Week 33 – Toasters

A few years ago we were visiting a market with about four other friends when we decided to institute a $5 challenge.  We all scoured the market for items costing $5 or less, the winner being the individual who had secured the ‘coolest’ item.  To be fair it was quite a subjective contest, but nonetheless I was a bit surprised that I didn’t win with my ‘Toastermatic’.  With a toastermatic you are spared the chore of lowering your bread down into the toaster, with the toastermatic gently doing this task for you when it feels the weight of the bread and then equally gently raising the toast when browned.  I have not seen any modern day equivalent toasters on the market and assume that this is because of the general shift from mechanical to electronic based appliances.  One of my motivations for buying the toastermatic was the hope of having a toaster that is older than the one my parents in law have – theirs is coming up for it’s 50th birthday in the next few years.  Recently thier toaster did have a hiccup however, requiring my talented electrician brother in law to open it up to see what was happening.  He was amazed to find that the toaster operates on pure mechanics.  The problem was easily solved with the replacement of a wire and the purchase of a glass bead to serve as an insulator with the declaration that there is no reason why many future loaves of bread won’t pass through the toaster.  I’m not sure whether someone with a defunct modern toaster is going to be able to open it up and fix the problem as easily.  The task possibly requires a degree in computer engineering, so more likely it would be destined to the landfill and a replacement bought.

I have no evidence to back up this statement, but it appears to me that manufacturers design in a seven year obselecence to a wide variety of appliances.  Friends of ours recently had a heater, dryer, vacum cleaner and jug all die in the space of a month, all having been purchased at the same time.  The move from mechanical to electronic based appliances corresponds with a decrease in purchase price for the consumer and I’ve certainly heard the stories about what a significant purchase new appliances were back in the day.  However this reduced cost has an environmental impact with it often being more cost effective to discard items and replace them with a newer model.  Based on my seven year theory, my parents in law would have gone through seven modern toasters to their one mechanical toaster.  A great short video that does a much better job of asking us to consider the cost of a product during it’s entire lifespan, and not just when it enters and leaves our lives, can be found at www.thestoryofstuff.com  I guess the spin off in having manufacturers design items for longevity is a more expensive initial purchase price and the rub is would I shell out $150 for a new mechanical toaster that would last the rest of my days or am I more likely to buy a $20 model that I can update to a more fashionable colour in seven years?

4 thoughts on “Week 33 – Toasters

  1. You guys are awesome. I just read every post from your prep plans to your thoughts on toasters. I have, over time, been trying to be more environmentally friendly and recduce waste, but reading about other people doing it reminds me that not only is there still hope for the rest of the world but to remind me that I need to be more pro-active. I am also grateful for the countless useful links and information supplied by you and your readers. Thank you, and all the best for the rest of the year.


  2. I was thinking about a similar subject only this week when I needed to replace the cartridges in my printer. It was $65 to get two cartridges (one black and one colour), my 17 year old son asked why I just didn’t get a new printer, there was one on special for $70. Crazy. I went with keeping to old one, I don’t want throw away tecnology!


  3. Does anyone know of anyone who repairs small appliances – specifically toasters – in Wellington? Our toaster has stopped working. While I could probably buy a new one for $20 and realise it will probably cost more to fix, I’m reluctant to just throw it out. I’ve heard of groups overseas who do this kind of thing as job re-training schemes


  4. Hi
    two things besides the one that I think you have had a great idea and good on you for following though.

    1) People have a short memory, it is incredible when I talk to Kiwis about the German compulsory 72% of all beverages have to be in refund bottles. I get “ooh’s and aaah’s” but hey, I then remind them that they had swappa crate and refund milk bottles and all of that not too long ago, what, 10-15 years???
    And I bet you it is the same with all these consumer items. i am convinced that you do not have to go back 50 years, I think 20 may be enough, possibly 10-15 years ago there were still enough appliances that had a screw that was easy to open. Then they had screws which were not easily to be opened with regular available screwdrivers, then they had bolts and now they are just glued together. Crack it open and repair it, you still have to throw it away.
    It is part of the capitalistic system, they do not want you to keep items for 50 years, where should all the jobs go, where should China sell its plastic items to?
    2) Once Germany used to be know for its national brand “Made in W-Germany”. You were able to get good quality for money. Although they have not the same status anymore, it does pay to look for things made in Germany, Austria, other European countries if you cannot get stuff made in NZ. Yes they are capitalistic, too, they lay off workers without a blink, too. BUT, at least they have to follow regulations about waste disposal and emissions and best of all, to survive the plastic and counterfeit surge from Asia, hey have to compete with quality as they cannot compete with price/labour.
    On Saturday I had enough of my Warehouse Wiltshire pots, first handle broken off and split after 6 months! I spend $379 to buy a WMF set of 4 pots and 3 lids!! Lifelong Warranty, what more do you need? Fair enough that I had cheap pots when the dough wasn’t there – but now I will have them for ever – and the good things about these is that they don’t follow fashion, no colours no copper bottom, no brass rim or lid, simply steel, never goes out of fashion.
    Good on your parents for not giving up their toaster through all these times of colours, shapes, and gadgets, in the end you want a nice piece of toast!


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