Monday, March 27, 2017

The Quandary of Consumers

Of all the childish and naive notions a person could have, the one that is the hardest for me to outgrow is believing that the world is supposed to make sense, more or less; that people's way of life is supposed to be -- not perfect -- but at least semi-rational and explainable.

Take consumer behavior. Most of life is gobbled up by work -- one of life's most over-rated activities. Then the wage-slave runs around town or the internet and spends all of their money. And yet, they aren't any good at it. Why don't they want to be good at it?

A local business got a new owner a couple years ago. And I like the way they run the business. It is a trailer repair and parts place. I asked the owner why trailer springs have a reputation for breaking, whereas leaf spring suspensions on trucks seldom break.

This led to me pontificating about the reluctance of consumers to spend one more dollar where it might actually do some good. But the owner 'hijacked the thread' by turning the issue to one of morality.

But I stand by my point: a "good" consumer is normally considered one who does price comparisons. But what good does it do them to split hairs quantitatively if they don't understand the qualitative differences between one product and the next? And how do you do that if you don't understand any of the basic principles and categories of science and engineering?

I assume that it is still the case that a person leaves primary and secondary education with little knowledge of, and no interest in, science. I am not referring to the algebraic scrabble of science, but to a layman's knowledge of the "How Things Work" type. 

What an irony! The modern world is what it is, largely on the basis of science and technology, but a person leaves the diploma factory with more knowledge of Beowulf -- in the old days -- or Afro-American/feminist/lesbian poets in more recent times.


  1. Did you break another trailer leaf spring? Does the trail repair and parts place do RV repairs also?

    The vast majority of people not only have no desire to learn anything about science but they also do not care to know "How Things Work".

    Look at the Big Picture. What would happen to the Chinese economy if everyone stated buying quality (things that last) as well as our own GDP that is based on buying, buying and more buying?

  2. No problems with the trailer. Just being more pro-active, replacing bolts, shackles, and U bolts, whether they need it or not. I also replaced rather new 1500 lb leaf springs with 2000 lb springs. Also bought a torque wrench for checking U bolt tightness, periodically.

    You think that people don't care how things work? Perhaps it is becoming more like that every year as automobiles become unrepairable for the layman, and as we become a nation of uni-sex cubicle rats.

  3. As the victim of two broken trailer springs on the same side of my tandem axle trailer (one right after the other), I asked your very same question about trailer springs versus pickup truck springs. No one would/could answer the question. It wasn't until last weekend, after reading a series of essays at RV Daily Report about the current quality of RVs, that a potential answer materialized. Less than 400,000 recreational trailers were sold last year versus 17.5 million passenger vehicles. The economy of scale, daily use of the passenger vehicles, and a handful of manufacturers concerned about their reputation; all create an incentive plus the resources to ensure reliability. Not to mention US Government intervention in the marketplace via the federal "Lemon Law"!

    My springs were 2900# stated capacity (each), mounted on 5200# axles, with 2350# tires. They were made in Tulsa, Oklahoma by EMC. My trailer weighs 4,000# on each side, loaded. Why did they fracture and then fail? Tandem axles (I have learned from the RV Tire Safety Blog) create stresses that our single axle trucks don't experience. Did EMC lack quality control procedures? Did they purchase poor quality raw steel? I don't know. I now have a different manufacturer's 3500# springs installed (also USA manufactured).

    It is not possible to be an informed buyer in the modern economy, on your own. The products are too complex. We consumers need third parties to our transactions to ensure a fair transaction. That would be government at all levels usually, or other "arms-length" organizations. Independent, non-profit Consumer Reports can be helpful, if they test the product we want to purchase.

  4. "How Things Work" vocational, technical, career education is on the upswing, so I read. As jobs go begging due to lack of specific how-things-work training, I suspect we will see more emphasis in this area in the future.


  5. Since we have become a 'disposable' society, knowing how things work seems to be less important to most. Yet if someone has the brains and motivation in that area, they can become an engineer or even a car mechanic. The owner of a local family owned car sales biz told me a few months ago it was becoming hard to find mechanics because they now need a computer background most of the time to get the work completed.

    1. So what if it takes some experience with computer diagnostics? If shop classes taught people how to do computer diagnostics, then, no problem. It is only old-fashioned grease monkeys who resist computer diagnostics. How about an evening course at the local junior college?

    2. In fact there are evening college course taught at a local small town high school SIX MILES from their auto sales lot location !!! He says he still has problems filling the positions he has open. Yet ... our county has a 7.2% unemployment rate. Maybe I need to unretire and learn how to be a mechanic, I've got the computer stuff down pat.


Comments are appreciated. Feel free to disagree as much as you want with any idea in the post or other comments, but resist the ad hominem approach. Please don't be discouraged if I don't respond to every one of them.