Fusebox EPFL

Partially adopted

A trendy chain of repair shops

One of the main environmental problems is that it's easier/cheaper/more normal to buy a new product than to repair the old one. But think of the occasions on which you thought : why not repairing it ? But you need pieces, skills, tools, time, etc.

So what if a chain of fashionable repair shops would open stores/workshops where either you pay a small fee for using the tools and pieces that would be neatly stored there, or a bigger one for an skillful employee to do it for you ?

It would go from sewing to electronics, from glue to weld, etc. And if they don't know, they would direct you to the specialist (clockmaker, mechanic...)

Instead of being a normal company, it could also be a co-op where people would exchange services, tools and material (but requires a lot of investment, I favour the first option).

The aim is to make it : 1) trendy (just as Tekoe managed to change the image of tea as "grandma's Sunday afternoon beverage", or so the founders said) 2) the "chain" concept allows people to know about it, trust it, look for it in a town they don't know 3) as little expensive as possible (human resources are...) but you can add the logo "Repaired in Switzerland" ! 4) practical : you can ask the employees to come and fetch it, or to deliver it afterwards

What do you think could be done to improve adoption by customers and/or profitability ?


Alexandre Gubert May 15, 2014

I love this idea, I have always dreamt to launch a repair shops chain!

francesco mazzilli May 15, 2014

Well, in Switzerland people have to change their mentality about broken things. Since salaries are pretty high, people can always afford to buy a new camera, phone, and so on... in country like italy, france, turkey, asia, you can find always a small shop fixing your e-toy :-) 

I like your point number 2, i do agree with that.

Akiko Nagafuji May 16, 2014

I love your concept. This shop could be attractive for people who have DIY hobby. We spend a lot of money for our hobbies. So it might be a breakthrough of this action. What do you think?


And if we can combine your idea with those ideas, it will be also wonderful.

"From plastic waste to 3D ink" (by Jan Overney) https://fuseboxepfl.crowdicity.com/category/1855#/post/51715

"Disposable Gloves + Plastic Cups = New Amasing Material!" (by Pierre jacquet)https://fuseboxepfl.crowdicity.com/category/1855#/post/51718

Alicia Gayout May 16, 2014

Indeed, using a 3D printer would enable the users or the staff to produce small replacement parts on demand. For instance, in China mechanics don't hesitate in fixing an outdated fridge with a broken part by replicating this part ; it would become easier with 3D printing. A database of 3D-printable objects could be set up between repair shops (to benefit from accumulating experience).

So if we can use recycled 3D ink, it would be wonderful!

Yves Leterrier May 16, 2014

Wonderful idea! This concept where people are active, and not passive with respect to the life cycle of their belongings is excellent.

Cécile Bousquet May 16, 2014

I think this is a great idea. Maybe in order to be more profitable, a system of collection/recycling/sale could be added in the shop. For example, if somebody does not want to repair an object, but just wants to throw it away, the shop could collect it, repair it and then sell it to other customers.

francesco mazzilli May 16, 2014

the system you mention already exist in USA, and it s generally called refurbishment.

Nicolas Pierret May 16, 2014

Great idea. Maybe you can develop existing structures!

Check these exemples (sorry in French):


Alicia Gayout May 16, 2014

Thanks for the article, that's really exciting! However, and they mention it, the volunteering aspect is at the same time a nice point and a weakness for that project. Not only a company would adapt more easily to the demand (which exists, apparently !) but it would also create jobs for people with no formal qualification but much dexterity and experience in the "Système D" (or "jugaad") spirit !

Nicolas Pierret May 16, 2014

What I like is especially the social and solidarity aspect of these coffee. I think you have to keep in mind that it demand a certain mindset (maybe it will change) to stand against consumption!

I imagine people would like to keep it off the market approach! It works because everyone helps others, and you're not in a monetary relation! What do you think?

Alicia Gayout May 16, 2014

I understand your point, but at the same time I know other persons that would hesitate because of the "altermondialist" approach and would be reassured by a traditional company...

And if you help the reinsertion of long-term unemployed persons, and keep an informal atmosphere you do some society-building too.

I also advocate that the company should have no shareholders, or better, that the shareholders are the employees themselves.

Even in cozy places such as a café-bookshop, you have the monetary aspect...

As a whole, I think efficiency requires a business-like approach and that preserving the values at the core of the activity are not necessarily endangered by this approach.

Anyway, thanks for this remark, this aspect must be carefully examined for the business model to be successful.

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Leila Ojjeh May 16, 2014

It could also be a place to create / sell new brands created out of recycling materials working with artists - such as furniture made out of garbage...

Alicia Gayout May 16, 2014

Workshops could also be organized so that people could learn how to do it themselves. I'm sure designing and printing your first 3D replacement part and fixing your house appliance with it would be an attractive opportunity.

As for the comments about existing structures, I would say that what is important is that people know about it and that where they can find it. You want a fancy coffee in a cozy place where there is Wifi ? You go to Starbucks. You want your broken things to be fixed, or your old-fashioned furniture to undergo some "relooking" ? You go to the Repair Shop (any idea for a more catchy name ?)

And there would be a social impact, since manual workers would be regarded as half inventors half "fairy-fingered" saviours (I know that in Switzerland manual work is highly respected, but it is sadly not the case in France). And for once, experiencing scarcity due to a financial predicament would give you a competitive advantage to get the job! 


Zenghuan Shan May 17, 2014

One aspect is the transportation. If the transport cost is higher than the  repair cost plus repaired furniture, it is not worthy anymore. (Pity for most furniture is that the case)

One appliation is for car reparement. There can be really big price difference between repairing yourself and acquiring garagist. There are already such Do-it-Your service stations in Switzerland:


The barriar is the person must know how to repair the car himeself what is for normal drivers not the case. One solution (my idea) is to always put a professional garagist at side as instructor. The customer can then work with hime as pair to save cost (half the price) and learn the technique at the same time.

Similar concept / business model is also available for self car cleaning, self clothes washing, self coffee bean making (in migros), .self photo printing , etc...



Alicia Gayout May 18, 2014

Thanks for the information ! Indeed, transportation has to be taken into account also from an environmental point of view : it would be counterproductive that CO2 emissions due to transportation offset the environmental benefit of repairing... For furniture, perhaps the staff from the repair shop could come to the customer's place with their tools to fix it (the extra fee should not deter the customer though).

I like your idea about the garage, but what would be the incentive for the professional garagist ? He would spend extra time teaching the customer and would eventually earn less. In Switzerland, he has already to take care of his apprentice(s). 

Actually, the repair shop will also try to avoid harming other professionals' businesses, such as garages, shoe makers or clockmakers : it will focus on repairing things that are currently not taken care of, or at too high a cost (in terms of environment impact, money and time). But it will direct the customer toward those professionals too, the aim being to have one reference for everything related to repairing (similarly to the "Tourism Office" which is the reference for touristic activites in town).

Yves Loerincik May 19, 2014

I would encourage you to get in touch with the shop "la Bonne Combine" in Prilly. I'm pretty sure they did try to encourage people to come and repair themselves and I'm wondering whether they wouldn't have usefule inputs to push the idea further: http://www.labonnecombine.ch

Alicia Gayout May 20, 2014

Thank you very much ! I've checked their website, this is quite close to what I wish could be systematized ! And the great thing is that they are economically sustainable, even in Switzerland...

Yves Loerincik May 20, 2014

Hi, Two comments: 

1. it is  currently a drop in the ocean. Any idea to bring that to another level? You'll always find a few people crazy enough to repair instead of buying a new one. The challenge is how to go from a drop to a river and then an ocean. 

2. maybe twisting a bit the concept and giving the opportunity to the owner to repair the device himself or herself (like the IKEA way of building furniture) could also be interesting? 

Alicia Gayout May 20, 2014

1. That's why I want to make it

a) "trendy" : a fashionable store front, young and dynamic staff knowing everything about repairing but not "hippies", events (workshops such as : "In need of a nasty tiny AND nowhere-to-be-found replacement part = 3D-print it yourself !" or "Don't let your man mess it up with mechanics" for women, and so on)

b) a chain : make it look mainstream, people may believe you ! They have the guarantee that they will find the shop in main cities, that quality of service is the same in all of them, we can create a fidelity program too (next time you come, -5% discount on the reparation fees, or free delivery of the repaired product)

c) more service, for instance an employee may come at your place if the thing to be repaired is too cumbersome

2. The workshops are in line with this idea. Of course, the chain would have a website where "technical briefs" (better : videos) about how to repair one thing or the other by oneself. And you can ask to stay with the employee when he repairs your thing to learn how to do it.

My model is Tekoe : they have turned the dusty and/or confidential tea shop into an attractive and successful chain that you look for when arriving in a Swiss train station. 

And I would like to add to each repaired thing a funny tag with the logo of the chain and the Swiss flag (depending on the country of course) plus "Made in China, repaired in Switzerland".

Yves Loerincik May 20, 2014

Hi, nice idea, and you have though about everything. Happy to discuss this more in details if you want. If you have the time for a coffee at EPFL. 

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Leila Ojjeh May 20, 2014

Status changed to INTERESTING
Congratulations Alicia, your idea has been tagged as "Interesting" by the expert team and will be taken further at this stage. The concept exists already but indeed making it trendy and as a chain brings a new perspective and dynamic... continue building on this concept!

Nicolas Pierret May 20, 2014

There was a great documentation this evening on the topic! Worth seing it if you have time!

La Tragédie économique

It's about electronic waste, and the illegal business around recycling this special kind of wastes.

Leila Ojjeh May 26, 2014

Status changed to Partially adopted
Congratulations ! This idea has made it to the Top 10! We love the fact that it would make recycling fun and attractive and not a constraint. How could we make this concept different and bigger than existing solutions? Would the „Do It Yourself Model“ like IKEA have its home? What would make it trendy?

Leila Ojjeh May 26, 2014

This idea has been advanced to the next phase

Alicia Gayout May 26, 2014

If the repair shop has to compete with normal shops, it has to provide equivalent services that will make repairing less constraining : warrantee for the repaired product, delivery, temporary replacement (eg. they lend you a fridge while yours is being repaired).

I suspect people may also fear the uncertainty of repair cost ("I need the plumber/mechanic/... but he will surely charge me a lot of money saying the problem looks bad"). To address that, we could :
- propose a "catalogue" for reparations online (each type of reparation has a price tag)
- propose a free cost estimation and then give the choice between reparation by the staff, by the staff + the customer, by the customer (cheaper).

Time is also an uncertainty. Possible solutions :
- the catalogue also proposes a "time" tag on top of the price tag (including "if you do by yourself")
- time warrantee : if it is longer than announced, the customer is entitled to a discount 

As for DIY aspect, there would be a workshop with tools and materials when you can access for a certain fee. There would be screens on which you can play videos that explain to you how to repair your appliance/furniture, etc.

Akiko Nagafuji May 27, 2014

Your idea is one of the workable strategies. Wonderful!

If we can feel pleasure in the repair work, it would be more attractive. In addition, it could be the wave of this trend!

Alicia Gayout May 27, 2014

The repair shop could organize "refurbishment & repair" parties, where a bunch of friends would book the workshop and the help of the staff to refurbish/repair old appliances/devices/furniture. It would increase fun and creativity !

And the repair shop could emulate IKEA even further by adding a small stall with tea/coffee/pastries to enjoy a cozy break if you are working hard for a long time :-)

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