FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Not Your Mother’s Electrolux

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Genesee Bondurant was upset.

She had purchased a new Electrolux vacuum cleaner five years ago on sale from Sears for about $500.

And a couple of weeks ago, it died.

It wasn’t turning on.

She took it to a repair shop. They told her that it probably needed a new circuit board, that the circuit board would cost about $200 to replace, that they couldn’t guarantee the work and that it wasn’t worth fixing.

She then took it to a second repair shop . They told Genesee pretty much the same thing — that it was probably the circuit board, the new circuit board would cost about $200, the parts were cheaply made and too hard to get, and they couldn’t guarantee the work.

Genesee says she bought the Electrolux vacuum cleaner because of Electrolux’s reputation for reliability. (My mother-in-law has had her Electrolux for 30 years. When something goes wrong, she gets it repaired at a repair shop where she lives, in Tucson, Arizona.)

Genesee calls me and asks me to find out what was going on. Why were repair shops able to fix the older Electrolux machines but not the newer ones?

I email Daniel Frykholm, a press officer with Electrolux in Sweden. I ask him to respond to Genesee’s complaint that she can’t get her Electrolux repaired.

A few hours later, I get a call from Laura Bohacz, a public relations person for Electrolux in Chicago.

She wants more details.

I give her the model of Genesee’s Electrolux — Oxygen 3. I give her Genesee’s name and phone number.

Bohacz sends me a statement from Electrolux:

“Thanks for alerting us to this issue. Quality is very important to us, and we remain committed to manufacturing high-performance vacuums and providing exceptional customer service. We are reaching out to this customer to discuss her experience and replace her vacuum.”

Genesee calls me a couple of days later. A brand new, top of the line Electrolux — Ultra One (listed at $799) — had been delivered to her home.

Merry Christmas, Genesee.

But Electrolux is not responsive to my question — what happened to Electrolux’s vaunted reputation for lasting, if not forever, then for thirty or forty years?

I go to a Christmas party with friends and tell this story.

Turns out that one of the people at the party, Mike Marzullo, the drummer in my wife’s band, worked for Electrolux in northern Virginia in the early 1980s repairing Electrolux vacuum cleaners.

He still has three of the older Electrolux vacuum cleaners in his house, one for each floor. And he still repairs them when they go down.

Marzullo says that the older Electrolux machines, which cost about $500 apiece back in the 1980s, would last for a long time — 20 or 30 years or more. And when they broke down, he could fix them and return them to their owners as if they were brand new.

“I would turn it over to the customer and she would say, in disbelief — that’s not my machine,” Marzullo recalls. “And I would say — yes it is. It sucks brand new, it’s smells brand new, and it even looks close to brand new.”

Marzullo said that Electrolux was so popular back then that many customers would buy two — one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

I asked Marzullo why he thinks the Electrolux machine went from lasting for a long time to lasting only a couple of years.

“I’m not a genius,” Marzullo said. “A vacuum cleaner is a working household appliance. It either works or it doesn’t. If it breaks down in two years when before it would last for 30 or 40 years, you can’t tell me that’s not deliberate. I am convinced they went down this road in search of more money and for no other reason.”

The story of planned obsolescence in the U.S. economy was aired most recently in a documentary movie — The Light Bulb Conspiracy — which is based, in part, on the book by Giles Slade — Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America (Harvard University Press, 2007).

The documentary opens with a scene from a birthday party held by the fire hall in Livermore, California in 2001. The fire department is throwing a birthday party for a light bulb that’s been on since 1901.

The documentary goes on to present evidence that the major light bulb manufacturers organized an international cartel to limit the life of the light bulb to 1,000 hours — including by fining the companies that make bulbs that lasted more than 1,000 hours.

The film also features cameos by the durable nylon stocking, which was sent back to the drawing board and made to run regularly, a printer, which is programmed to die after printing 18,000 pages (but a Russian programmer figures out how to reset the counter to zero), an Apple iPod which had a non replaceable battery that lasts only 18 months, and a third world county where the disposable electronic waste from our disposal society was dumped.

“There was an old school of engineers who believed that they should make a permanent usable product that would never break,” Slade says in the film.”And there was a new school of engineers that were driven by the market and who were clearly interested in making the most disposable product that they could.”

Guess who won?

In the 1960s, Electrolux began selling its vacuum cleaners in the UK under the slogan “Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux.”

At the time, the slogan was considered inappropriate for the American market.

Time to reconsider?

Russell Mokhiber edits Morgan County, USA.

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail