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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Down with planned obsolescence

Every year we have to buy new furniture, new jeans, new phones, new everything. Things just don’t last like they used to, but that’s not because of standard wear and tear. 

Companies are purposely making products that break down faster than they should. This practice is called planned obsolescence and it’s 100 years old. In 1924, Phoebus Cartel, a lightbulb company, decided to make a bulb that lasted significantly shorter than ever before, and since then we’ve been on a continuous downhill slide.  

Planned obsolescence needs to be stopped. It has terrible consequences for both humans and the environment. To ensure the tactic works, companies use cheap materials that break down easily, filling garbage cans, trash bags and dumps around the world and polluting the environment.

In 2017, Apple admitted to slowing down older iPhone models. Users reported the phones had poorer battery life and would occasionally just shut down in the middle of the day. The company was eventually sued for this action and in 2020 agreed to pay out $113 million to consumers in fraud lawsuits.

Recently, Dr. Martens has come under fire for possibly engaging in planned obsolescence. Fans of the boot claim their shoes are falling apart after six months when previously they’ve had pairs for years without any problems. Complaints of loose stitching, detached soles and thin leather have made their way to administration’s ears, but they claim production has remained the same since the 1960s.

While there has been no official statement on the topic, this many accusations leads one to question Dr. Martens integrity and creation process.

Companies know that to make more money there must be demand, so if their products “mysteriously” start to disintegrate then people will be in the market for replacements. They’ve figured out a way to engineer demand so they can profit even more. 

In the past, consumers could invest in products they knew would last for years to come. My grandma bought a Kirby vacuum in 1984 and she still uses it. 40 years old and the machine still cleans every weekend. Reliability and long lifespan were selling points for products back then, unfortunately society has forgotten that.

Now, money flows from the wallets of the public to line the pockets of greedy executives who are going to hoard it. 

While the whole practice is the fault of big corporations, there is some good the average citizen can do. Buying repurposed or secondhand items can slow the machine of production while providing unique pieces. Getting to know a good tailor, shoemaker, electrician and other tradespeople can save your stuff and make it last longer.  

However, it’s important to remember that corporations and companies are at the forefront of planned obsolescence. They are responsible for the push of unrelenting consumerism making its way around the globe. 

Governments need to take steps to prevent companies from creating products that will break down in a year and a half. 

This story was written by Izzy Fonfara Drewel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Izzy Fonfara Drewel
Izzy Fonfara Drewel, Production Director
Izzy Fonfara Drewel is a senior from Papillion, Nebraska majoring in journalism with a double minor in music and Spanish. This school year she will be serving as the Production Director. In previous years, she made her home on the Arts & Entertainment desk as the Executive Arts & Entertainment Editor, and she was the Executive Opinions Editor last year. Outside of the Wire, Izzy plays the trumpet in the Marquette University Bands and spends her free time trying new restaurants and playing card games with her friends. She is excited to pilot this position this year and build a strong staff that is confident in their abilities.

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