The uphill battle to stop throwing good things away

About 2 weeks ago, my daughter called me from Tucson, Arizona. She is a senior at the University of Arizona there. She had been stopped at the traffic lights in her car, when another car rear ended her. It wasn't a big accident. Thankfully no one was hurt, and there actually was little visible damage to the back of her car.

I remember when my wife & I bought that car for her. It was the Christmas after her 16th birthday. We bought a used 2003 Mercedes SLK320, 2 door convertible white car. Gorgeous vehicle. I mean what girl would not want to drive around in a 2 door Mercedes convertible. I found this car on an auction site on the Internet, and bought it all the way from Long Island, New York and had to ship it to Arizona. It was touch & go as to whether it would make it before the holidays, but with luck on our side it did, and we were so proud to give it to her, wrapped in a bow.

I paid cash for that car. I knew that these cars would hold their value and I had no idea what my daughters "use case" would be for a car. Initially it would be used to drive just around the local area. As it happened, she ended up going to college about one and a half hours drive away from home, so the car got a lot of road use on the 10 freeway. I had that car maintained religiously, new tires, always well cared for. My daughter was so proud of the car - even giving the affectionate name "Cynthia". Her first car and we all loved it.

So when I heard that someone had hit Cynthia from behind, I wasn't happy. But I was more concerned that there were no injuries. Cars, I can fix. My daughter, that's a different story.

Anyway she took it to a local collision center and they gave a quote of $3,200 to fix it. But the problem is that these cars have a retractable convertible roof and that has to fit back in the trunk. So I wanted to get this fixed by a certified Mercedes repair center that would make sure it was back to its original condition.

Welcome to the world of throw away cars

The other driver's insurance company admitted 100% liability for the accident. So once my daughter drove the car home, I contacted my trusted mechanic and asked him where he would take his cars for body work, and he told me of a specialist shop, so I drove it over there. The car was left with them while the insurance company sent out their appraisers.

Here's the damage that was done. The trunk won't shut, but it can be brought back into shape easily. Or so I thought.

The insurance company wrote the car off. They told me that it was a "Total Writeoff". Seriously? How do you come up with that? I mean, just get the car on the racks, stretch it back out again and adjust it to make sure the trunk shuts, and we are back on the road. How difficult could that really be?

Apparently the way that society treat cars is that a small dent is a write off these days.

I'm not accepting that, so I told the insurance company to cut me a big check and I was going to immediately buy the car back and get it fixed. The likely scenario here is that I'll make about $2,000 profit from doing this because I will get it fixed for a fair price, which will be far less than the overblown pricing that they are dealing with.

But the whole thing got me thinking....

How can we live in a society that just throws away perfectly good stuff?

At what point did the mantra of over consumption take over, and we lost ourselves in this endless "supply chain" of life? What ever happened to treating things with respect and trying to hold onto them for 20 years? What ever happened to "vintage" or "collectible" or just plain "comfortable"? Why does everything that is more than 5 years old have to be traded in for a new model?

My take on this is that people are just plain lazy and don't want to do anything that would extend the life of their stuff. They don't want to learn how to correctly maintain anything, they don't want to learn how to repair anything and they reward each other with slaps on the backs when they buy something shiny & new.

The fact is that a car, these days, is a $300-$600 per month expense - probably for 6 years for the average consumer. The amount of back-handed deals, kick backs, "points" and profit in this business is downright criminal. But the stupid consumer thinks that they have to get a new car every 5 years - often carrying the debt of the previous one into the new financing. The banksters are rubbing their hands together with joy at the prospect of the endless debt cycle that the consumer signs on the dotted line for.

The reality is that they could have fixed their old car. They could have supported their local businesses by getting mechanics to work on them. The mechanics, in the USA, won the "right to repair" recently so they can get access to the same computer systems that repairs new cars that the dealers had previously coveted, and they need the work. Having a local mechanic that you know by name who knows you and your cars is crucial to maintaining your investment.

And maybe you have a dream that your car, one day, will be a collectible car. I was standing in line at the DMV today to do the title work on my daughter's car with the insurance company and the guy in front of me was registering a 1971 Chevelle. A beautiful muscle car. He wanted the "collector plates" on that car, and he will treat that car like gold. I will run perfectly, he will maintain it, he will repair it, and he will be proud of it. Why not. It is a statement of history.

That approach is what we all should have with our cars. If we did, we wouldn't be carrying around the ridiculous debt load that is sucking the life out of us all. We would have something we are proud of, and we would learn about how it works and enjoy the process of caring for it.

The same is true of our homes. We need to treat the biggest purchases that we will make with the proper care. That means to save up for them, pay cash if possible, or at least pay them off as fast as possible. Don't over buy what you don't need, and spend your own time & labor to maintain them. Learn from YouTube or whatever source on how to fix things yourself and think of what skills you are developing in the process.

No one will treat your stuff as good as you do. But it comes down to one thing - a thing we seem to be losing each day...


Respect for each other. Respect for our things. Treating our things and other people's things like gold. Why have we lost this? Why have we become victim to the endless TV ads telling us we are nothing unless we have the latest phone? Or the latest TV? Or the latest computer? Or the latest car.

It is time to stop the madness and the waste. Our planet cannot handle our relentless garbage dumping cycles. We can't handle it. Our finances can't handle it. We have to start to wake up, respect our things and make them last. When they break, fix them. Don't accept anything less.

Let's never lose respect because it is what keeps us humans out of the jungle and with a planet that we can be proud of.

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