Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Not Fix It? Warum es nicht reparieren?

German gyms (known as Fitness Studios) are similar to American gyms but they do have a few differences. I belong to SuperFit, and it definitely has a German sensibility.

First of all, SuperFit is exceptionally clean and well-organized like most of Germany (Berlin excluded). That's not to say that American gyms are dirty and disorganized, but Superfit takes it one step further. At SuperFit, there is always a team of employees cleaning, sweeping, and dusting. Always! Moreover, if a machine is broken, it will be fixed within 24 hours, if not sooner. In the USA, it's not uncommon for equipment to takes weeks to be repaired.

Nevertheless, SuperFit does have its share of annoyances. For example, showers aren't free. Water in Europe is costly, so if you want to take a shower, pay up. In addition, SuperFit doesn't have a water fountain. In other words, you either bring your own water or buy it at SuperFit; and if you bring your own water, it needs to be in a special SuperFit bottle, no exceptions.

The other day, I needed to replace my SuperFit bottle. The lock on the cap was busted, the seal no longer functioning, and the metal clasp broken. In the USA, people go through sports bottles like candy: they are quickly bought and easily discarded.

In any case, I went to the SuperFit desk and showed the manager my damaged bottle. He examined it, and said he would repair it. First he located a metal clasp, then a seal, and then a lock. Next, he got the necessary tools: a small screw driver, a drill and a hammer. That took about 10 minutes. Then for the next 15 minutes, he went about fixing the bottle. I am not kidding. All in all, the task took about 25 minutes.

In the end, the bottle was repaired, but the experience left me thinking. In an age, when it's cheaper to build and ship products from China instead of making simple repairs, one wonders how many fixable appliances are buried in our landfills. I remember having a washing machine (just two years old) that needed to have a small part replaced. When I was told the cost of labor would be more than the cost of a new machine, I junked it and got a new one. The same thing with a refrigerator that needed a new hose. The hose was inexpensive, but the labor was so expensive that I got a new refrigerator instead.

My experiences are certainly not unique. When you also consider the energy costs associated with the manufacture and shipping of an appliance, the environmental consequences of our “throw away society” become staggering. It's something to consider the next time you toss away a simple plastic bottle or household appliance.

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