In his essay "Quality," written in 1911, the great writer John Galsworthy recounts the story of two brothers. Shoemakers who have their own shop sometime in the late 19th century exemplify Mr Galsworthy's quality problems. They knew every customer. They made customer samples & # 39; feet, cutting shoes to fit, forcing the customer to put on shoes, and then adjusting the shoes as needed to each customer, offering to take the expense off the bill if shoes or boots were not acceptable.
Over time, faster, cheaper, and more efficient ways to make shoes and boots were found, and the small retailer was eventually forced to barely survive. Until the last, he insisted on making only the highest quality product, even when customers abandoned it because of the cheaper product provided by factories.
An interesting note is Galsworthy's statement: "I ordered a few pairs. It was a very long time before they came – but they were better than ever. They just couldn't wear them ".
My father was almost obsessive about quality. One of the first lessons I had was that most things would take a long time and serve you well. When he died in 1981, my mother gave me a pair of his boots, which he wore for several years. I wore them regularly and comfortably for a few more years, and they didn't give up the ghost until I wore them for over 15 years. In the sixties, I bought a pair of pants at Ed White Clothiers in Pensacola, Florida. I gave them to a charity in 1990 at the insistence of my wife. All of my dad's tools are still in good shape, at least the ones I have. His watch is fine, thank you, or should I say watches too, because I have a pocket watch he has worn since before birth, as well as his Seiko wristwatch. Of course, he was a watch maker, so they don’t count.
While these are extreme examples, they stand in contrast to the shirts I bought from Target two years ago, both of which needed to be returned because the buttons fell off within days of purchase. Or underpants, also from Target, which soon became donations to a local charity due to poor performance and a general lack of quality. Let's not miss out on two pretty expensive T-shirts bought last year by Sears. They still fit really well and look nice shirts … except for the sleeves that have shrunk and now I miss my wrists by four or five inches. The leather belt I also bought from Sears a few months ago is starting to fall apart. I lost track of the number of watches I dropped over the years because they just didn't last, but I'm heavy on watches, so maybe that doesn't count.
It's a small potato, but a few years ago, my wife and I, experienced drivers and truck driving instructors, bought a Peterbilt truck for over $ 100,000. The name Peterbilt was once synonymous with quality. In the first eleven months we owned that truck, we were unable to drive for eight weeks due to repair and mechanical problems. One of the most fascinating facts was that several times after the truck was operated by a mechanized Peterbilt specialist, we had to go back to repair something that had been messed up! We eventually managed to get Peterbilt to buy a truck under Wisconsin lemon law, but not before we lost thousands of dollars and experienced months of frustration. Even more frustrating is that, speaking to several other people who owned the same type of truck, we found that almost everything that went wrong with the one we bought was experienced by other owners.
Most manufacturers have no interest in forgiving themselves in quality. First of all, it is usually more expensive to build quality items than to mass produce things that will "do". If things were going on too long, many of these people would go out of business. Watch carefully and you will see that things change, often not for the better, but only so that we will be tempted to put off the old and buy new. The advertising media are always more than happy to earn their bread by reminding us that what we had new in the last year is outdated and needs to be replaced.
After working so hard to create a perceived need in the population, is it any wonder that these manufacturers have decided to look for cheaper labor and reduce production costs to maximize profits?
And is it their fault?
When we vote and vote by everyone who works with our wallet (or debit and credit cards), do we cast our votes for quality products that we will gladly use for years, maybe even pass them on to another generation, or simply buy what is the cheapest?
A little story of caution about buying a cheap one.
Many years ago, I was a federal procurement agent for the Texas Army National Guard. Me and others in my office were tasked with procuring supplies for various military units in the Guards, many of whom serve in Iraq today. Part of our mission was to achieve the "best possible price," and we were told to ignore "brand" editions that might be known for their quality. One day, a lady working at a nearby desk nearly jumped in the air because she had just placed a big order to tie the ribbon at about half the expected price. It has saved the federal government and U.S. taxpayers several hundred dollars.
A few days later, while working with one of the units, we had reason to use the tape she purchased. It was worthless. She would not stick, even for herself, and tear up and fall apart. The tape was used to hold groups of field equipment in stacks to quickly and efficiently deploy a combat unit. We ended up using about three times as much tape as we would have needed if a better brand (name) had been purchased, and that does not take into account the rolls that have become so swollen and shredded that they are simply thrown away as useless.
Things that last well are often worth the extra cost simply in the extra service they can provide over their lifetime … if we let them live that long.