To fix or not to fix

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.


10 responses to “To fix or not to fix

  1. Pingback: Judy Mintz: To fix or not to fix « NESCBWI Kidlit Reblogger

  2. Judy- this machine epitomizes a consumer society that thinks nothing of what happens to their trash— it simply goes “away”….

    But to make matters worse, the stuff inside the plastic cups- ugh! How old is it? Where was it made? What is it made out of ? How much preservative is in it? Does the plastic bleed into the stuff after years of sitting in it? What chemical reactions happen in storage, when it’s hit by sun, etc.?

    I LOVE convenience, but this machine’s conking out gives you the chance to take a healthy step for the environment as well as your own health. Tell your audience you’re getting rid of it to boot and you are making it into a triple win-win-win because you will enhance everyone’s consciousness, too

    As to what to do with the machine? Send it back to the manufacturer and tell them to recycle it. Win-win-win-win!

  3. I’m amused by this dilemma of not throwing out stuff that doesn’t really work. I’ve had this problem with relationships…

    Having left New England and it’s Puritan values over 20 years ago, I find I am more willing to indulge myself in the luxury of a functioning toaster. (Wait–my toaster doesn’t pop up properly…and hasn’t for years. But it looks cool!).

    On the other hand, I live in Berkeley, California, where waste is anathema too. But so much so that it makes me start to rebel against the pressure to be “good” all the time. Besides, we have recycling containers from the city for everything, even biodegradable kitchen waste. Doesn’t that offset my refusal to live with malfunctioning convenience appliances? (Wait. The fancy grind-on-a-timer coffee machine I bought for the now ex doesn’t work at all either. But I can pour hot water into the top part and it drips down into the coffee pot! While taking up a huge footprint in my kitchen.)

    Hmm… In my mother’s house, maintained by my frugal brother, there is currently a toaster that doesn’t work and a dishwasher that doesn’t work. For years, my mother used a space heater that had to be turned on and off with a set of pliers. My mother’s dressing table lamp goes on and off by sticking your hand inside and turning the bulb. Her “TV Ears” are strapped together with tape and a rubber band.

    I do however enjoy having a car that can only be opened from the trunk on rainy days. Now that’s cool.

    If this were my blog I would try to make sense out of my random observations,. But since this is just a comment, I’ll leave it at that. Besides, my new glasses aren’t working at this range–either too long or too short.

    Maybe I’ll get ’em fixed someday.

    • That was a wonderful comment. I’m now itching to buy your mom a toaster and a lamp. I let your brother keep washing dishes by hand.

      • My brother? He keeps trying to get the dishwasher to work and doesn’t notice the grit and scum inside each dish. Thanks for the reminder though. I want to get the dishes done before he gets home from work.

  4. Luke (formerly Mike)

    Judy – the DEA handles hard drugs like coke, smack, etc.; if there was something like that for BLOGS, I absolutely would turn you in. Your original stuff, and the comments that follow, are priceless. And addictive. I can only thank the gods that you don’t charge for this stuff. How much would a gram of Mintz cost anyway?
    As for the Keurig et al – it’s the heating element and its neighbors. You DO have a microwave don’t you? Yes? Good – toss the Keurig and make your coffee in the MWave. Even better idea: cold brew it from your favorite ground beans. Cheap. Easy. So very, very good. Also Fast. Beg briefly and I’ll tell all. OK, don’t beg, I am a TrulyEnlightenedMan after all, Just Ask.

    (Judy – if this is the second copy of my comment, chuck the first – I edited this one)

  5. Keurig is a local company. Bring it over there and request a diagnosis and repair or replacement. Bring a copy of your Blog so they can understand the potential gains of such a solution, and the potential negative consequences of poor customer relations!

  6. Great piece. You brought me right into your dilemma, with all the twists and turns our thoughts take as we’re trying to figure out how to “do the right thing.” To second Myra’s idea, I hope that Keurig is analyzing their social media and find your post–great insight into their users/users-to-be. My Father’s Day gift to my husband was giving him permission to finally buy a Keurig. I made him buy the resusable filter–but have we used it? Of course not! Sigh…

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