When did consumer electronics become so shoddy?

I’m totally aghast at my experience in the last 45 days with new consumer electronics items. Setting up a new house, I’ve been buying what I thought was top-of-the-line gear from well-known vendors like Sony, Philips and TEAC, but all that I seem to be experiencing is product failures left and right. Even the $#@$#@ furniture I’m buying proves to be particle board [which I hate!] that falls apart as you struggle to put it all together as per the commonly flawed included instructions.
The latest wrinkle: I bought a very nice sounding TEAC MC-DX32i micro hi-fi system that features an Mp3-playing CD drive and a built-in iPod dock. It also theoretically includes an AM/FM radio but even with the junky antennae hooked up, the device receives zero channels on either band.
So I called TEAC this morning…


and I think I have officially entered consumer electronics hell, because their quick response was “take it back, get another one”. I asked “is this something you’ve had reported before, a unit that doesn’t receive any channels at all?” and was told “no, but sounds like something was busted in shipping. Just take it back.”
Meanwhile, it’s over two weeks and my Philips home theater device is still up for service. In fact, it’s now spent more time in the service center than it has hooked up to my television. I even blogged about that specific product: Not a review of the Philips HTS8100 Ambisound and emailed one of my PR contacts inside Philips to draw the article to their attention. I figured that maybe a little pull of a string and I might get the problem resolved faster. But… not a word from anyone.
Fortunately, some things do seem to be working fine, notably including my 40″ Sony Bravia LCD television, which is terrific, but it’s really depressing to see how much “quality” has been trumped in modern consumer electronics by “cheap” or some sort of keep-up-with-the-joneses creeping featuritis. It’s definitely terrible for us consumers who buy products, unbox them with enthusiasm, just to find that they’ve been so poorly manufactured, packaged and shipped that they’re already broken.
In the world of business, we refer to this as “zero defect” or, more commonly, just as quality assurance, but the flippant, casual answer of the chap at TEAC spoke volumes to how modern manufacturing is far more about getting products into the channel than about making the best possible products or even refining your existing product line. He never asked me for a serial number, for example, so that they could backtrack to shipping and manufacturing and see if other units from that palette or production run were failing. No interest at all. Just another customer call to wrap up as quickly as possible.
And as an ironic postscript, as I’m typing this in, I’m finding that my “omit audio books from the list” smart playlist on my iPod Classic is failing to skip the audio book chapters on the iPod. Time and again it starts playing a segment from one of my audio books even though I told it otherwise.
Augh!
Time to live in a cave, I think. 😐

3 comments on “When did consumer electronics become so shoddy?

  1. My biggest gripe right now is (fairly expensive) cell phones with warranties that are shorter than your service contract… And no offer of repairs, only an “upgrade” to the same phone for the same price you paid a year ago.. and 2 more years added to the contract. No thank you!

  2. The answer to the question posed in your post title is – When Americans started to care more about price than quality. I’d say that was around the time the big box stores came into being and we became addicted to low prices.

  3. i got the same teac speakers worked great right out of the box and i get every radio station (once i hooked up the antenna)i even got it to work great with my computer,tv,and wii.

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