What is quality?
The right tool
I grew up as the youngest with three older siblings and observed the difference in my siblings when it came to spending money. My oldest brother who became an engineer seemed to want quality in things he bought, I think from an engineering point of view. I’m not sure if he quibbled about price. Since he moved across country I don’t know too much more about his buying habits. My other brother has the idea of buying the cheapest things seemingly without regard to quality. My sister seems to have good instincts about buying price vs. quality, but I don’t think she has a conscious theory about it.
Over the years I have often heard people tell me “you get what you pay for.” I never quite accepted the idea that if you just paid more you would get a better value, which is what the phrase seems to imply. To be fair I think price might have been a better guide before the world became so complex. I have also been told to buy the best item you can afford. I’m not sure I trust that rule either.
I remember that some years ago I had to install a washer in my mother’s house and needed a pipe cutter. My brother who always buys the cheapest had apparently had a disappointing experience in buying a cheap tool and wanted me to buy the most expensive one. Since I only intended to use it this one time I ignored him and bought the cheapest one. It did the job and I don’t recall if I had occasion to use it again. It did the job.
So what is quality?
I spent three years as a Quality Assurance intern for the Federal government than spent time as a maintenance management specialist. SI had to take a lot of classes in both areas. One thing I learned is that for the government quality is defined as “conforming to requirements” and the contract. That would seem to leave it up to the designers of the equipment to define what quality of an item consists of. The design would start with determining what the items need to do and what contract requirement has to be incorporated to assure that. In personal life I think the best rule of thumb is to get the right tool for the job. In a way, that amounts to the same thing. Determine what you want to use something for, than look for the product most suitable for it.
I read a book years ago which I would like to read again but I don’t remember either the title or the author. The author discussed this concept in some detail. One example he used was cars. His contention was that all cars are good cars. For folks who are unhappy with their cars is that they did not buy the right car for their needs. For example, you would probably not buy a sub-compact for off road adventures. Likewise you would not want a Humvee for driving in a congested city. They may both be quality cars but they would not be suitable.
Another example is shoes. Many people will spend a lot of money on dress shoes that they may only wear to Church or some other activity where they will not be on their feet for very long. They will buy cheap shoes for everyday activity because they don’t care what they look like. However, just the opposite is the right approach. Buy the best shoes you can afford for the shoes that you are going to wear steadily because they will be better for you feet and more comfortable. The dress shoes, which you don’t wear very much, don’t matter as much for comfort.
Cary Grant, the actor of some years ago was known to be one of the best-dressed men in the country. In a magazine article about him I learned what I thought was good advise on style. He advised getting the best quality you can but stick to basic styles. Avoid fads and fashions. You also don’t need a lot of clothes. I believe two suits with mix and match pants, and a blazer. Dress shoes and casual shoes, such as loafers. I won’t try to cite an entire wardrobe but you should get the point. You don’t need a lot of clothes and you don’t need to replace them often,
It all boils down to: “the right tool for the job” is the motto. In this case tool means almost anything you might use for a purpose from cars to shoes clothes, car tools, cooking utensils. Don’t buy things just because they look nice or because you neighbor has one. Buy what is right for you.
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