Judy Mintz: To fix or not to fix
From: Everywhere I Go
June 26, 2012 at 10:00AM
My husband bought me a Keurig single-cup coffee machine for one of my birthdays. It was an exciting and unexpected gift. Exciting because it meant I could get out from under the Sisyphean chore of washing a whole coffee pot twice a day, and unexpected because Andrew is an environmentally aware consumer and I would have thought that the idea of using disposable plastic, single-serve containers for coffee would make him crazy. Now, a couple of years later, the machine is acting up and Andrew’s tolerance for the single-serve cups has worn out.
No one really expects an appliance to last forever. I for one have long suspected that manufacturers build obsolescence into the specs, but when the Keurig began to malfunction, it highlighted the real problem. At what point is it okay to admit defeat and throw out the appliance?
A well-behaved appliance has the good graces to explode, or provide some otherwise indisputable evidence that it has died. The Keurig limps along, prolonging its life, and my annoyance. I can’t remember the first idiosyncrasy it developed (I must have trained myself to accommodate it), but the latest wrinkle may turn out to be its last. The coffee maker turns itself off whenever it feels like it. There’s no pattern, no trigger we can identify, no warning behavior. Sometimes it shuts off after one cup, sometimes two; sometimes it stays awake for hours at a time.
This narcoleptic behavior has destroyed what was the most satisfying aspect of this machine – a minute after I decided I wanted a cup of coffee, I had one. Now, more often than not, when I go to make a cup of coffee I have to turn the machine back on and it takes forever (by which I mean at least a couple of minutes) to warm up. Until it blows up, however, I probably won’t be allowed to replace it, because to contribute something to the waste stream before we’ve squeezed every drop of life out of it would be unconscionable according to someone in our household.
And speaking of that someone, while he hasn’t come right out and banned the use of the single-serve plastic containers, if he sees me reach for one he’ll hop up and say, “I’ll make you a cup!” He doesn’t use the pre-measured containers. He has a small filter cup with a lid that he uses instead. I use it once in a while, but to fill it you need steady hands, and when you’re done, you need to dispose of the grounds and wash out the filter. Kind of reminds me of the old days with the do-it-yourself coffee pot.
We are not the only consumers plagued by failing small appliances. As a matter of fact, a relative by marriage, Peter Mui, created and runs a series of “fix it” clinics designed to prolong the life of these mechanical miscreants. This is a growing movement (I know that because there’s a Facebook page for it) and I’m all in favor of it – for other people. I have neither the patience nor the dexterity for that kind of project. I prefer to throw money at a problem, which is what I’m preparing to do for a laptop that’s been spending too much time talking to the Keurig. It, too, turns itself off for no apparent reason.
Eventually we’ll make a decision, but maybe you and I should talk about it more over a cup of coffee – at your place.