Sunday, March 27, 2011

Consumer reparations

I recently spent about six months in western China (I have a sister-blog about environmental issues in China here), and I once again noticed the pervasiveness of specialized fixers and menders in Chinese cities. I bought a used bike for about $15, not too nice, but functioning. The bike broke about every two weeks, and when that happened I would walk it to a bicycle repair man who had a small shop right around the corner from the classroom building I was in most mornings. I never spent more than 12 kuai (a little less than two dollars), and that was for a new tube. The cost to patch up a blown tube was only 1-2 kuai.

There are repair people all over Chinese cities, for every different type of appliance, and also for clothes. On my campus there was a seamstress who sat on a street corner with a chair and a sewing machine and a pile of commissioned mending. I'm aware that here in the US there are tailors and menders that can perform these services, but they're far less numerous and accessible, plus the pervasive attitude seems to be that if it's broken, buy a new one. (Unless it's something like high-end electronics or a car or bicycle, although with electronics most people would agree that if it keeps breaking, it's probably defective and the company should replace it.)