Fun with Planned Obsolescence Continues


No matter how frugal we think we are we still ended up with a mountain of consumer products scattered all over the house. Sure we try to minimize what we have to have but over the years it all adds up. A food processor is certainly in the “want” vs. “need” category but it’s easy to justify purchasing it since we cook at least 90% of our meals at home. Just like working on cars is a lot easier and more enjoyable when you have the right tools, cooking at home is less of a chore when you have the right tools for the job. A food processor is one of those tools and therefore a must.

Since we live the life of opulence, we have not one but two food processors. One is a big Cuisinart blender that spends most of its life stored inside a kitchen cabinet. It’s a powerful machine that will chop pretty much anything you throw in it but it’s also big, heavy and cumbersome to use for smaller jobs. We used this blender heavily when making our own baby food but now it only comes out on special occasions.

The second machine we have is the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus food processor model DLC-2A. It’s designed to be small, light and easy to clean but powerful enough to handle most chopping, grinding, puréeing, emulsifying and blending duties in the kitchen with minimum fuss. It’s stored right next to its big brother but gets a lot more play time on the countertop.

One of my favorite things to make is latkes served with sour cream and the Mini-Prep food processor is my go-to tool for the prep work. Sure, you can use a manual grater to grate all the potatoes and onions needed to make the latkes. We have one but it takes 15 minutes. I also can’t grate the entire potato or onion for fear of grating my fingers. With a food processor the prep part takes just a couple of minutes. That’s a huge difference in time and effort and a key to cooking over 90% of our meals at home. When you’re cooking from scratch you want to make it enjoyable and that’s why I don’t mind spending money on the right tools.

Speaking of money – the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus sells for under $40 on Amazon. This food processor gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars rating after more than 1,300 reviews. When we were looking for an everyday food processor this model seemed to deliver a solid value proposition so we purchased it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone… Until last week.

One day as I loaded the food processor with small pieces of potatoes cut to the recommended ½ size and pressed “Chop”, all I heard was the motor noise. The blades wouldn’t move. I used the big Cuisinart to finish the job but I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem, especially after reminding myself how much of a pain it is to use a big processor for a small job like this.

A few screws later and the guts of the Mini-Prep Plus spilled over my workbench. Initial investigation confirmed what was already known – the motor was perfectly fine spinning as it should. It was the shaft that’s supposed to drive the blades that wasn’t moving as if disconnected from the motor.

A closer look quickly revealed the problem – the 3 small plastic gears that drive the shaft/blades were all chewed up. Take a look…

Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus dissected on my bench with the 3 plastic gears visible at 9 o’clock…miniprep3

The 3 plastic gears are all chewed up…miniprep2

If you’ve read my other post on Planned Obsolescence you’ll quickly recognize that this food processor died from the same condition that killed the shredder. In both cases, cheap plastic drive gears wore out way before the expected life expectancy of the appliance itself which should be – oh, I don’t know – 15 years minimum?

When the shredder died, I tried searching for a replacement gear but came up empty-handed. Now that otherwise perfectly good shredder is rotting at a landfill and a new shredder occupies its place in the office.

At this point I was 99.9% sure that the Mini-Prep Plus is about to join the shredder at a landfill. Still, I went ahead and sent the following email to Cuisinart:

Hello, I have a Mini-Prep Plus Processor – DLC-2 food processor that makes noise but does not spin the blades. I disassembled it and found that the 3 white plastic gears that drive the blade are worn out. The motor works just fine but those gears are worn out so they can’t spin the blade. I looked everywhere but can’t find a place where I can get those 3 small plastic gears to replace the ones that broke. Is this something that you can send me so I can fix the food processor instead of throwing it in the garbage?

About a day later I received the following reply:

Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately Cuisinart does not carry internal parts for our Mini-Preps Food Processors. If anything was to go wrong with the product, Cuisinart would give option to replace the unit if under warranty. If you have any further questions please reply, with history, to this email.

After the shredder ordeal I wasn’t surprised to receive such an answer. We all know that consumerism is what drives this country’s economic engine. One sure way to keep it firing on all cylinders is to build planned obsolescence into consumer products so that we don’t end up buying just one food processor, one shredder, one washer, one fridge, one vacuum… and use it for decades to come. Designed just right, these products can fail after a pre-determined number of uses. For a fine example, Google “printer planned obsolescence chip”.

But companies take it one crucial step further. To quote Cuisinart, they “do not carry internal parts” for their products. How convenient! A consumer is stuck with a product that not only died prematurely due to a couple of plastic gears that should have been metal but that also can’t be fixed. “Just throw it away and buy a new one!” companies seem to say. “Look, you can now get the same food processor in a bold new color!” Nevermind the fact that it still has the same plastic gears that will fail in a couple of years. Designed to fail. A circle of consumer life indeed.

So what do I do? I can refuse to buy a new food processor voting with my wallet. I can use the big food processor that still works. Good solutions but given the amount of cooking we do, not very convenient.

I hate to admit it but the system got me beat. My DIY skills are useless if I can’t get the right parts. I threw out the shredder and bought a new one. I will now throw out the Mini-Prep Plus and buy a new one. Maybe it won’t be the Cuisinart one because I’m a bit pissed at them. Maybe I’ll buy something from their highly rated competitor. Chances are, in just a couple of years I’ll have another appliance with stripped plastic gears, just from a different manufacturer.


6 thoughts on “Fun with Planned Obsolescence Continues

  1. Pingback: Up Close and Personal with Planned Obsolescence | Insourcelife

  2. That’s disappointing that they don’t carry parts for it! Repairability is one of the reasons Mr PoP prefers to buy commercial grade products, but preferably used and old because they are often much more repairable than consumer grade products. Lawnmowers are the big ones – his two are nearly as old as we are, but totally maintainable for as long as we can tell … he’d love an old commercial grade weedwhacker, but hasn’t been able to find one yet.

    • I’m with Mr PoP on that one… If I could find a commercial grade mini food processor I’d buy it. I’d settle for just being able to buy spare parts for the consumer version, but of course we now know that’s not in the cards.

  3. Just out of interest is there any reason you dont try making the cogs from metal yourself? You seem to be damn good on the DIY front (I struggle even putting up pictures!), so surely if you know the dimensions and number of cogs, with a good solid piece of metal and a hacksaw you could do it?

    I’m curious probably because my DIY skills are so bad 🙂

    • I probably could make my own cog out of some aluminum stock I have in my garage but there is only one problem – time. My wife and I both work 9-5 and then run errands, cook, play with our son etc. As you know I enjoy DIY but it would be foolish in my position not to prioritize the never-ending DIY list. I can honestly say that making a new cog for a POS food processor or that paper shredder is dead last on that list. For example, in the little spare time that I have I’d rather do some overdue car maintenance since the ROI is so much higher there plus it’s something I actually enjoy doing. With 2 cars and a big house there is always something to fix – if I can only find the time!

      • Ah ok that makes sense in that case i really dont blame you 🙂 thanks for replying!

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