Updated: Apr 7
You've probably seen ‘The Repair Shop” on the TV but personal experiences are a bit trickier I find ... but there's often as many tears, mainly from injuries caused by sharp knives or saws!
Take this example, we’ve recently had one of those capsule coffee machines which has been leaking from the front of the machine, it appears there isn’t sufficient pressure on the capsule anymore to break the seal properly, the result – a weak cup of coffee and a pool of hot water under the machine.
We go to the web and find out if it can be fixed, we speak to ‘tech support’ at the manufacturers and they kindly send out some genuine capsules … we’ve been using metal ones that you refill to do a little bit and reduce our plastic use. No change when we try the new ones, so we can have the machine repaired for a base price of £75 I think it was, plus we need to send it back which will probably be £10, so £85 all in. We’re offered a new machine with 100 capsules from the manufacturer for £79, uhm so that’s less than the repair!
We say we’ll get back to them.
A quick conversation and we agree to use the cafetiere and will do without the machine, ah, “we’ll lose the milk ‘frother’ which we use occasionally”, I point out. A trip to the shed with the machine under my arm and I emerge with the ‘frother’ mounted on a piece of wood and the rest of the machine somewhat destroyed… why don’t they just put normal screws on things so we can get access, taking an angle grinder to gain access to a small kitchen appliance seems a bit extreme but I’m happy with the result and feel a bit like I’ve won over the large corp who wanted me to spend more money and throw the old machine away.
I suppose from a repair perspective I’ve only achieved a 50/50 win, but it still feels good.
This is a personal reflection on a repair but the guys at Transition Chesterfield take this a step further. They run repair cafes where they'll take a look at your [old] broken items and do their best to help you fix and repair them.
I caught up with Margaret Hersee from Transition Chesterfield to learn a little more about what they get up to and how it all works.
"Our aim in running a Repair Cafe is to create a space where people can meet to have a go themselves. Our enthusiastic helpers with their variety of skills are able to provide assistance. With the advent of COVID, social events are no longer possible but we have aimed to provide alternative interim arrangements.
"When restrictions are less tight we can offer an appointment arrangement with items quarantined beforehand. Whilst heavier restrictions are in place we can offer some alternatives, we may be able to suggest a suitable local repairer, we can offer advice if you are stuck with a repair (please supply photos), maybe via Zoom, or if we think a repair is feasible, you can arrange to drop off the item so that a local fixer can take a look."
Please contact Margaret in the first instance on firstname.lastname@example.org
"Any repairs that we undertake are recorded and added to a national database. This is used to pressurise governments to recognise the value of repair. This involves working with businesses to offer affordable repairs and to move away from built-in obsolescence. We need a Right to Repair law in the UK - particularly now that we have left the EU."
Good luck with your repairs, I like Margaret's suggestion that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle should perhaps be extended to Reduce, Re-use, Repair, Recycle.
Words: Paul Chapman