Sunday, June 07, 2009

Keep Calm, Breathe!

I have to remind myself of my self-calming techniques after reading this post by LB at 3 Ring Binder. LB captures some of the real horror being spoon-fed to the captive elementary school audience. I had heard of The Story of Stuff and I am pleased that she pointed out how awful it is. I also glad to see this rebuttal posted at Mariposario (via Titanic Deck Chairs).

The Story of Stuff is a video produced by an environmental activist being funded by other environmentalist groups (true interpretation is anti-property rights and anti-capitalism groups). As an aside, let's remember that many such groups try to undermine the message of pro-property rights and pro-free trade activists by discussing their financing and somehow she's supposed to get a pass, right? The message is wrong, and the funding is incidental to completely glossing over the truth. This video it being shown to ill-prepared elementary students.

And by ill-prepared, I mean students to young to understand the logical fallacies, the anti-concepts, the distortions, and the omissions. And this, more than any other reason, is why it is inappropriate to show to children. The children in elementary schools are too young to understand the falsehoods. The children in high schools these days, at least the average student, has been disarmed. Such a shoddy education as is generally received in public schools (and even many private schools) have weakened their ability to think critically to such a degree that they will either take it at face value or not have the mental tools need to evaluate it properly.

The author of the rebuttal really hits on almost every issue that is wrong with this presentation. So do not be surprised that he interrupts the narrative especially designed to torment your children frequently. The critique is in four parts. The following embedded video should play all four movies in succession.


christinemm said...

I watched The Story of Stuff last year when a CT homeschool mom posted it to a chat list telling us we should watch it with our kids as it was very educational.

I won't watch it again.

What got my goat about it was the oversimplification.

One point:

I do not believe in planned obsolence but feel that there are more complex factors at play. For example I have a coffee maker that used to be made in the USA that now is made in China (American company). A tiny plastic part broke due to wear and tear (as is expected). But since the factory is in China now and the company doesn't make it anymore, here in America, there is no way to repair it. I am supposed to throw it out and replace it. IMO this is not planned obsolence this is due to the company being able to make more money by having it made in another country and not really caring about customer satisifaction such as I'd get if I could buy the two cent part to fix it. I am using duct tape instead.

A similar thing was mentioned by a customer in an Amazon review about the Waterpik. He said for years this rubber piece would break and when they were made in USA the company would give new replacement parts for a cost of like five cents. However with the new ones there are no replacement parts available, they are made outside of USA so a product over $50 can quickly become unusable.

It is dangerous to oversimplify.

Environmentalists usually oversimplify.

I spent hours today weeding and it is a battle of me versus Mother Nature. Just trying to keep a small garden patch is very hard. Nature takes over very easily. I would recommend that all environmentalists start a small garden plot and tend to it, they will see that Mother Nature aka Earth is resilient and demanding, tougher than they think it is. I really think environmentalists, despite saying they love Mother Earth, don't realize the full repairing powers the Earth has over the actions we do to it.

Kim said...

While I am not person who likes to repair small appliances, I can tell that not having the part in stock annoyed you very much.

Having worked in manufacturing, engineers and the rest of the company have to make decisions based on statistics, balancing costs, and average consumers. It's a case of 'you can't make everyone happy all of the time.' My guess is that they were able to gain additional customers and make more customers happier by reducing the price point through well-known business choices.

People who want to repair their small appliances must have been a small enough number that those concerns would not drive business costs. Of course, if enough people get upset and complain, the company will reevaluate that stance. The customer is always figured into production decisions. If people aren't (generally) happy with the product's life time and ease of use for the particular price (note the quality vs. cost trade off that we as consumers are trying to balance ourselves), then the company won't be able to sell that product.

It seems easy to think that a company should just have these small parts laying around. It is a lot more complicated than that, however (there's that over simplification coming into play again). I don't know how familiar you are with manufacturing and business part of it.

Those of us in homes don't really consider the cost of storing material. It's easy to just have extra stuff around. We don't have to have accountants depreciate it, we don't have to worry about temperature control warehouses, about moving parts from one location to another, about expiration dates, about paying utilitys costs and leases one parts people may or may not want for the price needed to cover those expenses.

Storing excess inventory has been identified as a cost-driver for industry. A very famous technique has been adopted by many manufacturers to help reduce expenses related to inventory. It's called just-in-time inventory control. Companies analyze what products are purchased and how frequently they are purchased and try to keep nothing more than exactly what the previous demand shows they need. This provides a huge savings to manufacturing companies and then to us as consumers.

There is nothing about actually being in China that prevents a company from selling spare parts. The problem comes from shipping and tarriffs. Those costs increase the price of the part significantly.