Where have good-quality products gone?

Thread Starter

schmitt trigger

Joined Jul 12, 2010
918
I know, I know, this is anecdotal evidence, but still....
Last summer my 17 year old(*) Craftsman lawnmower finally gave up the ghost for good. Having had such an excellent experience, I decided to get a new one from them again. Since I am much older and get fatigued sooner, I also decided to get a self-propelled one.
I already knew that Sears had sold the Craftsman brand to a Chinese conglomerate, but not listening to my gut instinct, I bought one.

Big mistake! The wheel's drive belt was protected by a flimsy plastic housing. On my second mow, I hit a clump or root that completely obliterated the housing and mangled the belt drive. Those of you who do their own yard work know that those accidents are quite common, the mower design should be capable of withstanding those.
I was able to get the thing repaired, and after a couple of weeks, during a straight line path, one of the rear driving wheels came off!! The plastic hub simply sheared off. I returned the unit and was only able to get a partial refund. Fed up with Craftsman, I decided to go with Toro. People had told me wonderful stories about their Toro mowers.
After a month or so, the engine would make a scratching sound whenever starting with the pull cord. Nothing alarming and a quick inspection revealed nothing. In hindsight, I should have returned the unit right there. But I still trusted the legendary Toro quality. Another big mistake! No long afterwards, as I was gently mowing, the machine made a hellish screech and dropped dead. The engine was completely locked. Disassembling the unit revealed that the pull cord mechanism had decided to immolate itself against the engine block.

I am now at a conundrum. I still have some energy to mow my own lawn and relish both the physical exercise and that I can distract my mind from life's every-day's pressures. But for this season I am going to contract a lawn service. Expensive, although the lousy quality mowers it has become even more expensive.
Where have the good-quality products gone? I don't expect any of the new mowers to last as long as my old Craftsman did, but heck, not even lasting the very first season??

(*) It did require some repairs during all those years, but inexpensive and fairly straightforward to fix.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
7,544
You are not alone in the universe. I had a 20 cubic foot Kenmore upright freezer. Unlike freezers of yesteryear it went 7 years. OK I replaced it buying another 20 cubic foot Kenmore upright freezer and took out an extended buyer protection plan. This one failed in 23 months. Came up a month short of two years. OK, my call through Lowes ends up at a call center in the Philippines. After a few days of stuffing dry ice in my dead freezer a service guy shows up. Fan seems to be broke, they will order a fan and call me. A week later nothing so I call them. They are waiting on the insurance to approve the work. I call the Philippines again and was assured it would be approved. Two days later I get an email that my claim is denied. What the? Before I could even call again I get another email which is a $922.32 Lowes credit (gift card). They pro rated my freezer. I also noticed Lowes no longer carries the Kenmore line. Go figure huh?

This garbage pours off the boat from China and nothing last like it once did. The freezer I replaced would pull down and hold -20.0 Deg F. The new one only makes -5.0 Deg F. Here we have the EPA screwing with refrigerant again.

Meanwhile I managed to get the old unit working and plan to install the $15 fan. I figure if it works just fine and if not at least I can buy a new one. Cheapie shaded pole motor fan, I got it on Amazon. Nothing to lose at this point. We have an endless line of junk flowing into the US and trying to find a trouble call center in the US is ancient history. Yet we are paying a good price for junk.

Ron
 

joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
5,356
Bought a "nice" welded tubular steel hose trolly for my backyard a while back.

The tires dry-rotted within 6 months.

Do the Chinese know of Vulcan?

17099338067536045723587383190763.jpg
 

Thread Starter

schmitt trigger

Joined Jul 12, 2010
918
Kenmore, if I recall correctly, was another of the Sears brands that were built like tanks. I have a Kenmore clothes dryer which is approaching its second decade of service. I also have a 15 year old Kenmore fridge.
 

Papabravo

Joined Feb 24, 2006
21,258
Bought a "nice" welded tubular steel hose trolly for my backyard a while back.

The tires dry-rotted within 6 months.

Do the Chinese know of Vulcan?

View attachment 317210
I guess not since do not seem to know how to "live long and prosper". They have adopted our health plan which is:
  1. Don't get sick.
  2. If you do get sick, please to die quickly.
  3. Hope the final expense insurance actually pays your final expenses.
Those final expense insurance people are making a dozen robocalls a day just to me and I'm only 76. They must be using the premiums to pay the robocallers. They need to be bugging the people born in the 1930's
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
30,925
We had Maytag clothes washer and dryer that ran for over 25 years, with minor repairs done myself.
The ad about the Maytag repairman with no work to do was certainly true.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,418
I guess not since do not seem to know how to "live long and prosper". They have adopted our health plan which is:
  1. Don't get sick.
  2. If you do get sick, please to die quickly.
  3. Hope the final expense insurance actually pays your final expenses.
Those final expense insurance people are making a dozen robocalls a day just to me and I'm only 76. They must be using the premiums to pay the robocallers. They need to be bugging the people born in the 1930's
But all of those free lunches from places trying to sell you a nice 6ft deep hole in the ground are a plus.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
7,544
Kenmore, if I recall correctly, was another of the Sears brands that were built like tanks. I have a Kenmore clothes dryer which is approaching its second decade of service. I also have a 15 year old Kenmore fridge.
Yeah, for my entire life Kenmore was a name we could trust. Now between Junk and the EPA what we get is junk. Looking at some freezers today I have a salesman telling me I need a freezer I can call and look inside of while I am at the store. I just don't think I want or need one of those.

Ron
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
30,236
Where have the good-quality products gone?
I have been asking this basic question for many years, about many different products. The near-universal answer appears to be -- the dustbin of history.

It's hard to find ANY long-time reputable brand that isn't producing mostly garbage any more -- and if you do find one, wait a few years and they won't be.

It many ways, it's hard to blame them. It's OUR fault. We are (collectively) driven by price and not quality. If someone has something that is ten times as reliable but costs 20% more, they go out of business. The only way to compete at the lowest price point is to produce things of comparable quality to the poorest crap out there. The only way to change this is for enough consumers to refuse to buy things just because they are the cheapest and to reward quality producers by being willing to pay more for that quality -- and actually doing so.

I don't see any chance of that happening any time soon ... or ever, in all likelihood.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
8,274
I have been asking this basic question for many years, about many different products. The near-universal answer appears to be -- the dustbin of history.

It's hard to find ANY long-time reputable brand that isn't producing mostly garbage any more -- and if you do find one, wait a few years and they won't be.

It many ways, it's hard to blame them. It's OUR fault. We are (collectively) driven by price and not quality. If someone has something that is ten times as reliable but costs 20% more, they go out of business. The only way to compete at the lowest price point is to produce things of comparable quality to the poorest crap out there. The only way to change this is for enough consumers to refuse to buy things just because they are the cheapest and to reward quality producers by being willing to pay more for that quality -- and actually doing so.

I don't see any chance of that happening any time soon ... or ever, in all likelihood.
I think that a good start would be for the producers to start offering long lasting and truthful guarantees on their products. And make it easier for customers to file a claim and get a quick response. When that happens, people won't automatically gravitate to the lowest bidder. IMHO.
 

Sensacell

Joined Jun 19, 2012
3,471
This "race to the bottom" is really scary, it fundamentally erodes the industrial capacity of a nation.

It also creates a huge economic drag, one needs to replace the product multiple times over the potential life span of a single high quality product.

The environmental damage is also multiplied, a single good product requires slightly more raw materials, but lasts much longer, the total energy consumption, landfill, and pollution is multiplied by the short life span of crappy products.

Every product with a non-replaceable internal battery is 100% guaranteed to be landfill in 3 years.

What is even scarier is the fact that this downward price pressure actually makes it more difficult for a company to survive selling quality goods.
We have all made those quick, price-driven decisions at the store that results in one less sale of the better product.

How is it ever possible to break out of this death spiral?

Here is a photo of my Rigol power supply, it's only 3 years old but the rubber bumpers are disintegrating- they used poor quality resin to save money.
How many times have you found the Santoprene grips on some tool dissolving into that sticky horrendous mess due to bad (cheap) resin formulation?



20240309_102218.jpg
 
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Jon Chandler

Joined Jun 12, 2008
1,070
I think all the legacy brands that were once great but have been sold off are trading off the name and don't care about quality.

Years ago, a producer of shiny red riding lawn mowers contacted my company. They were having problems with failing bearings in the blade spindles, often as soon as the first time somebody fired up their new mower to show the neighbors.

They asked if it would be possible to develope a test rig to detect bad bearings in spindle assemblies, and they sent 10 spindles, some with built in faults. I reported that 7 of the spindles had serious problems, and an 8th was pretty marginal. They replied back that they had only built 5 spindles with problems, so obviously my testing was flawed. I let that hang for a long pause, and reiterated 8 assemblies were crap, and they had more serious problems than weeding out spindles damaged during assembly.

I explained that the bearings themselves were the likely problem. They arranged to send 10 of each type of bearing used in the spindle assemblies (2 bearing in each). The package arrived... and 2 minutes later, I was on the phone. "What is this crap you sent? Did you sweep these up off the floor?" Twenty bearings rattling around loose in a shoe box, unwrapped, with about half of sheet of newpaper. "These bearings aren't worth the trouble to test. They were junk even before you shipped them to me." They replied "But that's how we get them from China." Well, there's your problem.

They stated they also had "premium" bearings from China, and shipped 10 each of those, packed in tubes and properly padded. I made arrangements with my former employer, a naval shipyard, to test these bearings on an anderometer used to qualify submarine noise-crictical bearings. As we tested the bearings, new terms for quality had to be invented. I believe the worst was rated as "double kaw-kawka". Believe me, they don't get much worse than that!

As I recall, 7 of one type of bearing were junk, and 6 of the other. The chances of building a spindle with 2 good bearings was pretty slim.

We didn't sell a spindle test system. Using decent bearings solved their problems.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
8,274
Programmed obsolescence ... I HATE that term, but that's what the economy's got to ... I wonder, now that most lights out there are LED's, how long is it going to take before "they" (and I mean the big, Big Fat corporations) start to make their useful lives shorter and shorter?

 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,418
I blame rogue engineering. These things didn't get so cheap by themselves. They were designed to be cheap by experts trained in the art of optimization.
1709994713615.png
Any fool can make 'a' cheap part, but only engineering excellence can make a complex machine that will fail days after the warranty period expires.
 
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BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,124
Things are not all as bad as that. Has everyone forgotten what cars wrre like in the ‘60s? You couldn’t drive a new car home from the dealer without the first problem showing up. My current car is 10 years old without needing an unscheduled repair, except during the Covid stay home period, when rodents chewed through my gas line.

I have a rule of thumb when buying many things: find the lowest price, then start looking at 150% of that. Have not really noticed a decline in quality, in fact, often I see the opposite.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,418
Things are not all as bad as that. Has everyone forgotten what cars wrre like in the ‘60s? You couldn’t drive a new car home from the dealer without the first problem showing up. My current car is 10 years old without needing an unscheduled repair, except during the Covid stay home period, when rodents chewed through my gas line.

I have a rule of thumb when buying many things: find the lowest price, then start looking at 150% of that. Have not really noticed a decline in quality, in fact, often I see the opposite.
Electronics (the ones made with real parts, not Chinese fakes) are still pretty good. If I'm buying for work, making something for industry and usually when I make something for my own use I avoid Chinese mechanical parts that need rolling parts like bearings or need good tensile strength. @Jon Chandler is exactly right, while it's possible to get good bearing from there, it's cheaper and more reliable in the long run, to buy good ones elsewhere and to avoid Chinese bearing like the plague.
 

Thread Starter

schmitt trigger

Joined Jul 12, 2010
918
Cars are a class of its own with respect to reliability. As Bob mentioned above, an early 2000s or late 1990s vehicles was orders of magnitude more reliable than the 1960s and specially the 1970s junk.
But there is a reason: at the time, Japanese brands were the trailblazers and leaders in this regard, and everyone else had to follow suit.
But “peak Japan” is gone, they no longer rule the world’s manufacturing, being supplanted by China. Quality and reliability have been supplanted by lower costs and higher profits.
I don’t think that the 2020s vehicles, would have the same reliability expectations than its earlier siblings had.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
30,236
Programmed obsolescence ... I HATE that term, but that's what the economy's got to ... I wonder, now that most lights out there are LED's, how long is it going to take before "they" (and I mean the big, Big Fat corporations) start to make their useful lives shorter and shorter?

What do you mean, how long? That ship has long since sailed. Years ago I switched our house as much as possible to LEDs and bought a lot of the EcoSmart bring LED bulbs from Home Depot. Started having failures within a few months. The final straw was when I bought a box of four and two of them were bad right out the box. Switched to Duracell and they seemed to work well. Bought a bunch more about a year ago and one of them was bad out of the box and two more failed within a week. While there may be more, the only one that seems to be a quality source that I know of is Cree. Very much more expense, too.
 
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