Must be about time for another whinge, I think. It is a constant source of sorrow to me that our lives seem to be dominated by the need to dump items - especially electronic items - since they are no longer supported, and/or cannot be repaired economically - and buy nice new ones. This process is enforced by the dictates of fashion; the message comes across when the young man on the other end of the support line actually snorts when he learns that my telephone (or camera, or sat-nav, or radio, or washing machine, or whatever) is almost six years old. The implication is that only a dreadful dinosaur would have a product of such age - how can such a person show his face in decent, tech-savvy consumer society? Sometimes the trained engineer [HA!] on the other end of the phone has never even heard of that model number - that's how old and uncool it is.
Well, I've thought some more about this - my thoughts are heavily influenced by two recent examples which I shall share with you in a moment, if you are not quick enough to spot what's coming and move off elsewhere. I have been doing some thinking, and my thoughts are summed up by one word.
Recent Example 1: Tom-Tom. My wife has a new car - well, it was new some six months ago, and it has a built-in sat-nav system. Very nice. This renders her old Tom-Tom unit, which I bought for her about 6 years ago, redundant. I spotted an opportunity for shameless personal gain here, so I offered to take the old Tom-Tom off her hands - I could happily use it in my van, which would avoid my having to switch my own Garmin sat-nav between my car and my van (which may not seem like much of a hardship, but hey).
I quite like the Tom-Tom - it's friendlier than my Garmin - only problem with it is that the maps have never been updated since the unit was bought. This is not entirely due to hopeless inertia on our part - until recently, our domestic broadband service was so poor that a download big enough to include a complete motoring map of Northern Europe would have taken days and days. In a state of some excitement, I now did some poking about online, and found that a map upgrade would cost me about £35 - fair enough - ordered it and paid by PayPal, but the download wouldn't work - nothing happened. A lot of further searching revealed an appropriate support number (Tom-Tom's website, by the way, is a nightmare - lots of closed loops where links point to the page you are already on, or the one you just came from etc). Nice young man (NYM) explained to my wife that the sat-nav unit in question is now so old that they have withdrawn support for it - in any case, the latest maps are too large to fit the on-board storage. He very kindly arranged a refund of the PayPal payment (which took a week to come through), and offered us a discount on one of their new models. Some thoughts at this point:
(1) Everything must come to an end - it is not unreasonable that Tom-Tom should withdraw support for an old model, though 6 years might be considered rather indecently quick - well, in my world anyway, but...
(2) At any point between 6 years ago (when it was bought) and some time later (when support was withdrawn) there must have been updated maps on sale which would fit the storage - it is quite likely that if I had attempted this transaction last year (say) then it would have worked nicely. This point extends into...
(3) Withdrawn or not, supported or not, there must be a number of past updates still on file which would be an improvement on the map which we have at present. Any one of these would have been useful - we could negotiate a fair price? Well - no....
(4) I realise it doesn't work like that. If they sold me a replacement map which was more modern than the one I have, but not fully up-to-date, then I might trustingly drive into a newly-constructed reservoir and be extinguished. The important point is that if this was simply a consequence of my being too mean or idle to buy an up-to-date map then that would be entirely my problem, but if they had sold me an outdated map which did not show the reservoir then things could get sticky. Hmmm.
(5) OK - accept that. What really pisses me off about this is that the decision to withdraw support for an old product is pretty much arbitrary - the owner has no reasonable idea when this might happen - and it is heavily weighted commercially in favour of forcing existing customers to buy a new replacement. All good economic sense, of course, but - even with a discount - this line of reasoning would discourage me from doing further business with such people.
(6) The way ahead - Ze Plan: I shall happily continue to use my pre-owned Tom-Tom with its outdated maps, I shall keep my eyes peeled for unexpected reservoirs, and I shall chuckle to myself at the prospect of having diddled Tom-Tom out of - ooh - several pounds. One day you may read about the tragic accident which claimed my life.
Recent Example 2: Pure. I am a big fan of DAB digital radio. Only concerns I have are that the hardware - certainly from the market-leading brands - is too expensive, and (I am learning) the sets are not wonderfully reliable. I had a small Pure unit which died miserably, about 2 months past the end of the guarantee period, and I rather disappointed myself by buying another Pure radio to replace it. Before she moved out of her own house into a care home, my mother had a surprising number of Pure radios - she liked to have one in each of several rooms (kitchen, sitting room, bedroom - in fact she had two in her bedroom - one on the bedside cabinet, one on the dressing table). This may seem excessive, but her sight is poor, and she cannot see to plug a radio into the mains, nor to retune it when it has moved. We bought 3 of the things for my mum as a batch after my sister died in 2013, so we have a pretty good fix on how old they are.
Mum now has just one of these radios in the care home with her, and she listens to it for many hours a day. Right - that's all very good.
I sort of acquired the rest of them, and they haven't been a huge success. One of them developed a fault with the display, so I gave it away to someone who needed an extra radio. One of the remaining two has also recently had a failure of the display - I checked the support pages on the Pure site, followed the instructions for a full power-down and reset, and the display still didn't work. I emailed them. Within a day, I got a reply from a NYM named Sam. Guess what? - the unit is so old that it is not worth getting it repaired, and they have no suitable spare parts - the best they can offer is a discount off a reconditioned product.
Does any of this sound familiar? Just a minute - they have reconditioned products? Does this mean somebody has fixed one? This seems unlikely - I doubt if they have any actual engineers - the philosophy seems to be one of unloading shiploads of new units from China - it is cheaper and easier to send out a new one than it is to attempt to test or repair an existing one - even assuming they have the skills in this country (which we may debate).
So, in addition to not buying a new Tom-Tom unit, I shall not be buying another Pure radio either - with or without discount. They can focus their marketing on customers who are more in tune [ho - see what I did there?] with their business model. I shall take my custom elsewhere.
Don't misunderstand this - young Sam is obviously a good chap - he sympathised with my situation, and said that if I change my mind (and somehow he seems to believe I will) he can supply a list of current reconditioned deals for out-of-warranty customers [dinosaurs] like me.
All a bit depressing - I'll see you down at the landfill.
I'll finish with my most treasured tale of techno-waste. Some years ago I had a friend who had retired in ill-health from his job, and had set himself up as a self-employed photographer. In his new role he did a vast amount of printing of digital photos - he had a trade card which allowed him to purchase new Canon printers so cheaply that he could now buy a brand new printer (with cartridges) for far less than the cost of a set of replacement cartridges, so it made obviously good sense for him to simply throw away his printer when the ink ran out, and buy a new one. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?
To cheer me up, here's a smashing song, written and sung by Abbey Lincoln - Abbey is dead now - she recorded this when she was in her late 70s - her voice had gone to hell, as you will hear, but this is a piece of magic. See if it cheers you up too.