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The Dutch Repair Cafe Versus the Throwaway Society 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-it-ain't-broke dept.
circletimessquare writes "Everyone in the modern world has thrown away at least one thing that was perfectly good except for an easily fixed defect, because it's just easier to buy a new one. In the Netherlands, in the name of social cohesion, and with government and private foundation grants, there is a trend called the Repair Cafe (Dutch). People bring in broken items: a skirt with a hole in it, an iron that no longer steams, and they fix each other's stuff and meet their neighbors. Now that's an idea worth keeping."
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The Dutch Repair Cafe Versus the Throwaway Society

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  • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:21AM (#39966537) Homepage Journal

    One great geeky example about Americans making artificial social walls around them is how quick companies were to replace LAN gaming with online gaming so that you could sit alone and not interact with people.

    I'm pretty sure that's not why it was done. It was done because it offers you the ability to play with people in either scenario, no matter how far away they were. You get more people in the game and a wider variety of them.

    When you're playing a LAN game in a cafe, you play with your neighbors. The guy across the country can't play with you.

  • by ryzvonusef (1151717) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:34AM (#39966755) Journal

    I remember a slashdotter telling about something similar in germany, where you can come into a shop where the rent you the tools, and you fix the stuff there and then. It also acted as an edutainment, with people coming in to watch and learn.

  • Re:Quality (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bigby (659157) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:37AM (#39966805)

    Don't forget that you might actually get arrested for repairing something.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:45AM (#39966915) Homepage

    Take for instance an electric iron. It might just be clogged up from hard water deposits that could be removed with some solution like CLR or LimeAway. The problem is, in order to get to the parts that are clogged you have to deal with sonic welding, adhesives and fasteners that were designed to be one-way. The only way to disassemble the unit is to break it and glue it back together, which is not very elegant nor safe when dealing with mains current plus heating elements.

    Same thing goes for about 90% of small electric appliances today. They are not designed to be repairable.

    Most of this is not so much cultural as others have pointed out but it all comes down to the cost of labor. At one time in the US decorative scrollwork in homes was hand-carved. The craftsman doing the work made maybe $0.25 a day which for the time wasn't all that bad but it was by no means extravagant. It would be comparable to what any common laborer would get paid or someone clerking in a store.

    Today, to have someone skilled in wood carving come to your home and do some work would be easily $200 an hour. An experienced technician wouldn't be getting that individually, but you can figure a company in the business of appliance repair is going to be charging at least $100 an hour. Which makes a $30 electric iron absurd to even consider repairing - it would cost $30 for someone to spend 20 minutes on it. Even larger appliances begin to reach the point where it makes no sense to repair them simply because of the cost of labor. Why spend $200 to fix a washing machine that cost $250 to replace?

    Where things get really confused is in the 1800s and early 1900s the US saw significant immigration from Europe of craftsmen and skilled workers. Someone that spent 20 years making fine furniture would come to the US and could find immediate work basically doing the same sort of thing for at least as much money if not more. Today, we have huge low-skill immigration which skews the wage scale in interesting ways. In some parts of the country it is cheaper to hire more people (immigrant labor) using hand tools to do a job than it is to use power tools or other modern assists with fewer people. This only works in low-skill areas, though. If the US had a huge number of immigrants coming in that were skilled electronics technicians or computer programmers it would be quite different.

    What we have now is it is cheaper to hire five people to use hand tools to do landscaping work than one person with a power mower. But it is also cheaper to replace a $800 TV than it is to bring it to a technician to look at it because his labor is incredibly expensive. The US today is a confused mess of labor rates that will end up sorting itself out in the end, but likely as not things will shift to the low end of the scale.

  • by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:54AM (#39967027)
    Amurrikunz iz fat n lazy, I kan haz mod points nAo?
  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:30PM (#39968285)

    They exist. Just because something isn't the 'norm' over here doesn't mean it doesn't exist. (And I want to know what % of Dutch use these services).

    Lexington, KY has the BrokeSpoke [facebook.com]. A not for profit bike repair shop. You can rent bench time, volunteer or pay an annual fee. You get access to all their tools and knowledge. Craigslist has become a boon for people looking to sell stuff second hand. My entire apartment is furnished with second hand stuff. Be it my surplus projector and printer or my good will 5.1 surround sound system (with real floor speakers).

    I have jeans that I've had for 10 years that I've had to repair at least twice. They fit perfect and often just have minor problems. My dad's riding lawn mower I've gone through and replaced about every bolt on it. I was shocked to see that the manufacturer actually provided full diagrams with part numbers. I found my local mower shop and ordered some odd parts and had it back together in no time.

  • by fiordhraoi (1097731) on Friday May 11, 2012 @01:32PM (#39969213)
    Actually, it was originally called soccer by the British. In the 1860s, there were a number of sports called "football," and so they acquired different names/nicknames. So for example, rugby was generally referred to as Rugby Football. During that time, what is now modern soccer/football was the result of a number of teams getting together and unifying all their varying rules, which they then called "Association Football."

    Now, the nickname of the time was to call rugby "Rugger." Because of this, "Association Football" acquired the nickname of "Assoccer." Which was rapidly replaced with "Soccer."

    As to your class statement, it's not nearly that simple. Both rugby and soccer were originally upper class sports in their organized form. Soccer caught on with the lower economic classes more so than rugby, and it was at this time, nearly 20 years later, that the formal name "Association Football" went a different direction and became simply "football" to your blue collar Brits.

    There is actually a British saying, “Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians and Rugby is a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen.” That said, your statement about it being called football because it was played on foot rather than mounted is strictly correct, it just doesn't apply to the particular evolution of the modern sport.

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