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Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial to Durable Product Quality; They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Planned obsolescence is a scourge on consumers.

Once upon a time, the products you bought weren't crap. Durable goods were durable. They lasted you a while. If someone gave you a crap product, you knew where they lived and you could speak your mind without being treated like an intruding domestic terrorist. Good times.

The world is a different place now. Durable good makers (at least in the United States) realised a long time ago that if they cheapened out the products, you'd buy them more often and they'd get a steadier stream of revenue. I believe you can thank General Motors and the automobile industry for that, but it caught on worldwide. Nowadays, manufacturers have simulation software that allows them to very accurately plan the lifespan of their products. Too long and they can cheapen it out by changing product material type or quantity.

Incompetence isn't an excuse. With the affordable resources out there for companies, you should assume non-durable product quality is intentional.

A side effect is that the environment gets to suffer with a bunch of clutter. Instead of one durable good that can last you a decade, you get ten that last you one year! How do you dispose of the failed ones? Landfill... closet... who knows. But it's hard to recycle and get rid of this stuff, especially for consumer electronics. 

Since this is KoopaTV, a story about the gaming industry, I of course have mostly consumer electronics-related examples. In this article, I'll write about Nintendo, Sennheiser, and My Pillow, and their failing product designs. By the way, for you long-time readers, that Sennheiser story is brand-new.

Product Quality Issues With the (New) Nintendo 3DS (XL)

Nintendo is still pumping out the Nintendo 3DS hardware (they came out with a new SKU just under two years ago!) just to extract whatever end-of-life sales are left. New games aren't being made for it, though existing games continually are re-pushed through digital distribution on-sale, sometimes with very questionable labels.

It figures that Nintendo isn't building these to last. And they never really were, since they very likely knew all along, throughout the whole 3DS lifecycle beginning in 2011, how their hardware revisions would go. My original 3DS had a very problematic touch screen, circle pad, and broken shoulder buttons. Plus, there were design flaws with how it closed. And these broken features happened to coincide with their next hardware revision, so I bought a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

And the New Nintendo 3DS XL has its own variety of issues. I took a picture of mine:

paint peel New Nintendo 3DS XL red stylus slot defective
My New Nintendo 3DS XL, New Red colour. It's becoming more black than red, though, as the paint is disappearing.

You can see the paint is peeling off (it's not supposed to be black on the corners). It's peeling off on both sides. The stylus is sticking out instead of being fully inserted into its slot. That's not me being lazy. Either the stylus itself, or the slot in the 3DS, has malformed to the point where if you allow the slightest bit of gravity to apply to the system—and you have to, because the stylus slot is at the bottom of the handheld—the stylus slides out because something happened to make it no longer fit. I actually lost my stylus under my car seat for months because of this. I was going to mention that in the article about when I lost my car keys, but I decided to save the article material for today.

I don't abuse my hardware or anything. This is natural. You can easily find similar complaints across the Internet, and most of them are way worse than mine

For all of the problems my first 3DS had, paint peeling was never an issue. The Midnight Purple is still as beautiful as it was before. I've played that 3DS more than my New 3DS XL, so it shouldn't be a matter of standard wear & tear. And don't get me started comparing it to previous handhelds like the original DS or the Game Boy (Advance). Those are still fully intact, even now.

Fortunately, my New Nintendo 3DS XL still at least is fully functional, not counting discontinued but formerly-advertised software features, like Miiverse.

That's not true for the next consumer device.

Product Quality Issues With The Sennheiser GSP 300 Gaming Headset

I already wrote about the problems with my Sennheiser GSP 300 gaming headset last December. That article's headline involves giving Sennheiser a second chance—I sent my first headset in for repair under warranty because the microphone suddenly stopped working, and they sent me a brand new second headset. Well, would you believe it if I told you the same thing happened to the new headset's microphone?

Sennheiser GSP 300 gaming headset mic microphone not recognized recording device
The boom being up mutes the microphone, but I had to put it up so it shows up in the picture.
Not that it matters, since it doesn't work anyway.
(My desktop wallpaper is still the Kirby Happy Birthday one from my birthday 2018 article.)

Once I got the second headset back, obviously I tested it and it worked fine. KoopaTV staffers know in our Discord chat (and it'll stay in our Discord chat) that I recorded a Vocaroo on May 1, 2019 of an absurd RawkHawk2010 quote that he asked me to say out loud (though I don't think he thought I'd do so). But then a week or two ago, I tried recording something else on Vocaroo, and... my computer was saying that there was no longer any microphone.

I unplugged and replugged the cables, of course. Nothing. No recognition. I tried another, significantly less comfortable and much older Chinese knock-off headset I have and plugged that into the mic port. That one worked. Tried the Sennheiser again. Nope.

The same problem happened with two physically different headsets of the same model. That's a trend, folks. That's a design flaw. And the second one stopped working much sooner than the first one did, in terms of time of first use to time of failure.

I'm nowhere near as familiar with Sennheiser's headset product line like I am with Nintendo's product line. I don't know if they're trying to get me to upgrade the thing to a higher model. ...Well, there's a GSP 500, a GSP 600, and some headsets that don't have numbers. (Did they make a Sennheiser GSP 400?) They're all significantly more expensive than the GSP 300, so presumably they're of higher-quality.

But how can I trust that the design flaw they have in the lower-priced version doesn't appear in the higher-priced versions? And if it's fixed, why do they keep the defect in the lower one?

The two-year warranty is still in effect, so I'll take advantage of that before it runs out, but I'll be looking for recommendations on other headset brands in the comments. Now for the last product of this article, which has five times the warranty...

Product Quality Issues With My Pillow's MyPillow

Full disclosure: I don't have first-claw knowledge of the MyPillow. I haven't bought one (or two, since they're perpetually in Buy One Get One pricing, which is why MyPillow has an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau). But I have researched MyPillow a lot, and I see them advertised all the time on Fox News (and even on KoopaTV).

Also note: The company is called My Pillow, but the product is called MyPillow. To compare, KoopaTV is always written as KoopaTV.

My Pillow claims that MyPillow is an amazing (and very expensive) pillow that'll get you the best sleep ever. But it's all a scam. The patented fill is just lumpy shredded stuff that's not good for the environment. Many of the positive reviews you see on the Internet are just My Pillow shills/bots claiming to be independent reviewers and websites. Fake folks. They're incredible in marketing, but their product sucks. You'll basically get a better value just buying cheap generic pillows from the store than the MyPillow.

Inside a MyPillow patented fill shredded up foam
This is the “patented fill” inside the MyPillow. Really shredded up foam.
(Screenshot from a News For Shoppers review of MyPillow. Not my hand.)

If you want to read what real people are saying, check out that Better Business Bureau link, or sites like this one

The product has a 60-day money back guarantee, but customer reviews remark that you have to pay the shipping costs, which are exorbitant, and the MyPillow reps make it as difficult as possible to do the return.

My Pillow says MyPillow is a durable good lasting 10 years, but it's really not. You're basically paying for a pillow subscription since it'll basically last like any other pillow (or maybe marginally longer), not including the agony of dealing with uncooperative sales reps. Over those 10 years, you'll continually be sending in and receiving pillows. It won't be the same pillow.

That's the state of product development nowadays. Engineers have their interests guided by revenue-seeking business people, who find it more profitable to sell worse-quality products. Sometimes there's competition, but it doesn't work if every competitor does the bad-quality stuff. Sometimes there isn't competition—in the case of the Nintendo 3DS, buying hardware from Nintendo is the only way you can access many of the games on that platform.

I long for the old days. Rest in peace, non-disintegrating-into-pieces products of old.

There's a pun in that last sentence, just saying. This is KoopaTV's Memorial Day 2019 article, and it has nothing to do with dead military service members. If you want those, feel free to read some of KoopaTV's previous Memorial Day articles, linked below this footer statement.

Memorial Day 2013: RIP to original Paper Mario characters.
Memorial Day 2014: RIP to Super Smash Bros. Brawl in a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection-less world. 
Memorial Day 2015: RIP to KoopaTV's slain TV Troopa mascots, which is an actually appropriate Memorial Day topic.
Memorial Day 2016: RIP to the Black Knight, who actually is a fallen soldier during war.
Memorial Day 2017: RIP to the justice under the law.
Memorial Day 2018: RIP to Miles Edgeworth, who didn't die in battle... and didn't die at all, though he wanted us to think he died.
Memorial Day 2020: RIP to the Isle of Ancients robots.
Also in 2020, Mike Lindell of MyPillow is trying to do more fraudulent things, this time with toxins masquerading as miracle cures.
Memorial Day 2021: RIP to Glenn Fraldarius, who died like a true knight.

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