Category Archives: Quality

Whatever Happened to Quality?

They just don’t make things like they used to . . .

It’s getting to the point that a lot of the things I use everyday just don’t work the way I think they should. They do maybe 95% of what they were designed to do, but just fall short of working exactly as intended.

It seems like half the time an item I purchase is either defective or made so cheaply that it can’t stand up to normal daily use. Nearly everything has some kind of electronics in it nowadays, and they seem more often than not to be pretty buggy. It’s an alarming trend.

One of the gifts we got for Christmas was a set of 3 multicolor flameless battery operated candles with a remote control to switch the colors. Right off the bat one of the candles wouldn’t even turn on at all when the batteries were installed. I was able to exchange the set, but the colors of the new set were not right and soon one of the replacements began to blink annoyingly.

According to the New York Times, there have been more automotive recalls in 2014 than any other year, including many older models. My car has been involved in 3 different recalls. Besides that, it has intermittent electrical problems that cause it to warn me that either my airbag needs to be serviced or my tire pressure monitor system isn’t working. Occasionally everything works fine, but most of the time I get these annoying false warnings. Often I can smell gasoline when it’s parked. The cheap plastic mirror covers on the sun visors broke the first time they were opened. Half the time the turning signal will not cancel after a turn. The seat belt retractor doesn’t work right most of the time. The chrome plating on the inside door handles is peeling off. There are so many annoyances with this car that I will NEVER buy this brand of car again!

The control system for our hot tub/spa has become completely unusable. It indicates the flow valve is either randomly stuck open or stuck closed, or that the water temperature is 110 degrees and shuts down, even though the water is actually barely 95 degrees.

Our home automation system, which controls the inside and outside lights, is completely unreliable and only works when it wants to. Our dishwasher sounds like a cement mixer filled with rocks. One of the toilets in our house will not flush correctly unless you hold the handle down through the entire flush cycle, even though it’s set up exactly the same as the other one which works as intended. My electric razor has a pop-up sideburn trimmer that quit working in just a few weeks. The list goes on and on.

These are name brand items, and certainly not the cheapest available. I expected more from well-known products. It’s getting to the point that I have to make excuses for almost everything I own. Why don’t manufacturers take more pride in their products? When did quality control go out the window? What do we have to do to get it back?

The Myth of Good, Better, Best

Why is it that almost anything you shop for these days is available in at least 3 levels of quality: Good, Better, and Best?

Why would a company purposely make a product that they admit in their own advertising is not the best? I understand that adding features is often a method that manufacturers use to set their premium product apart from other offerings and to increase the ticket price of that item. But that often leads the manufacturer to offer good, better, and best options to the consumer.

So the company offers an entry-level, poor quality product, as well as a mid-price, slightly better quality version of the same product, and an expensive, premium quality version of basically the same product with more features.

I will admit price is also often the deciding factor for a consumer; not everyone can, or is willing to, pay for a premium product for every purpose. Sadly, sometimes the customer has to settle for a lower quality product strictly for budgetary reasons. And usually that customer is disappointed with the lack of quality and ultimately regrets not buying a better product. It seems this would make them less likely to consider that manufacturer for their next purchase.

My question is why not just produce one superior product the company can really be proud of that already has all the features everyone wants and can afford easily? Price it above the low quality versions everyone else is producing and yet lower than the original premium price.

Can this be done economically? Of course. Let’s examine the cost to the company to make three or more versions of essentially the same product. Each version of the basic product requires separate research and development costs, individual tooling and other engineering costs, specific manufacturing processes, separate inventories of parts, different user manuals, packaging design and printing, advertising materials, distinct labor pools for manufacturing and assembly, etc. This duplication of processes is expensive and completely unnecessary.

It appears to me that combining the individual research and development, manufacturing, assembly, printing and marketing costs for the separate products into a single budget stream to produce only one exceptional product would provide a more cost-effective solution. The reduction in manufacturing costs and other expenses could be passed on to the consumer to counteract the issue of an excessive price for a quality product. The manufacturer would have reduced expenses and increased profits and the consumer would get a great quality product with the features they want at a reasonable price.

I think that in the end everyone would benefit from this approach, don’t you?