Quality Control

One of the truisms my role model, my long departed maternal grandfather, taught me, “You get what you pay for,” seems to have expired. When I was younger, I never wondered if what I’d purchased would last or was defective. I bought quality, not junk, and for the little extra I paid, I was rewarded with peace of mind.

Not any more.

Are any of you annoyed by the apparent absence of quality control in the products you buy? It was bad enough when, several decades ago, industry introduced the concept of “planned obsolescence.” Something you purchased—a car, for example, or a washing machine—had a built-in life expectancy. In most instances, the item in question would function perfectly right up to the moment the warranty expired, then it would fail. It was annoying, but washing machines and automobiles could be repaired, then run without issue for the next, say, year or two… or ten.

Certain issues were even funny. Take water heaters. Water heaters come in two varieties: those with a five year warranty and those with ten. One day, a plumber friend let me in on the joke. The difference in price between the two was exactly the same as the pro rata amount you would have to pay to replace one five year tank with a second five year tank if the first failed early. The joke was this: there was no difference whatsoever between the five and ten year models. None. The ten year tank is the five year tank. When you purchased the ten year warrantee, you were buying a five year tank but paying the replacement cost up front. If, however, you purchased a five year water heater and it lasted ten years—highly likely—you had saved yourself the difference with a laugh on the manufacturer, to boot.

These days, the issue of planned obsolescence pales in the face of the increasingly high percentage of faulty products the manufacturers produce. I recently purchased a Garmin GPS that crashed thrice on the Santa Fe, Denver round trip. Not something you want to reset while you’re driving. I returned it and was told I couldn’t exchange it. It had been replaced with a more expensive version because it crashed too often. Instead, I took a refund.

Last year my wife and I purchased a Cuisinart double toaster. When straight from the box, one side didn’t work, we made the hundred twenty mile round trip to Macy’s in Albuquerque and brought home a replacement. While it’s noticeably better, one of the four slots toasts poorly on one side and less still on the other. Another round trip? I don’t think so.

My Canon EOS Rebel 35mm digital camera failed once under warrantee. Although the repairs were covered, I was without it for six full weeks. The second time it failed—in the exact same manner I might add—the warrantee had expired and the repairs cost half what a new one would set me back. once the fresh-from-the-factory issues are resolved, run perfectly ever after.

The point I’m making is this: Why are we being increasingly subjected to faulty goods? As far as we’ve come technologically, why can’t manufacturers produce something solid right out of the chute? Every time?



13 responses to “Quality Control

  1. BTW: the odd last sentence, “once the fresh-from-the-factory issues are resolved, run perfectly ever after,” in the next to last paragraph was from another paragraph I thought I’d deleted before sending it in. Ah, me.

  2. Hi Raymond!
    In answer to your question — because people’s tastes change. Nobody wants the same thing for years, and sometimes tastes change even faster than that. We are constantly looking for faster, stronger, smaller, more light-weight, etc., especially where technology is concerned.

    Just look to Apple as an example. They come up with improvements almost every 8 months in some of their products. It doesn’t mean we have to buy them, but many do just to keep up with the trends. I’d say it’s not all that different with cameras.


    • My issue is not so much planned obsolescence. You’re right. Except for something like the good old Maytag washers & dryers—that company is no longer what it was—people do turn things over with some frequency. My problem is that today when I buy something, I expect it to fail right out of the box.

    • As for cameras, if I was ready to buy a new, improved model, that would be one thing. It’s having it fail again and again at great expense when it should be working perfectly. Right now, it’s fourteen months new.

  3. Eden is right, but not all things need to be replaced because of technology improvements or style concerns. We have been buying less, buying better quality and spending a little more up from for many things. We like to avoid the cheap foreign-made stuff one would see at the big box store that begins wih the letter “W”. Example: wife can kill a decent vacuum in 2-3 years (she is a serious vacuumer!). She decided to spend about twice as much for a Dyson and it has been going strong for 7+ years. We save money, save having to add to the landfill, and are overall happier with the product.

  4. I think it’s all a scam. Most of what we buy now, your grandfather would have refused right out of the gate. A lot of what we buy is made in a third world country sweat shops. How can the boys at the top make money if they sell you a camera, washing machine or water heater that lasts for ever. Like I said, I think it’s a scam and we are the pigeons! 😉

    Good post, Raymond.

  5. I’ve learned never to return something that is defective without also calling the manufacturer and lodging a complaint with them directly. I figure if enough people call the manufacturer and complain, maybe they’ll eventually get it through their heads that they need to step up their game.

  6. *laughs* Yikes, Ray, sounds like you have really bad luck!

    I don’t seem to have the same problem. *winks* I had an electric toaster oven that lasted for more years than I can remember. My first car got in a wreck and still was driven into the ground by my old roommate before she sold it. Most of my electronic and tech devices last longer than anticipated.

    Though that might be part of the issue. 😀 I expect things like my laptop to stop working as well after a few years given all the abuse I put it through.

    • My first computer, a Macintosh SE, lasted 11 years, albeit with multiple upgrades and I transported it daily from work to home and back. All of my laptops get transported similarly and get dumped only because they become obsolete, so my luck isn’t all crappy. But as you can see from Wally and Ana’s comments, it’s not all me. And I think Wally and I both grew up in a time when buying quality really meant more than getting a lot of spiffy bells and whistles for the buck. Younger people have grown up with lower expectations, so expect a shorter product life. That’s probably a good thing for you. You won’t stress where we will. 😉

    • BTW, “yikes” is a really cool—kewl?—word I don’t hear often enough. Probably like “spiffy.”

  7. I agree. We just bought a washer and dryer. We decided to really go upscale, because we wanted it to last. Bought a beautiful set…and the day it was delivered, the soap dispenser didn’t work right. I was a bit “upset” and called the dealer to ask for a replacement. “We can’t replace a brand new washer” the saleswoman said. “But, it doesn’t work” I replied. Yes, imagine that for $4000.00, I expected the set to work right as soon as it was delivered to our house.
    It took 2 repairman visits and finally things are working, but I’m with you Raymond. So many manufacturers only care about selling, not customer service. And honestly — good customer service is ALL you can sell to me.

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