Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rediscovering the Value of Repair

Our local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune is pretty much a waste of time. Most of the time. Today, they're running a story headlined: "If it's broke, many consumers fixing it." Ignore the grammar, the content is actually okay.

But what the U-T misses in their story about saving money by repairing, rather than replacing broken appliances, household items, shoes, etc. is the experiential value gained by doing simple repair jobs yourself. Of course, this is not something our culture as a whole is very comfortable with. Doing your own repair is often seen as demeaning, a waste of time, or just downright impossible. The attitude, "why should I do it when I can pay someone else to do it" still prevails, even in tough economic times. It's an incredibly priviledged attitude, and it's deeply engrained in the psyche of American consumers.

My advice is to just try to do your own repairs. Start small on something with pretty low stakes. Fashion a new handle for that box fan whose original plastic handle snapped off years ago (that's what I'm about to do), gain some confidence and move on to something bigger. The point is not only to save money, but to gain something more valuable: independence, competence, creativity, and pride in your work. Even if it's just a box fan handle, making something work again in a world that often seems broken is no small achievement. If anything good is to come out of this bad economic situation, it's not consumer confidence, it's consumer competence.


  1. My biggest beef is the lack of, or the price of repair parts. I have a whole barn full of broken stuff that is waiting until I can locate the repair part necessary to bring the item back to life. Case in point; my big diesel, dually truck needed to have the fuel heater replaced. A part that used to cost ~$80. It is now only available as part of a $250 "kit"! At least it was available!

    Now I am going to go and repair my Sturmey Archer equipped bike...which I have no problem getting parts for, even though it is almost 40 years old.