By Eilene Lyon
How often have you seen this label on a product you’ve been buying for years? New? Maybe so. Improved? Well, I usually have my doubts about that.
I’ll grant that automobiles have become much safer and more fuel efficient since the early 1900s. They’re also more comfortable and have myriad gizmos to distract us from what we should be doing – paying attention to the road.
But so many consumer staples haven’t really improved all that much. They just look different. Take the lowly electric toaster, for example.
Here’s what they looked like in the 1920s:
The Putterer remembers this style of toaster from his childhood (sorry, before my time!) and he assures me they were a great way to burn your hands, not just the bread.
By the post-WWII era, the pop-up toaster had been invented, sparing us the fried fingers part of breakfast. Note the price:
So what do we have today? The same old pop-up electric toaster they had in the 1940s! They just come with slightly different aesthetics from year to year. The basic operation hasn’t really changed in 80 years.
When I moved to Durango in 1985 I didn’t have much money, so I bought all my kitchen appliances at the thrift store: percolator, fryer, and yes, a good ol’ pop-up toaster. They worked great, and were heavy-duty, too. I think the newer ones are probably not built as well and don’t last. Think about how long your parents or grandparents had the things they owned.
What we’re really doing is just mindlessly using up resources to manufacture stuff, in order to get the latest thing, something that replaces what we already have that still works (or can be repaired). This is the crux of capitalist consumerism.
What’s your take?