One thing I noticed in the ME314 class I have been reporting on, was a focus on new products. This is in fact typical of our society. This completely overlooks the value of products that have served the owner well for a long time. Sometimes, they almost become a part of the owner. This is a photo of me in my Carhartt jacket, which I bought some time ago—at least ten years. My son the farmer discovered Carhartt work clothes and suggested that I buy one. It was quite expensive for work clothes at the time, but I bought it, and plan perhaps to be buried in it. As you can see, it has seen some hard service, and it is stained and faded. But never has the zipper failed, it has withstand many brutal slashes and snags, it doesn’t mind water, oil, mud, or most other materials, and it keeps me properly warm and snuggy when the California climate turns treacherously cold. It is part of me, and I don’t want a new one, a cleaner one, or one with more bells and whistles. To me it is priceless. And oddly enough, Goodwill Industries would probably not accept it.
I told this to Marian,my wife, and she countered with a younger, but similarly important garment that has become part of her in only a year or two. Happily, I noticed it in a student submission on good products and told her about it. It is a woman’s vest made by Scottevest. Like my Carhartt coat, it was fairly expensive for a vest, but she looks swell in it, and can you believe, it has 24 pockets inside. Here she is looking for something in it. She originally bought it to travel, which it was originally designed for, and it is exceptional. It doesn’t totally replace a suitcase, but all the gadgets, potions, and entertainments she takes with her on trips fit in the pockets, and from the outside, she looks slick as a snake.
Of course, she now wears it almost constantly no matter what she is doing, and probably has forgotten where such things as purses and fannypacks are. She loves it far above its original price, and although she says it is beginning to look a bit threadbare, I’ll bet she wears it for many years rather than buy a new one.
Behavioral economists refer to rigorous experiments that show the additional value we place on products that we have owned for long periods of time and have come to love. You have probably experienced this, if you have ever tried to sell something of this sort and been astonished at how little people will pay for it. I now keep everything I love that I can. A storage problem, but would you throw away one of your old pets?
Of course, this isn’t the optimal economic response for Carhartt and Scottevest. They now have a broad line of products (men and women) and are constantly coming out with “improved” models, which they might like Marian and me to buy. But they keep their prices high and their profits reasonable. and as long as they keep their quality high, everyone should be happy.