The Great American Throwaway
July 24, 2008, 8:52 am
Filed under: culture, home improvement, money, technology

This morning, an appliance repair man came to fix our oven, which has been limping along for the past few months.  Since he was on the spot anyway, I had him look at our microwave oven, which went on the fritz while I was away for three weeks.

Oven repair?  No problem.

Microwave oven?  Apparently, this piece of equipment, which was manufactured less than four years ago (according to the serial number info on the back), will cost around $120 to repair.  Why?  Because the part that needs to be replaced costs $85.  I remember purchasing this microwave when we moved to Seattle – we paid $60 or $70 for it.  How is it possible to sell a new microwave for less than the cost of the parts?

Any normal American would say, “Well, I guess I’ll just throw the old one away and buy a new one – it’s cheaper.”  But this pains me.  It’s not even four years old, is still pristine white, and has no business taking up space at a landfill.  Having had recent firsthand experience, I can tell you that in other parts of the world, people actually do repair things like this, because they are valued more highly.

This frustration makes me want to do one of the following:

1. Do a web search for the part, and try opening the microwave up myself to fix it.  Not a great option for someone who is a total hack at mechanical things.

2. Try to find a nonprofit organization that does vocational rehab/training, and donate it to them.  Maybe they can get some training and/or resale value out of it.

3. Put it on Craig’s List.  This is likely to yield a bunch of inquiries from people who search the listings for free stuff, repair it themselves (perhaps with used parts they’ve gutted from other throwaways), then sell it in a garage sale.

4. Rant about it on my blog, suck it up, and just go buy a new one for $60-$70.


1 Comment so far
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So how did you end up? Probably if I was in the situation, I would do 2 and 4.

Comment by Michael

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