zippers are in. So you buy something new, but not because there was anything physically wrong with the original. That's why it's called consumer engineering, right? Like, it's up here in the brain. And we've been living this way for decades. So now we all want the next best thing, all the time. And that demand has spun out of control. Today, we are surrounded. The speed of certain trend cycles and the fact that they're geared towards these micro communities. Like, Stanley cups, when maybe a year ago was Hydro Flasks. The result is that we buy a lot. A survey done in 2021 found that nearly 40% of UK consumers buy clothing as often as once a month. The UN reports that between the years 2000 and 2014, the average person was buying 60% more clothing and each item was only kept half as long. So we want to buy a lot of stuff fast and because we replace our stuff so often we don't really want to spend a lot of money on it, which has an effect too. People aren't willing to pay more for something they had purchased a while ago. So, like, if I paid 30 bucks for a bra 10 years ago, it would be really hard for me to buy it at $50. Even though, in the last 10 years labor costs have risen. So what we're left with is an incredibly fast cycle of demand for low cost products. And here's what that looks like. In order to speed up manufacturing, companies have to either hire more people, alter how the product is made, or both. But they also have to keep prices low enough for consumers to keep buying. So they may start swapping materials, like cotton or silk for a cheaper synthetic material. Or rely on a more basic stitching pattern that maybe just doesn't hold as well. So if after 10 years, you're still paying the same price or close to the same price for a product that looks the same... well, something had to change. So you might say, "Okay, Kim, fashion trends are moving too fast and we buy too much stuff. I get it. I get it." "But why does my washing machine suck?" And that's a great question. Let's talk about technology. When things like computers first became part of our daily lives, it made a lot of sense to upgrade devices pretty often. There was actually very big differences in what a device did that's 2 years old versus one that was brand new in the market. There was just big leaps. This is Gay Gordon-Bryne. She directs a consumer advocacy group called the Repair Association. You know, if you had a 2 year old thing, you probably couldn't do half the cool stuff that the other guy could do. So that kind of fueled the replacement cycle because you really did get something better in terms of functionality. For example, when the iPhone was first made it was a major breakthrough. Subsequent phones up to a point responded to major technological leaps. Like, look at the difference between the 3GS and the 4. The iPhone 4 had a way better resolution and a front facing camera. For a while, these major leaps between models was the norm for technology. But we're not making those giant changes as often anymore. Instead, partly to make us want to buy more things companies make very minor adjustments year after year. So the dryer you own may now play a fun little song at the end of a cycle instead of screaming. And now, as devices advanced and got increasing complicated there was another problem for consumers. All these things started to come into the into the world. They didn't come in with repair tools. They came in to be thrown away. Basically, when this stuff breaks. It's often intentionally impossible to repair. Because if you buy something that has a computer chip in it or a circuit board or whatever, you probably can't make one in your garage. Um, so you're very reliant on what the manufacturer will agree to sell. And very often they don't agree to sell parts and tools and diagnostics or even give you a diagram. But sometimes it really just isn't possible to fix because they cut corners just like in fashion, replacing metal and screws with plastic and glue. And these kind of issues apply across the board in technology, from your phone to toasters to blenders... to electric wheelchairs to your car. If you walk around your house or your apartment and you start cataloging how many things you own that have chips in them, I think you'll be really surprised how big that lack of repair problem actually is. I want people to feel hopeful. Yes, this is something that's out of our control in some ways and not out of our control in others. I don't want you to feel guilty for partaking in this system where like so many people, we've been kind of brought up culturally to think in this way or to buy in this way. Compared to other things that suck in the world we actually have a surprising amount of control over this situation. With tech, fighting for the right to repair is actually extremely effective. New York State just passed the right to repair bill in 2022 and it's not perfect, but at least it's something. With fashion, stay away from micro trends and fast fashion as often as you can. Buy with intention and learn to take care of the things you do have. Think of your objects as having maintenance. Read those care labels. As consumers, it's going to take a little bit for us to sift through all that trash and retrain our brains a bit. But we can take small steps to take back control of the process. After all, all of this stuff is supposed to be made for us. So let's make it clear what we want. We have a map on our repair.org website, where you can go find your state, click the picture and it'll bring up a—basically, a letter writing widget. Type in your address and it says, "Tell your repair story" And if you really want to do something that's how it gets done. We've had over 100,000 people do that, over 30,000 of them in New York. So, it does not surprise me that New York was the first one to actually pass a law because that's where there was a really big groundswell of interest.