Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Buried under a mountain of junk

My house is filling up with knackered junk, and I'm getting angry and frustrated. Why ? Because most of it is just of out of guarantee, yet fit only for the bin.

There's that fibre mat from India you see in the picture above. It has faded to antique beige, but is still pristine blue on the underside. It wasn't cheap - 44 euros from a national chain. Then there's the reading lamp with halogen bulb for which we had to place an order, hand over 75 euros, and wait 2 weeks for delivery.

It began flickering the other day. When I opened it up I discovered that heat from the bulb has charred the insulation on the wires where , infuriatingly, they are inaccesible . No, it can't be repaired. I've tried tape (yellow in the picture, which does not work); neither is it possible to feed fresh flex through the support, since the base is a sealed unit.
Then there's the dining room set - a table and 4 chairs, made of enamelled steel.

One of the chairs has a broken back, and, as before, is essentially unrepairable. What is more, I passed one just like it recently, sitting forlornly in the local rubbish skip.
There's the rowing machine (see top picture), with a dangerously wobbly seat that does not glide. Thinking I had assembled it incorrectly, I returned to the store to look at the display model. Its seat was even worse than mine.
We have toasters that don't toast evenly, coat hangers with trouser clamps that snap as soon as you open them, click-clack beds in which the wooden slats break first, and then the welds on the steel frame.

Also in the top picture is an ironing board that we inherited from someone else. I gashed my finger on it the other day: the flanges on the underside have vicious sharp edges. But there is no manufacturer's name, no importer's name, no retailer's name. There is no one to whom one can complain. Why not ?
Most, if not all, of the goods I have mentioned are imported from India, China and elsewhere in the Far East. Most are priced to undercut local competitive offerings (assuming those firms haven't yet been forced out of business).
But I know from a recent TV programme that it's our local retailers - like Conforama, Carrefour, Castorama etc - that make a fat margin with huge markups on what they pay. The manufacturers and importers usually operate on pretty slim margins.
The EU presently runs a huge trade deficit with the Far East. I shan't bore you with the figures, but really, I ask you, does it make sense to import goods from so far away if they are shoddy, dangerous and quickly destined for the bin ?
From a website, I see that Chinese consumers are just as fed up with shoddy goods as we are.

Where are you when we need you, EU ? Maybe Peter Mandelson needs to make the EU protectionist for the right reasons - to keep out junk, and to encourage the Chinese and others to raise their standards. That's if they want us to continue buying their goods. But few of us can resist a bargain, can we ?

Update Tue 18:00: email from Louise on Chocs and Cuckoos:

Instead of throwing stuff away, Colin, why not telephone Emaaüs and get them to take away what you don't want. It is a great organisation and they will do their best to restore stuff and resell it or it will be sold for scrap

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