The planned wear and tear of products has been a dark chapter in the market economy for over 100 years. Which manufacturer of goods likes to admit that he creates products in such a way that they break within a certain period of time?
One of the best known cases is the “Phoebus cartel”, which was founded about 100 years ago among light bulb manufacturers. The aim of this economic cartel was to limit the burning time of light bulbs to 1 000 hours. Before the cartel was founded, there were already light bulbs that shone for over 2,500 hours. At the same time, there were also patents that provided for light bulbs for over 10,000 hours and much more. Since the sales for the manufacturers sank however ever further and the competition with price wars was eroding the market, the largest manufacturers decided to unite in the secret and divide the market among themselves.
Today we have the phenomenon in many devices. Usually it is a point of contention between consumers and manufacturers whether something breaks intentionally or not. Therefore, the examples given are not accusations, but many more examples which have already been disseminated by users on the Internet. The labelling on the products themselves usually also gives a hint.
Printers: 20,000 pages guaranteed to print in top quality
Printers sometimes have a built-in chip which counts the printed pages and after the 20,000th page deteriorates the quality of the pages beyond it.
Television: guaranteed 10 000 hours lifetime
Televisions can have a chip that clocks the switched-on time.
Electric toothbrushes: guaranteed durability of at least 2 years
Charging cycles of electric toothbrushes can be counted
This could now be described as malicious and harmful, as most people and consumer organisations do. However, it is necessary to take a closer look at the production cycle. If, for example, a manufacturer manufactures printers and has development, marketing and production costs here, then he must sell a certain quantity at a certain price in order to generate income. Since machines used to be very expensive and only large manufacturers could afford them, a lot of human time was put into the production of a product. In the last 30 years, however, this has changed massively and today large quantities can be produced quickly with the help of a machine park.
Example 20 years ago (with high selling prices):
If, for example, the manufacturer used to have a total cost of $1 million for the production of 1,000 printers, it had to charge at least $1,000 per printer to cover its costs. The wholesaler and the local dealer also had to make their cut and so we come to an end customer price of about $ 1,600.
Customer view: $1,600 / 200,000 pages = $0.008 per printed page
The last 20 years (with low selling prices):
Due to the modern machinery it is possible to produce faster and cheaper. So now we can adjust the example a little bit. For example, if the manufacturer has a total cost of $1 million for the production of 10,000 printers, we get an end customer price of $160.
The big difference lies in the price in the difference and in the quality. If you bought a printer 30 years ago and it went right into the budget with $1,600, the consumer expected a product that would last forever. He usually got this, too.
Thus the manufacturer in our example guarantees today: Top quality at a low price up to a certain number of printed paper / viewed hours / certain duration!
The manufacturer naturally has an interest in the consumer always buying a new device, but remaining loyal to the brand or manufacturer. Here we have now reached the actually exciting point.
The manufacturer actually wants to sell a top product below the price of its competitors and at the same time hopes for successful customer loyalty!
But now the manufacturer can’t openly say that if you spend $160 on my product, you can print 20,000 top-quality pages and then you need a new device. This would immediately cause bad publicity and customers would avoid it. That’s why today it’s made as subtle as possible.