Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A short thought on quality.

Since I am approaching "things" from a more minimalist point of view, I am thinking about products and quality and prices a lot. Basically I am thinking about the "price-performance ratio".

I ask: What determines the price of a product? Which factors influence the quality?

Every step of making a product that in the end we (the consumer) can buy includes cost. Think about a T-Shirt. How many thoughts, steps and people are involved!

It starts with someone thinking about the product. Then the design/cut and the material(s). And deciding on them. I bet there's an awful lot of people involved there. From the "Can we sell this?" to the "yes, let's do this". Then those materials have to be produced. That takes raw materials (e.g. cotton, that has to be grown somewhere and harvested somewhere by people). And then made into fabric. By machines. And people. Then this fabric will have to be treated (dyed and whatever else). And then cut and sewn together, maybe embellished. By machines. And people. And then sold to sellers and more sellers, think about how many midlle-men there may be...  until the product finally reaches the market. But before that, the people that want to sell it, have to decide on the price of the product. Not only supply and demand but also other factors influence price. And then also the consumer has to be informed that this product exists and why it should be bought. Marketing is a huge thing. And how many people will acutally buy it at what price? And will they buy again? And when?

In reality the whole thing is a LOT more complex, this is just to illustrate that the quality and the price of a product is influenced by an awful lot of factors. But what I am interested in most, of course, is the quality and how long it will last me. A knife that is very sharp in the beginning (or maybe not even that...) but is blunt after 4 times of using it, is not what I want. So where to start?

My husband simply says "You get what you pay for". Works for everything. ;)

It seems, that most people prefer "cheap and cheerful" to lasting quality. If you buy something you only intend to wear once in a dark nightclub, that probably doesn't matter, but if you want e.g. a kitchen machine that you need frequently you better get quality. In fact, products are available in all sorts of different qualities and prices. You get the ones that just make the 2 years warranty. And then the little cogs are broken. Because they are plastic and not metal. Or the electrical contacts are bad from corrosion, because the whole item isn't that well protected agains humidity. There has been the long-lasting discussion about the predetermined breakingpoint. But i don't think that it is an active "breaking point" so much. I think products don't last as long as they could, because we are also not willing to spend the amount needed on them. If a company produces a product that lasts forever and has been carefully designed and then sells it for next to nothing (which won't cover for their costs) - they'll go bankrupt in no time. Common sense. :) So either they sell it at the price it is worth (but won't sell many probably) or they produce a product that is not quite as durable, not quite as perfect. Or maybe they offer both. The high-end version and the budget version. But those two machines might look nearly the same. But there are no give-aways in economy. You always get exactly what you pay for. Planned Obsolescence

My experience with cheap products is: They don't last. So I have to buy a new one. And then spend more than I would have had if I had bought the better quality in the first place. Especially if you want to own less items (e.g. kitchen tools, or clothing, shoes) it is money well spent on quality, because the products perform better. The suit will fit better and will be made from better materials and thus look better. And won't loose it's shape. The kitchen machine will function better and not break immediately only because you like to make a lot of heavy pizza dough. A lot.

A key to thinking here is again the question: "Do I really need this"? 

The topic is not "conscious consumption" or "lifestyle of health and sustainability". Because that's just another marketing strategy. It is not about how to consume, it is about consuming less. And just on the side: I don't do "organic". A real quality product doesn't need an "organic" stamp. I also prefer local producers (so don't tell me about you "organic" bananas from a hyper-market). :) For food and for machines alike I think it is best to look around where you live. As for clothes, I am trying to be my own local producer. :) And I am growing some basil. Keep it simple. :)

PS: I hate the immediate obsolescence of computers, smartphones and tablets. Don't get me started on that.

PPS: Our coffee-machine just broke. It is a very sad day for our household. My husband is feeling particularly sad about it. We are replacing it with a french press coffee maker.

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