What Everyone Can Learn About Their Gadgets From This Broken Toaster

The tale of an infrared toaster oven shows how we must fix our broken relationship with stuff

Image from Peter Mui
Broken power switch on an infrared toaster oven. Photos: Peter Mui

The rise of unfixable products

Before the pandemic, a typical Fixit Clinic would set up shop in public places, like libraries, and welcome people to bring in their broken products: appliances, cellphones, laptops, jewelry, clothing, and everything in between. Together, guests tried to repair their products with an expert coach. Since the pandemic started, the events have been moved online.

The toaster oven’s circuit board with the switch, or SW15, soldered on. Image from Peter Mui
The toaster oven’s circuit board with the switch, or SW15, soldered on. Image from Peter Mui
The toaster oven’s circuit board with the switch, or SW15, soldered on
The toaster oven’s circuit board after Peter soldered on the new switch. Image from Peter Mui
The toaster oven’s circuit board after Peter soldered on the new switch. Image from Peter Mui
The toaster oven’s circuit board after Mui soldered on the new switch

Stuff’s built to be cheap, not to last

Since the late 1990s, “durable goods” have been getting cheaper, but they’re not made to be so durable anymore.

There’s an inherent problem in how stuff is made — but we can fix it

If 54% of Americans say they want to buy environmentally friendly products, why don’t our products, expensive or cheap, seem to last? Why aren’t manufacturers listening?

Right to Repair Campaign Associate with U.S. PIRG