Quality Control Quagmire

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Quality Control Quagmire
By Debby Eisenman

In today’s fast-paced world and disposable society, we have come to accept lower standards in the quality of merchandise. Most of today’s items are not made to last. Shoemakers are a dying breed, since many shoes are so cheaply made that they are tossed as soon as they show signs of wear. Cell phones and computers, almost obsolete as soon as they are purchased, hit the scrap pile as soon as technology renders them out-of-date. Seams on sweaters and shirts fray and unravel after little wear. Shoddy workmanship exists because our society is of a throw-away-and-buy-new mentality.
We accept a lot of inefficiency these days, but two frustrating incidents in two days have exceeded this writer’s level of toleration. Yesterday we had to return a large family-size package of cube steaks to one grocery store in town since we discovered upon opening the package that sections on some of the steaks were an unappetizing shade of gray. This meant a sudden menu change for dinner last night and the time and gas to go back to the store. At least the store was in town, so there was no major disruption in our schedule. We figured, “win some, lose some,” took our refund which the store made with no problem, and went on our way.
Last week we purchased a queen size sheet and pillow case set at a large mall department store in a nearby city, along with an extra set of pillowcases. They remained unopened until this morning when I decided to strip the bed of the old sheets and put the new ones on. First, I decided to launder them to rid them of any sizing which might bother my allergies. The washing machine and dryer began running at 7:30 a.m. filled with alternate loads of the old and new bedding.
Finally, when all the new ones were dried, I put the new pillowcases on and attempted to put on the bottom fitted sheet. No matter which way I rotated it, the sheet would not fit. Even allowing for shrinkage, it was far too little for the queen size bed. Upon examination of the tag, I discovered the reason why—it was a full size sheet and not a queen size. Bear in mind that both sheets and the two pillowcases were packaged all in one parcel clearly marked queen sheet set.

What to do? Everything has to go back—not just the one wrong sheet, since they were all in a set. The second set of pillowcases also must go just in case the color and style is not longer in stock. What does this mean? Only another round trip to the store at great inconvenience. More gas, more time. My aggravation level increased further as I attempted to squeeze the items back into their original packaging which proved to be impossible. They sit now, folded and ready for a trip back to the store as soon as we are able. A good part of the morning was gone before the bed was remade with the cleaned older sheets, and I was ready to call it a day.
Frustrated and exasperated, we began to reflect on similar past experiences. There was the brand new coffee maker we purchased from one of the big box stores in another nearby city. It was not only hard to assemble, but had poorly written instructions and illustrations. Whatever water we poured in the well to make coffee would leak out immediately, all over everything. We returned it, and are drinking instant coffee until we get up the courage to try again.
Several months ago, we purchased a Pro-Form XP exercise bike from another big box store located in that same city. Due to the weight and complexity of the mechanism, costs for movers and a technician to assemble it on our premises were included in the invoice and a delivery time was scheduled. That process did not go smoothly, and phone lines buzzed between our home and the store on delivery day. Shortly after the technician left, we discovered that the handlebars had been put on backward. A month later a foot pedal fell off, and we discovered that it had been assembled facing the wrong way also. Luckily, we had a service contract, or we would have been left out to dry.

Quality means a degree or grade of excellence, whether it is in the relative goodness or in the high quality grade of an item or the essential character of someone or something. We should hold people to high standards. Why should we settle for less? If we continue to accept mediocrity without an outcry, then are we mediocre? Think about it.


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