Old Tales

It’s a sure sign of getting older when little things trigger a memory from prior decades.  Case in point.  Our washer croaked earlier this week.  Instead of the usual hum and swish, it started making a loud grinding noise and some oil appeared from underneath.  My non-professional diagnosis—transmission failure with chipped gears.
The washer was about ten years old. We bought it from a lady who moved into an apartment that already had appliances and for the last couple of years, it worked well.  

Until now.

During our research for a replacement, I remembered the first washer/dryer combo we bought waaaay back in the 1970s (a Kenmore of course) lasted around fifteen years. The dryer a few years longer.  The next one lasted about ten. There were others, including the working one we gave away when we bought this last one. Each generation of washers seemed to last a shorter time.

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Washing Machine
My wife bought a new one this week and it should be delivered next week.  It has as few bells and whistles as possible—no complicated computer, minimum “energy savings” features that we could find—and it was the cheapest.

I was reminded of the old engineering maxim—the more complicated a device or system, the more that can and will go wrong.  From the reviews of the current washers, none, except one, had a “favorable recommendation” percentage higher the 45%.  The more complicated, the more “efficient”, the less favorable the review.  Many of the cited failures could be contributed to operator error.  Obviously, the designers have never heard of user testing, or if they had, ignored the results.  There is a truism in engineering: if your untrained users can’t operate your device, it won’t sell and and those who do buy will complain.  Maybe that was why all those high-efficiency, state-of-the-art appliances were all on sale.

The one exception mentioned above was the one my wife bought.  It had a high “recommendation” rating in the 80% range.  It was also the cheapest and least complicated machine in the store.  I would bet if you checked it’s sales rating, it would also be the best seller.

Rule to remember: Technology will not increase sales if your average user can’t understand or operate the device without help beyond reading the manual.

Until the new washer is delivered, my wife is visiting the local laundromat.  That was a shock too!

I effectively moved away from home when I entered college at age seventeen.  I did my own laundry.  

It cost me $0.95. A quarter each for two machines, one for whites, one for non-whites. Detergent cost a quarter out of a vending machine.  The little box was divided in half to allow equal applications for two washers.  A dryer cycle cost a dime. I used two consecutive cycles. Most of my clothes were iron-free as they were known at the time.

When my wife returned with a pile of damp clothes from her first trip to the laundromat, I asked her how much it cost.  “Four-fifty for three loads,” she replied.  She brought the clothes home to be dried in our still-working dryer.

You just don’t realize the change in cost for inflation until it slaps you in the face.  Two washer loads, at a quarter each, plus two dryer cycles cost $0.95 forty years ago. Three wash-only loads today cost four and a half bucks—six times as much per washer load!

I view this not as an example of inflation. I view this as an example of deflation of the value of our currency.  Using the value of a dollar forty years ago, today’s dollar now has one-sixth the value or $0.12.  A dime and two pennies.

And, as long as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke keeps the presses running, that value of the dollar will continue to slide.  In another forty years, if inflation does not increase, it will cost around $30 to pay for three loads of laundry.  Unfortunately, inflation cannot be expected to increase arithmetically.  As long as the idiots in Washington have access to printing presses, inflation will increase.  More likely geometrically. 

Ninety-five cents for a trip to the laundromat forty years ago.  Four Dollars-fifty cents today. thirty dollars forty years from now—if we’re lucky.                                

3 thoughts on “Old Tales

  1. I am old fashioned and prefer toggles and dials to new plastic-coated electronic buttons. Nope. They don't make 'em like they used to. I did, however, put in a new old-style thermostat in my house to replace the programmable one that was haunted and thought it would be fun to cook me in my own bed at 4am occasionally. *tech angst*

    It was so great to meet you at the NRA convention, and I hope to see you again soon. all best!

  2. So, for the benefit of those who may be in the market for a washer soon, what brand and model did you buy? Inquiring minds want to know! If you could mention the price as well, that would be very helpful.

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