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Built to Fail is for Sale Everywhere

BusinessWhen did it become a regular recipe, when manufacturing a product, to design and build it to fail? If you are looking for me to provide you with statistics and numbers to support this theory, you will not find them in this article. You may find them in the comments or possibly someone will become stirred up and locate or create a study to prove or disprove my thesis.

Here are a few items for us to consider. Is it a coincidence that the majority of cell phone and smart phone plans lock you in for a two year period and the actual device begins to become unreliable and have problems in the hard device itself or the battery just prior to the two year mark from actual purchase date?

Is it a coincidence when you purchase a new car, especially in the higher end luxury category, when you have your service plan included in the purchase price for a period of time such as 60, 000 miles or five years whichever comes first, that the vehicle has signs of issues soon after the whichever comes first passes ( usually the miles ).

Would it be possible or probable for manufacturers to design in obsolescence into their product in order to insure future demand for their products? Their thinking, “Well if we build this to last forever how will we stay in business?”

The process of designing and manufacturing includes the lifetime and types of use of the product. This will drive the materials purchasing and the actual construction materials to be utilized in the product. This is where the elements, the security, the ability to be dropped from a height of ten feet onto a cement floor all come into play. There is no lack of ability, technology and low cost methods to build and manufacture products which would outlast the bones of a dinosaur. Seriously what is the real answer? It is my belief that manufacturers ( the actual company behind the capital, the strategy and the plan) have had this conversation for example in the cell phone and smart phone world.

“Look twenty years ago, Joe and Jane consumer did not have a four hundred dollar device in their hand 24/7. Who knew they would have a plan where they were spending fifty to a hundred bucks a month each month to keep in touch.”

“Now a family might own four or more of these devices and spend who knows what a month. They are addicted! It is like we are selling them crack cocaine. Here is the thing, we need the device to begin to fail either the battery or the screen or something or as much as possible after twelve to sixteen months. There will be new technology and bells and whistles added in the marketplace anyway so the consumer, Joe and Jane, will be just as happy to purchase a new device or a few of them anyway.”

What do you think? Is built to fail the new way to build products? Is this here to stay and going to spread into other businesses and industries?

Mitch Tublin is an advanced certified executive and personal coach who resides in Stamford, CT.


  1. Oh, I have had this conversation with my parents SO many times! I don’t need you to share statistics with me because I live it! I do believe that companies build devices/cars/products, etc. to fail, because years ago, products were built to last and you can see the difference now!

  2. I hear you on the built to fail thing – what a sad way to do business. But part of the problem is consumerism and addiction to prettier and fancier things. I think we need changes on both ends: supplier and consumer

  3. I have read in publications like WSJ and others that some items are built to last 2 to 4 years. Any appliance repairman who is 40+ will tell you “they don’t build ’em like they used to.” Planned obsolescence is for real!

  4. Planned obsolescence. It applies across an amazing spectrum of consumer goods. My first vacuum cleaner was a second hand one that I got from a friend of my parents. It wound up lasting for a total of 37 years! When I finally had to give it up and buy a vacuum the next one only lasted 10 years before it had to be replaced. I’m wondering how long my new one will last now.

    Clothing seems thinner and less sturdy, appliances are so inexpensive that it often costs more to fix them than to replace them. Sadly this just contributes to consumerism and over-use of resources. It’s a challenge to find ways to work around this.