by Dan Smith
These days there is a lot of talk about what's wrong with this great nation of ours and how to fix it.
Some believe government is too intrusive in our lives while others would blame ineffective politicians. To my way of thinking, the problem with the good ole U.S. of A is a lot more basic than that.
For many years now, the public has been paying for inferior products that are meant to make our everyday lives easier. Household goods are not nearly as reliable as they once were. Those of us who were brought up in a different era know this all too well, but I don't think our kids are aware of it.
Some years back the refrigerator in our home failed and my wife Lana and I went out to buy a new one. We decided to spend the money for the top of the line model since buying a refrigerator is something we seldom do. Our thinking was that if we buy the best our refrigerator problems would be solved for many decades. When the store delivered our new Kitchenaid we were impressed with its beauty. Quite an upgrade from our old one. Within two years some rust began showing up on our new fridge both inside and out. I bought touch up paint and began to use it regularly. After six years, the rust had overcome me and in eight years the now ugly refrigerator died outright. I couldn't believe it.
I remember my mom and dad buying an inexpensive Hotpoint in the '60s that they used for 30 years. After they grew tired of looking at it, the Hotpoint went to the garage where it hummed away another 10 years. Eventually they sold it, and wherever it is, I am sure it is still running.
When I complained to my two grown children about the poor service of the Kitchenaid they were less than surprised. My daughter Shayla told us that eight years of use is now about average. My kids are fine with that because they don't know better. When we went to buy a replacement I can assure you we did not buy top of the line this time. We also have rental property and 18 months ago bought a new Frigidaire icebox for a tenant. A couple weeks ago we paid a repairman $150 to repair that jewel. Both of those machines were old trusted brands and both were inferior.
Of course, we all know that most American companies sold out years ago and now it would be difficult to find anything made in America in either appliance.
When I was a kid the tag "made in Japan" was relegated to junk and "made in America" was reserved for quality goods. Somehow that has flip-flopped.
Coffee makers and toasters are a couple more items that we know won't last as we walk them out of the store. My mom's old percolator lasted her a lifetime, but our Mr. Coffee can seldom make it two years. The one we have now is only a few months old, but every now and again it takes a squat and dumps the water onto the counter. How can that be? I refuse to call that hunk of junk "Mister."
Not long ago our kids humiliated Lana and I into buying a new flat-screen TV. Out at Wally World, the salesman talked us into purchasing a 42-inch with the unlikely name of Visio or some such. Right away I didn't trust it, because it was so light. Once home it played very fuzzy. Back at the store the salesman told me I would need a new Johnson adapter to correct it. Twenty-five bucks later I was home and the Johnson did not improve the thing. We took the whole mess back and were given a replacement. That one didn't work either. After that I knew exactly what to do. We answered an ad in this paper for an old used 37- inch picture tube set. I bought a Japanese Sony 'cause I wanted a good one. It works just fine and we are now happy except for the fact that it takes three good-sized men to move it.
Next, I bought a big window air conditioner for a rental. It cost close to $500 and when I tried to leave with it, the salesman said I had to have an extended warranty. He was so emphatic I am now convinced the thing won't last. I did not buy the warranty. I refuse to pay extra to try and get the service from an appliance that I expected in the first place.
You're right, I'm living on borrowed time.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.