The Loneliness of the Maytag Repairman Is Now a Universal Existential Condition, and Thank God for That, Too


Every revolution has its casualties, and this fascinating Wash Times article points to a quiet, barely-noticed increase in the quality and longevity of household appliances. And a corresponding decrease in the fortunes of folks who would repair same. From the story:

"It's a dying trade," said Scott Brown, Webmaster of and self-proclaimed "Samurai Appliance Repairman."

The reason for this is twofold, Mr. Brown said: The cost of appliances is coming down because of cheap overseas labor and improved manufacturing techniques, and repairmen are literally dying off….

In the next seven years, the number of veteran appliance repairmen will decrease nationwide as current workers retire or transfer to other occupations, the Department of Labor said in its 2007 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Whole thing here.

A graphic accompanying the print edition of the story notes that the average electric range lasts for 18 years; washing machines, clothes dryers, and dishwashers each have 14 year average lifespans; and personal computers stick around for seven years on average.

It strikes me that the vast increase in performance and longevity of basic household consumer goods–even or especially at the low end, which is where virtually all my experience is–is generally an underappreciated story (though not at Reason; go here and here for examples).

And throw in cars, too, when we talk about machines that are just so much better these days than in those of yore. Those of us who came of age during the Era of the Vega/Pinto/Etc can vaguely recall occasional block parties when somebody's car flipped its odometer at the 100,000-mile mark. Now, you don't even change the spark plugs until that milestone is reached.