Enabling Repair

Repair is a lost art.  Our consumer culture has become a throwaway culture.  It is much more profitable for a company to sell you an entirely new item to replace a broken item rather than enabling you or someone else to repair said item.

When I was a kid—the good old days of the Cold War—there were quite a few television, VCR, and various electronics repair shops in a town of even middling size.  These shops were generally cluttered with the detritus of former repairs like a junkyard for electronics.  Now, I do not know if I could find an electronics repair shop.  I surely do not remember the last time that I saw one of these shops.  Consumer electronics have become disposable items.  Imagine telling someone in 1985 that a 55” television would be essentially disposable if it were to break.  They would look at you as if you had come from some twisted future where Donald Trump was actually a candidate for President of the United States.

Clothes are even more disposable.  Tailoring is a lost art.  Repair is not something people think of anymore when it comes to clothing.  Bust a seam or break a zipper and the item is in the rubbish bin.

Notably different are companies where the customer base is outdoor activity inclined and, thus, generally thought of to be on the progressive edge of environmentalism.  Therefore, reducing waste is a concern for this particular customer base.  Birkenstocks have long been a brand of shoes that owners have repaired and resoled long after someone else would have just gone off to buy another pair of sandals.  Chaco sandals are the same and loyalists are known to keep their sandals way past their socially accepted expiration dates through judicious repair and resoling.  Patagonia even encourages repair with a program where a converted camper truck trundles around the country spreading the gospel through the Worn Wear program.

Keen Footwear also enables repair.  My son, in his eagerness to wear his sandals for the first time this spring, was a little too eager and broke the elastic lace.  A simple request to Keen produced this in the mail:

Keen Laces.png

Contained within are enough elastic cords and small parts to repair sandals a half dozen times or more depending upon what can be salvaged from the broken pair.  The cost to me?  Nothing.  A simple thing like this has earned Keen my business for my kids’ feet.  At least until they grow up to be Chaco lovers like their dad.


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