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What is quality?

Updated on September 24, 2014
Chopsticks. Very good for eating Chinese food, not appropriate for a steak dinner.
Chopsticks. Very good for eating Chinese food, not appropriate for a steak dinner.

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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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks Wayne. There was a time when a brand name might have stood for quality or value but not so much now. My daughter in law seems to know how to find brand name stuff at discounts. I wondered how she could always dress her kids in the best brands.I found out that she could do that and then resell the stuff on ebay for a profit.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      6 years ago from Texas

      You hit the nail right on the head with this one Don. Many years ago I worked in sales. One thing I have never forgotten from that experience is that you generally cannot sell items to folks who do not have "needs". You can fool them or manipulate them but in the end, you really never sell them on the product or concept. I buy according to my need and normally look at above average quality one when I know something will be used a lot or needs to last a long time. At the same time, I see guys go to the mall and lay down $150 a pop for Tommy Bahama shirts which are made in Chine or Taiwan...I see no correlation between the quality and the price and I don't pay $150 for anybody's shirt....there is a line between perceiving quality and being a damn fool. Good articl...I enjoyed the read. WB

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I like that saying mathera. My real point about quality is that it is tied to intended use and value.

    • mathira profile image


      7 years ago from chennai

      As you say quality has the final say always and there is a old Chinese saying and I hope I have it right' good no cheap, cheap no good'.Good hub.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      It seems to be some time since I have seen or paid attention to a "lifetime guarantee." I grew up at a time when guarantees didn't mean a whole lot, so I tended to ignore them. At best I took warranties more as a matter of being like an endorsement. Iff I trusted the manufacturers than I took the warranty as meaning they were endorsing the fact that it was up to a certain standard. Now we can return merchandise without question in such a way as I wouldn't have believed back in the 1960's"

      If I were faced with a buying decision based on a "lifetime guarantee" I imagine I would ask the seller the questions you ask. Have him spell out just what the terms of the guarantee are.

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 

      7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      The advice is sound enough dahoglund. I will vote up.

      What has always puzzled me is the lifetime guarantee. If we are dealing with an animal, such as a dog, we could work that out to be X number of years for a certain breed. If the dog doesn't live that long through no fault of the owner then I suppose the owner is either entitled to their money back or a replacement dog. Thus the lifetime guarantee really has to do with a lifetime - the dog's.

      But what about an inanimate or non-living object. Just how long is the lifetime of a watch, a washing machine or a table supposed to be? It isn't as if they're alive to begin with so how am I supposed to know when their 'lifetime' is supposed to be up?

      Or is it MY lifetime. Should something, such as a watch with a lifetime guarantee, keep on keeping on until the owner croaks? And if it doesn't it should be replaced by the manufacturer?

      Hmm! As you can see I really don't get the lifetime guarantee. Any ideas on the subject? It does fit in with a discussion about quality.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. Value is often what serves us best.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Voted up, teh dress advice is great, and we needed to be reminded inthese days of austerity that somethings are more important than others in fashion.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Much of it is common sense, although that isn't so common anymore. Thanks for commenting.

    • dablufox profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Right on dahoglund! My wife used to insist on buying $19.95 joggers to go walking in. I would get upset with her because they would be garbage only lasting around four months and made her feet sore after she went walking in them. So I took her to a wholesale sports outlet and bought two pairs of Brooks running shoes, second pair half price!

      It's been over a year now and both pairs look good as new despite many miles. Also my wife is amazed at how comfortable the shoes are to walk in and how after walking she has no pain in her ankles and knees.

      Learning to identify quality a lesson well learned.

      Great hub on a very valuable and often overlooked ideal.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I appreciate your visit and comment. Glad you agree.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great advice dahoglund. I agree buy what is right for you.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading and commenting.I'm glad if you found something of value here.

    • rocknrollcowboy profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Great info. We started buying quality items a couple yrs ago and went from laminate furniture to real wood thanks to Craigslist! Great HUB, Thanks for the advice.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for your observations.I guess I could add what a computer engineer told me about when you should replace a computer. He said when it no longer does what you need it to do.Therefore I never buy another computer unless what I have becomes entirely obsolete. Windows is at leat two genrations ahead of me.

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      One of my favourite pieces of kitchen equipment is a plastic orange juice squeezer. It came 'for free' in a box of detergent about 35 years ago. It is really too small for squeezing oranges, but is just perfect for squeezing lemons. As I don't squeeze lemons very often (maybe some cake recipes) it doesn't matter that it is not very sturdy.

      When I bought an electric mixer I did some research and chose the one with the most reliable motor. I like to batch bake so I knew I needed a strong mixer. It certainly was not cheap, but it is still as good as the day I bought it.

      So I agree - the right thing for the job (and the frequency) is more important than price.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading. I wish I still had the book I learned this from.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Price does not always determine quality. You offer good advice here.

    • profile image

      Vern Borth 

      9 years ago

      Good advice, Don!


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