Consumerism: The Myth of Reliability

This one is close to my post called Consumerism: Something that Will Last. However, now I’m going to take a look into the idea of reliability. So we want something that will last long into the future but we also want something that is going to be reliable here and now and not let us down. Reliability has become one of the key factors in our purchasing decisions. We spend more, hurt the environment more…all in the name of reliability. And for what? Is it really worth it?

Why do we desire reliability so badly? Is it that we could stomach the idea of something breaking down or letting us down at some point? I don’t necessarily think that reliability is wrong or a bad thing. I am however starting to think that our desire for reliability is pretty unwarranted. Are our schedules really that important that if our car breaks down the extra couple hours it would take that day to get it towed and fixed would send our lives into chaos? What are we afraid of? A disorganized schedule? Is that really so bad?

How have we gotten to the place in our lives where we are willing to pay good money to have security in our shit? Why do we care that much? One could offer the stewardship argument in that we are to be good stewards of our stuff so you want to own stuff that will last and be useful. Or you could offer the argument that if your going to do it you might as well go all out. In the end though I think reliability needs to be part of the equation and not the whole thing.
Just because a Hummer is reliable doesn’t mean it’s a good option. Just because Nike shoes are reliable doesn’t mean they are good option. There are a slew of other reasons why to buy or not buy something. Do you need it? Are you hurting someone somewhere else by buying it? Can you afford it? Are you being a good steward by purchasing it? If you buy it can other people have access to it or are you buying it just for yourself?

Reliability ends up being a justifiable excuse that we use to explain purchases that no one needs. So what if you have a reliable LCD screen 42″ TV. We need to stop letting ourselves be convinced that whatever is reliable is needed. That’s how they advertise to us, they tell us that shopping at their store is a reliable experience, or buying this product is a reliable product as if that is enough to make us buy it. As opposed to buying stuff because its reliable why not buy stuff because we need it and then choose a reliable option along with the other factors that inform our decision.

2 Comments

  • I think you are mistaking ‘marketing’ or ‘advertising’ reliability with actual reliability. Your LCD TV or Nike shoes are not reliable, they will last you 2 years and that is that. But take furniture for example, if you buy handmade furniture you pay a little more but it will last you forever, the ultimate definition of a reliability. Whereas if I buy it from IKEA it is bound to breakdown in a couple years forcing you to buy something else. I think real reliability is the enemy of consumerism. If I buy something that is going to last for 25 years that is 25 years that I won’t be a consumer for that product and that is something that no corporation really wants
    Chris

  • Chris, I agree fully. I think one of my main beefs though is usually our desires determine if something is reliable or not, not the actual quality of the product. I am not saying there is no such thing as real reliability, and I don’t think that reliability is bad. However, basically exactly what you said, what most people perceive as reliable isn’t at all. We’ve created things to be reliable in our heads to make us feel better about buying something.

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