When AAs sag

No, no, not those AAs. What were you thinking?

We coyotes lead portable lives. And that means we carry much small, valuable electronic paraphernalia about our ummm, persons. Anti-mayor radar, that sorta thing. If you see a medium-sized 'was that a dog?' someplace weird downtown - and it clanks with hidden gear - that's me. Oops. I digress. Who'da thunk?

Anyway, based on an anecdotal sample of one, I've lately noticed a steep climb in instances where costly gizmos go wonky, and I open them up to floods of corrosive goo from burst AA cells. Which I must clean out, or lose the gadget. This almost never used to happen if one avoided off-brands and dodgy dollar store counterfeits. Lately it's been like, twice a week.

I'm sure our friend Milan has statistics somewhere on the environmental unfriendliness of alkaline cells versus rechargeable, with life-cycle assessments demonstrating that investing in new and rechargeable gizmos is better than pumping one-use alkalines into old stuff. He's all over that sort of thing.

My issue is that rechargeable AAs are often AAAs stuffed in bigger AA cases. They're weak, and wear down fast. Still-working, but power-mad older stuff is what I have, and I am loathe to replace it. Especially that anti-mayor radar. It saves my tail sometimes... Oop. Digression detector's beeping!

Ummm, I blame Wall-to-Wall-Mart. And globalization. Among others.

Wall-to-Wall is a retail gorilla that tempts potential suppliers with huge markets. Under contract, they start relying too heavily on that fat, high-volume, low-margin cash cow. Then Wall-to-Wall orders 'em to slash supply costs, so it can undersell Target or Sears. Suppliers have to cheapen themselves or die. Win for the consumer, right? Or maybe once-reputable brands fatally debase themselves on Wall-to-Wall's altar. And maybe Wall-to-Wall throws 'em away when they're so lousy nobody buys 'em anymore. It's bidness.

Something similar can happen when formerly home-grown businesses contract out to far eastern factories for hire. Factories low ball contract bids insanely, then do test runs to prove they can actually make a thing to a "carefully monitored" North American or European firm's specifications. Once they snag the contract, they squeeze already low-paid workers, and find all sorts of cheesy, sleazy ways to progressively save a few cents per unit here, a penny a unit there, until they get a profit. Who cares if there's lead in the toys or venetian blinds? Or carcinogens in the baby formula? Or that flimsy MP3 and DVD players fail in weeks? And batteries vomit? We're only really talkin' about makin' money here!

Which may be why I keep running old, still-serviceable, but power-hungry electronic thingies on alkaline AAs. Years later, they still work. They wear out, not break. Just as long as I can keep those cheap fucking batteries from screwing 'em up...

1 comment:

Milan said...

One big problem with rechargeables is that the companies that make them sell them along with chargers that destroy them rapidly.

To maximize their lifespan, you should use a charger that can put in energy slowly, preventing overheating. I use a La Crosse BC-900 and am very happy with it. It charges batteries at 200mA, by default, thus prolonging their lives. It can also ‘re-condition’ batteries that have lost most of their capacity. Given the number of batteries my growing collection of flashes makes me juggle, I may even end up getting a second one, so I can charge them eight at a time.

I hope somebody eventually comes up with affordable AA and AAA cells that you can charge, leave in a backpack for a few months, and still count on being able to use.