Planned obsolescence

Dany Marquis

Planned obsolescence

I enjoy working in my new workshop repairing espresso coffee makers. I have more space, more lighting and I have the sea breeze coming in through the window... I find that there is something zen in bringing damaged appliances back to life. We often have to use creativity when faced with never-before-seen problems and the attention that this type of intervention requires makes me disconnect from my daily life, sometimes rock'n roll (to work a coffee maker needs water and electricity, a marriage to be taken seriously…)

I also recommend reading the author Matthew B Crawford, In Praise of the Carburettor. It is an essay on the meaning and value of manual labor. In short, the author pleads in favor of manual labor and makes an implacable critique of the systematic policies of extending schooling and of the optimistic visions which conceive the future of work in the radiant form of the "knowledge society", and intellectual workers. In a country where people aspire to do office work or become a civil servant, this is topical.

It is in this vein that I am sorry to find more and more irreparable espresso coffee makers on the market. Equipment manufacturers are releasing coffee makers that are so complicated to repair that it's easier to throw it out and buy another one. There's always a way to bring it to me or to your local coffee maker store. But now, the time I will spend on your machine, added to the cost of the parts, will almost equal the price of a new machine. So the majority of my clients say to give up and offer them a new model. Despite selling a machine, it still makes me bitter.

In the photo you have a Bréville Cafe Roma, which retails for around $175-200 new. When it arrived at the workshop, my client told me that brewing an espresso takes a lot of time and that he would like me to clean it (decalcification). No problem, I bring it to the bench, plug it in and notice that in fact, it hardly flows at all and that the pump makes a strange noise. I then proceed to decalcify the machine and realize that although everything is now cleaned, the pump is not working correctly. Prognosis: Defective pump. I'm already 30 minutes into the machine. I called my customer back and told him that to change the pump, it would take me 2 hours + the cost of the pump for a final bill of around $120-130. He tells me that he paid $200 for his machine, that he has been using it for 2 years and that he would prefer to buy a new one. I sold one to him straight away, he was happy. I am happy. But where is the problem?

2 hours! 2 hours to change a small pump in an incredibly simple machine (tank + pump + thermal block + group or steam valve) is way too much! Well, imagine that to remove the pump, you have to completely dismantle the coffee maker since the pump is fixed on a riveted plate, inaccessible, and they installed the pump towards the inside of the machine instead of towards it. outside. In short, a magnificent case of planned obsolescence.

The engineers who designed this type of model could very well have made the pump accessible by removing a side panel... Was this calculated? According to the Wikipedia article, we are facing a case of “Functional defect […] When a part no longer works, the entire product becomes unusable. If the repair cost, consisting of the price of the replacement part, the cost of labor and transport costs, proves to be higher than the price of a new device sold commercially, it then becomes expensive to want to repair the damaged device. […]

In my example above, the price of the repair does not exceed but is very close.

This type of situation is found in far too many devices, and we become dependent and slaves to this type of technology since we are unable to repair it. The iPod is probably the typical representation.

I would conclude by telling you to try to only buy devices, in this case espresso coffee makers, that you are sure can be repaired. Ask your seller if you can have a technical manual for the machine with an exploded view of its components and if it is possible to purchase parts.

Happy shopping!



  • Chantal Leblanc

    Nous vivons exactement le même problème avec notre Café Roma (écoulement excessivement lent, pompe au son affaibli, etc) achetée usagé en 2013. Mon compagnon souhaite en faire la réparation lui-même mais aimerait d’abord connaître le prix d’une pompe breville pour cette machine.

    Merci pour votre aide!

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