Two Examples of Totally Unjustified Corporate Greed

- I'd like to buy a cucumber please.
- Sorry, you can't buy a cucumber, just the whole case of salad ingredients.
- But I only need a cucumber, I already have the other ingredients!
- Cucumbers are not sold separately.

Outrageous? Absolutely! Nonetheless, this behavior is becoming more and more the rule, not the bizarre exception.

The following two cases actually happened to me. I happen to like to fix my own things and finding the necessary parts has become more and more difficult. I suppose there's no longer sufficient profit in the small inexpensive parts that usually fail.

Case 1: The clutch slave cylinder of a Mitsubishi SUV.

I have absolutely no problem with the quality of this vehicle.  In fact, it is extremely well built. It is a real off-road vehicle, 21 years old as I write this, not like the yuppie vehicles of more recent years. It is no accident that some time ago Mitsubishis were winning the Dakar Rally year after year. These days the VW buggies have taken over.

Quite a few years ago, the seal in the clutch slave cylinder started to leak.  Not surprising given the age of the vehicle. Also not surprising, I could buy a rebuild kit which consisted of the aluminum piston and the seal. It was inexpensive and very easy to install.

A note on the design. The body of the slave cylinder appears to be cast iron. This means that the body will wear out much more slowly than the seal or the aluminum piston. Good design: the more expensive, harder to replace part lasts longer.

Recently, the seal gave way suddenly. It became difficult to shift gears and I had to pump repeatedly, stopping on a couple of occasions to refill the reservoir with brake fluid. I barely made it home.

I started looking for the rebuild kit, but it's no longer available.  Instead, I was forced to buy the whole slave cylinder unit. Five times more expensive and more difficult to replace.

Ideally, I would have liked to find just the hydraulic seal. Probably a 50 cent part. The rebuild kit should have been around $10, but instead I ended up having to spend more than $50.

Case 2: The foot rest of a Yamaha motorcycle.

This case is even more outrageous. Replacing the broken part is extremely easy: removing a cotter pin frees the pin that holds the cast aluminum foot rest. Obviously, I tried to buy the broken part but the Yamaha dealer tells me that I can only buy the whole assembly that not only contains the broken part but also the rubber surface with it's 2 bolts and nuts, the pin, a spring, a spacer and a large steel part that bolts to the frame. Instead of a simple cast aluminum part that should cost less than $20, I'm being asked to pay $120 for a set of parts I don't need.

Here again, the design is superior. The aluminum part is obviously designed to break before the steel parts to which it is attached. As the foot rest is the first part that hits the ground if the bike is dropped, it is obviously sacrificial. It is inconceivable that it cannot be purchased separately.

I refuse to be held hostage to the greed of a corporation that insists on selling me parts I don't need as a condition to buy the one part I need, so I'm going to have the broken part welded.


Case 2 happened as the Occupy Wall St. protests are under way. Even though I love my motorcycle, I am disgusted with the corporate attitude that seems to care more about extracting every possible $ from the customers instead of providing what they need or want. More power to the protesters!

Bonus Rip-off

Quite a few years ago, when I was much less familiar with the SUV, I had to depend on the local Mitsubishi dealer, which has fortunately been out of business for some years now.

At one point the RPMs of the engine, at idle in neutral, would go up and down rhythmically, with a period of about 2 seconds. I took it to the service department and they said I needed to replace the idle speed controller. When it was done I was faced with a bill for $368.86 and a 2" part they had replaced.

Some months later, the engine started to die at idle and misfire more and more.  I took the truck back to the dealer. The diagnosis/estimate: I needed a new idle speed controller and a new ECU (Electronic Control Unit - the computer that runs the whole show). Total: $1200 for the computer plus what I had already paid a few months earlier. Of course the idle speed controller was just out of warranty.

This time I educated myself. I found where the idle speed controller was, how to remove it and how to test it. It is not much more than a couple of electrical coils. Surprise surprise! The idle speed controller was in perfect working condition. I found a re-builder of Mitsubishi ECUs on the Internet and sent off the computer to be rebuilt. I had learned that some capacitors leaked with age and could stop performing their function as well as destroying the circuit board with the leaking acid. Some time later I had a rebuilt ECU for less than 1/2 the price the dealer wanted, but that was still not the problem. At least I had eliminated the possibility of killer capacitors.

After more troubleshooting, I decided to replace the distributor cap and rotor and the truck ran like new. Lesson learned: do not be misled by what the "experts" with a profit motive tell you. I should have ignored the ECU misdirection completely.

This latter case is obviously more fraud than conscious corporate policy to sell more than customers need, or is it?

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