In an article I wrote three years ago titled “Eight R’s for a greener earth,” I talked about repair as one of the eight Rs for a greener earth.
Here is what I wrote:
This is probably the toughest one to do in the U.S.
We live in the culture and society with a throw-away and disposable mentality. If something breaks or simply doesn’t look good any more, out it goes and we have to buy a new one. A big reason is it’s often more expensive and troublesome to repair it than buy a new one. Besides, we don’t have the time, knowledge and skills to do it like our parents’ generation has done.
My dad is the best handyman I know. He fixed everything in our home when I grew up. He could make a lot of things himself, from big items such as furniture to small items like keys. He fixed bicycles, shoes, pots and pants. Whatever broke, he could fix it and do it himself.
But people in my generation are very different now. Life has become so busy and complicated, often times we only know how to buy which was made very easy with the invention of credit cards instead of how to repair.
When I visited my parents in China last year, one of the things I noticed and liked over there is you can walk in their neighborhood and find people that do all kinds of repair work – tailors who make, repair, and alter garments, shops that fix bicycles and motorcycles, electronics, changes watch batteries, make keys, etc., all within walking distance.
But when I visited the newer development areas in town, the living conditions are more like that in the US. There are nicer apartment buildings and more beautiful surroundings, but less stores and services are within walking distance.
Anyway, what brought me to this topic today is my eye glasses I have been wearing for more than 7 years.
A few years after I bought the pair of glasses in Jan. 2004, the frame broke (I forgot what the cause was). As I was shopping around for a new pair, I asked at the stores I visited whether they could fix my old pair of glasses, no one said it was possible.
Finally one of the sales women at the last store I visited gave me the contact info for Kent Optical (phone number 651- 451-6011, 1000 Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55118) and said to try my luck there.
I was glad I didn’t buy a new pair. It turned out that Kent Christy, the owner of Kent Optical, was able to repair my eyeglass frame using what I think is the method of welding. I paid about $20 for the repair. It’s less than 10 % of what I would have paid for a new pair.
My repaired glasses lasted a few more years until last weekend. While I was removing it with one hand (I should have done it with both hands), it broke again in the same spot. Today I went back to Kent. He fixed the frame again for me, without charge.
What great customer services!
I asked Kent how his indepentently owned business is doing and how he survives in this economy with so much competition from national chain stores. He said he has been in his business for over 20 years and gets repeat customers and new customers by word of mouth. He doesn’t use a computer, let alone a website.
I was not surprised by the excellent consumer report and online reviews. I couldn’t be more happier with his services myself. I will definitely give him the highest/best rating.
I know eventually I will have to buy a new pair of glasses. But as long as my old one still works, I will keep using it. Even when I buy a new pair, it can still be used as a spare one.
I just like to use things up until nothing is left or it’s totally broken, before I buy a new one. The less I throw away, the better for the environment; the less I spend, the more I keep. That makes me feel good.