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Refund or Repair

Pastel pink headphones against a slightly darker pink background

Besides talking about clothes, I would like to talk about my journey to sustainability. Let's call it my sustainability diary. When I started thinking about the clothes I buy, other items didn't take long to follow. Now I look at food packaging and think about various ways to reduce my waste.

I always highlight the fact that I shop a lot especially clothing, but what I try to do more of is think a bit more before I do anything. Also, I do not want to seem like I am preaching sustainability. A lot of the times when I look into any sustainability blogs from fashion to lifestyle, I find a few of them almost off-putting because I am thinking "well this means I have to do 100 things and restructure everything I do". Now, that can be overwhelming.

However, these blogs even the ones that are quite specific from no waste to minimal wardrobe are a good guideline for thinking and changing things at your own pace. The pressure I feel is most probably imposed by myself onto myself, being a perfectionist that I am. So even though I am very far from perfect and did buy a few luxury pieces on sale because well of their high quality and design, I would like to share my thoughts on certain aspects of shopping.

The story that I will share today is about a broken pair of headphones, which angered but also made me stop and have a think. I bought Marshall headphones two years ago, however, after a year they broke, and the solution suggested by the seller was that they will send me the new headphones. In return, I had to email a photo of me having cut the wires to ensure the headphones cannot be fixed and ever used again. It made me feel uneasy, but I thought 'oh well, what else can I do'.

A year after these 'new' earphones broke again. So I went to the Amazon seller and was told that I can return the earphones and get a refund. It was a very appealing option. Get money back and get a different pair that hopefully will not break after one year. But my question was: "What will happen to the headphones? Will they be thrown away? Will they be refurbished?" The decision was to find a repair service instead. I brought them to a small shop where I paid £25 for guys to have a look at what needs fixing and then was followed up and told that the total (including my deposit) would be £75. Just to clarify, the price of the headphones is £110. Again, I was really tempted to collect my headphones, return them and get a new pair, because it is almost the same price.

Then I thought what if Marshall's official store offers a better solution and miraculously cover repair costs. Well, it wasn't the case. They have the same policy as the Amazon seller. I asked them if they covered repairs by the third party (since they do not offer repairs) and was told that they did not.

There are two cons against repair: the owner just wants the problem to be resolved ASAP. The restoration by the third party may be poorly done so the customer will keep asking the company to cover the amount. Another possible issue is the cost. I could have got a new pair for free under warranty instead of 'wasting' £75. Also, the second option is not sustainable for everyone, not everyone has £75 flying around. To be perfectly honest, I parted with that money with the pain in my heart, because why am I paying for the repair of the earphones that only last a year. How bad is the quality, especially when the breakage happens two times in a row?

This reminds me of my uni days, when we studied that the brands are not interested in us trying to repair an item, they want us to throw it away and buy a new one instead. Business wise, it makes sense - they do not have to waste their time looking for or creating a dedicated repair centre when they can just send you a new pair, the cost price of which is probably below the repair price.

However, as a consumer, I would like to see change. Brands should take responsibility for their items' afterlife. The warranty should include the repair cost at least once a year, but if the repair did not work well enough, that could then be customer's liability. But give me a damn chance to fix the headphones before cutting the wires and having to go to a dedicated recycling centre hoping that they will be recycled and not just thrown into the landfill.

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