If you attach the word ‘quality’ to something, what does that really mean?  It may be of limited quantity, it is probably more expensive than other similar items, and it is considered ‘better’ than the other items. It may be made of rare components, it may be made following a patented formula, and it probably isn’t easy to replicate exactly.

All of which may well be true, but it gets murky when we try to define quality without being subjective. Even saying it is more expensive than other similar items carries an element of subjective decision-making. What is expensive to me may not be expensive to you.

Knowing your personal definition of quality will help you save money when you are purchasing for your home. Or shopping for a new car, or getting a dress hemmed, or buying a backpack, or a sewing machine. The money saved will not necessarily be just in the purchase price, but you may save money as you use the item.

My definition of quality is this ‘Providing a product or service which meets and/or exceeds the needs of the customer’. Well, that’s pretty dull, isn’t it?. But I believe it’s dead right.

Here’s the backstory: Ford used to have a slogan ‘Quality is Job One’. We, out here in the world, believed that meant that they made the biggest trucks and the prettiest cars, often with the largest price tag.

But we were not privy to what it really meant. They adhered to the ‘Quality Initiative’, a business model which defined quality as I just did ( it’s where I got my definition). It included the idea that if you do not provide a ‘quality’ item, the dollar cost to the producer, and the consumer, can be measured. This was labeled ‘non-compliance’. And the whole idea is to produce items that make money, not cost money.

How does this help a homeowner?  You find some blinds at a terrific price in a retail store and buy them. After a few weeks, they stop going up on one side.

How does this get fixed? You take them down and take them back to the store. The clerk takes the time to accept the return ( hopefully) and refunds the price. Their profit is impacted. The blinds get sent back to the supplier and THEIR profit is impacted. It doesn’t stop there, but this is the simple version. Every step along the way costs actual dollars.

You now have to spend more time finding new blinds, having them installed, and probably paying more for the second set because of your experience with the first. While you may not think your time is worth anything, but it is. If you had to drive your car, it costs you money. If you had to pay for parking, or take an extra hour off at lunch, or pay the sitter extra, it costs you money. Bank charges?

What it cost the store can be calculated too. The clerk’s time, the storage costs, shipping preparation, and cost. And lost profit.

I was able to attend a week-long training program on the Quality Initiative, and the model has stayed with me.  It has become second nature to me, and when I hear someone saying, ‘Well, I thought it was a quality thing, but it just fell apart after four months’, I have to suppress the urge to expound…

The next time you decide to buy a product, take a few minutes and define what the product needs to do for you and your home, and then buy according to that.  (Remember ‘best’?) Stick to your guns. It will cost you less in the long run.

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