Friday, December 7, 2012

A fourth R. Return, with a vengeance.

For the Three Rs, I used to say, readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, until I learned Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I want to add Return.
Lately I've been steamed by the amount of junk that develops because of poor workmanship. I feel angry and  defeated when I have to pay for electronics recycling or at least wait in line at the transfer station to hand it over.

I own what is called an apothecary lamp, an adjustable floor lamp purchased from an Eddie Bauer store in 1997, thinking it would comfort my terminally ill father to have a reading light, and also help the visiting nurse and myself to change my father's medical dressings. The lamp turned out to have an unstable on-off switch and a lack of washers and screws sufficient to keep it from working itself apart in the normal course of adjusting positions.  In the midst of looking after dad, I lost the receipt.
I still mess with the lamp, trying to eke some value out of the purchase, but I'd feel like a million dollars if I could justify packing it up and return it to Eddie Bauer with the message, Since you made it, You reuse it or recycle it!

I feel the same way about a Hewlett Packard combination printer-fax and scanner that became completely dysfunctional in all its categories after a small plastic part in the paper feed broke. It's too late to get money back. What I want is for them to be responsible for having created a complicated piece of trash, with plastics, chemicals, glass and metal, that I feel ashamed to have to take to the dump station and pay to recycle because it is electronics. Darn it, I want HP to have to do the dirty work of taking their contraption apart and disposing of it. 
I'm not a Luddite, but when I buy something I want it to work perfectly and last a long time. Increasingly I need to ask myself, am I willing to see a product through its dysfunctional senescence? Does it "age" well?

I once bought a bottle of wine for six dollars and hid it at the cool damp end of the basement. Over five years later it turned out to be as delicious as the e-bay price of about $27 suggested it might be.  Now why can't we have electronics that do that?!

I want to return the stuff that doesn't grow better with age.
I found the box for the printer, at least.

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