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Old 02-20-2009, 07:32 PM   #41
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I think that is selective memory.
What he said! (Excellent response.)
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Old 02-20-2009, 07:39 PM   #42
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I like Quality. I think in the long term it is cheaper. I wanted other opinions on this matter.
I like Quality too. Sometimes it is cheaper in the long run, but not always. So, I can't tell myself it's cheaper in the long term for everything I buy. I also believe that quality items are not always appropriate for every task. Towels I use to dry the dog off after a romp in the mud come to mind.

However, I find that when I get what I really want (and only what I really want), I'm happier with my purchase and feel that I've received value for the money spent. This is important to me.




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We have become a buy cheap wally world throw away when it breaks society! We need to go back to appreciating quality and get out of this short term mentality. It's hurting American workers and I honestly believe that it is not good for us as consumers!
I agree that a disposable mentality is having significant repercussions on our environmental and social lives. I think that going "back to appreciating quality" is not as simple as it appears, in large part because what makes something quality (durability, longevity, repairability, low obsolescence rate) is harder to gauge than it used to be. I can easily inspect a bureau or set of bunk beds for sound construction, well-chosen materials and properly applied finishes. But the inner workings of my laptop? My LCD? My light fixtures? Not so much.

I compromise by setting a higher quality standard for the things I can assess myself (pottery, fabrics, furniture, art, foodstuffs, community) and let Consumer Reports (and others ) give me their recommendations on the stuff I can't get a handle on in other ways.

Finally, I find brand names for appliances nearly useless, now. Walt34 had a horrible experience with a Kenmore, but we've got a Kenmore washer and dryer that have seen heavy use for close to 13 years and are still going strong, with no repairs needed. So my Kenmore was Quality; Walt34s was not. How can we tell the difference in the showroom?
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:14 AM   #43
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Very interesting thread, as it speaks to a debate my husband and I sometimes enjoy having.

We side with the "things aren't as well made as they used to be" crowd, though we agree with those who pointed out that cars and some other items are now engineered to last longer and function better, even though made with cheaper materials.

For us, the "perfect" clothing, appliance, car, furniture, what have you, is the one that maximizes functionality, durability, aesthetics (if warranted), and cost. Sometimes, to make the "equation" work, I'll sew a clothing item from scratch, or we'll refinish and decorate furniture from a thrift store. But sometimes, we just gotta unlimber the old credit card and let loose! (Paid off at end of month, of course!)

To the OP, I say if that purse has made you happy for 20 years, and you didn't deprive yourself to spend the $$, it was worth it, good for you. I used to love Coach bags, but they got ruined so fast at work that I bought a homely Magellan travel purse (which wears like iron) which I have carried, dragged, dropped, spilled stuff on, and stained with pens that come open by accident, for 8 years.
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Old 02-22-2009, 03:05 PM   #44
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I think that is selective memory.

Remember having to change the points and plugs on a car every 10,000 miles? Hope it starts in the winter if you can finagle the "choke" just right and not "flood" it (terms our kids do not even know)? Took a picture of the odometer when it hit 100,000? Common nowadays, with little maintenance and 1/1000th the pollution due to ECM and catalytic converters.

Remember floppy disks that would lose your paltry amount of data on a pretty regular basis? Now a 4GB thumb drive is $12, and I've never had one fail.

Remember having to adjust the Horizontal and Vertical on the TV, and slowly adjust the tuning knob on your radio to bring in the station? Now, just push a button and it is locked on.

Remember "mouse balls" gumming up with lint and dirt and skipping? Now they are all optical tracking.

And it's not just high tech stuff- I re-sided the back of my house with cement-board siding. Rot proof, insect-proof, holds paint 4x longer than wood, doesn't crack, knots don't fall out, the woodpeckers ignore it, hail won't damage it, and it looks great.

Yeah, rare.

-ERD50
Couldn't agree more. I would not want to go back to the "good old days" for any of the above. Excellent point.

What I am having trouble articulating is a certain beauty of mechanism design that can be thougt of as a blending of art and functionality. Someone mentioned the book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance earlier in the thread. This book discusses the concept.

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Old 02-22-2009, 03:52 PM   #45
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Near my office there is a fountain pen store. I went in to look one time. These things are made to last forever (possibly literally) and the quality of workmanship and materials is unbelievable in the finer ones. Yet, I cannot imagine wanting to buy one instead of a box of cheap ball point pens. True that in a hundred years my grandchildren will not have any of these pens to pass on to their grandchildren. But a basic functional writing instrument will have served us just as well in the meantime, especially considering the risk of loss through misplacing the thing (common with pens). If I get a great urge to practice calligraphy, I can indulge in less expensive art sets.

Maybe that's similar reasoning for me with watches. I know some people enjoy very fine watches, but I find I tend to bang my wrist into things, scrape against hard objects, occasionally get messy and need to wash off. I'd rather have a functional but basic timepiece, than a top quality one. When I do eventually manage to damage one to the point of needing a replacement, I can purchase a similar functional but not too expensive one. Something rugged enough to stand up to the expected rigors I put it through is too expensive - and too much risk of loss through accident or theft, to be worth it to me.

I think I'm really looking for the degree of quality that matches my intended use. For dining room furniture that I expect to keep for my lifetime, I do look for good workmanship and quality. For kids room furniture that I expect to suffer crayon, jumping on the bed, loose dog, and other damage I want something serviceable and able to last about 18 years at most.
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Old 02-22-2009, 06:09 PM   #46
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What I am having trouble articulating is a certain beauty of mechanism design that can be thougt of as a blending of art and functionality.
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Well, I think they are out there, but you have to search them out. By definition, they don't appeal to the masses, so no mass advertising, etc.

It's a bit of a pendulum sometimes. For example, in the 70's and 80's there was almost no real high quality beer being offered. Everything was mega-corp-mega-swill, bland tasteless fizzy yellow stuff.

Now, I can go to a local liquor store and find many offerings of true craft-brewed beer. Porters, stouts, American hoppy ales, English bitters, an amazing variety.

Or I can but green coffee beans, varietals from around the world, Hawaiian, Jamaican, Indonesian, Central a & South American, and roast them myself to the degree that suits me. I don't recall those being available in the 70's.

In many ways, I think we are better off, but you might need to work harder to find them.

-ERD50
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Old 02-22-2009, 06:27 PM   #47
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Near my office there is a fountain pen store. I went in to look one time. These things are made to last forever (possibly literally) and the quality of workmanship and materials is unbelievable in the finer ones....
One of my favorite possessions is a Waterman ball point pen that SO found. The grip and balance is out-of-this-world. It would be horrifying to lose it. Oh, wait! Love that pen.
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Old 02-22-2009, 07:53 PM   #48
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Couldn't agree more. I would not want to go back to the "good old days" for any of the above. Excellent point.

What I am having trouble articulating is a certain beauty of mechanism design that can be thougt of as a blending of art and functionality. Someone mentioned the book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance earlier in the thread. This book discusses the concept.

Free
I haven't thought of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in decades. I believe I read the book three times before I was in my early 20s. It did have some important things to say about quality. I think is never been common to find things which are highly functional and with atheistic beauty. Steve Jobs and Apple seem to have the magic formula.

I do wonder why so many people view memories of old places and things with a rose colored filter. Just a quick glance around the house and I see significant improvements in everyday objects, from refrigerators that consume less energy and have adjustable shelves, icemakers, and different temperature setting for different areas, to Velcro on lots objects, cordless drills, Swiffers, longer lasting paints that don't fade in sun. All these things are much better (at least more functional) than stuff made 25 years ago.

I had an discussion with friend about new vs old movie. My friend in her early 70s say that the movies from the 40s and 50s were better, I disagreed. This week I was helping my 83 year old mom with Netflix, and I was suggesting some old classic movies. She surprised me by saying that while they have rented a number of old movies they weren't nearly as good as she remembered them! Good for mom.

I was reading an essay in Newsweek (IIRC) and the author was lamenting that because of computers, people design things be the bridges or financial product, with much smaller margins of errors. He was marveling that driving through Europe you see lots of bridge still functioning after a 1,000 years. Roman architects over engineered things and so there system was more resilient to shocks and stress. In contrast to America where bridges fall into rivers. A nice romantic notion and of course the author applied it to our financial systems, if only there was more slack (e.g. less leverage) things would have turned out better.

IMO there are couple fallacies with this way of thinking . First there is huge amount of survivor bias in our memories, we remember the beautiful Grand Turino that ran great for 200,000 miles but forget the Chevy Vega that died after 12,000. Similarly I doubt there is a book on Roman Bridge failures 100 BC To 600 AD, even if I am wrong, nobody using these bridge has ever read it. Second there is huge opportunity cost to make high quality objects, thousands of peasant toiled very hard build a Roman bridge that would last 2,000 years, but wouldn't have some of that effort been better spent letting the peasants build a school, or a better home for themselves? Would bridge that only last two hundred years while allowing peasant to have better homes been a better trade off for Roman society? While I admire the craftsmanship of a Swiss watchmaker who can make a watch that will last 100 year and keep time within a few seconds a years, I'll note that neither of my dad's Rolex lasted much beyond 10 years. From a strictly functional aspect my $15 Casio is superior in every respect. Isn't a lot of the effort the watch makers expended in making these things forever, basically wasted.

Of course, there is a little doubt that Walmart effect has resulted in too much cost cutting. I purchased a blender three months ago, it seemed lighter and less sturdy than my roommates previous one. Today while using it the plastic ring which you screw onto the glass container shatter in the middle of my smoothie. Beside ruining in the smoothie it created a mess, the fraction of penny in cost saving is clearly lost in the customer service cost and ill will. (It was an Oyster brand...)
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Old 02-22-2009, 08:59 PM   #49
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Oster is a reputable brand of small kitchen appliances. If what you had was really an Oyster, then not only was it substandard in quality, they may have been trying to take advantage of confusion with a reputable brand name. Brands that are very close to the names of reputable brands are usually substandard on purpose, and should be avoided whenever possible.
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Old 02-22-2009, 09:05 PM   #50
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clifp, there is an old adage that goes something like:

Anyone can build a bridge that won't fall down. It takes some exceptional engineering to build a bridge with just enough material so that is barely stands, but does stand.

And you are 100% right. The extra effort expended making the bridge stronger than required could have been utilized for something worth while. Opportunity cost.

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Old 02-23-2009, 02:33 AM   #51
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clifp, there is an old adage that goes something like:

Anyone can build a bridge that won't fall down. It takes some exceptional engineering to build a bridge with just enough material so that is barely stands, but does stand.

And you are 100% right. The extra effort expended making the bridge stronger than required could have been utilized for something worth while. Opportunity cost.

-ERD50
Haha I used to win these bridge building competitions against a bunch of civil engineers. We had a program that would simulate the stresses and whatnot as a train drove across it. The goal was to use as little material as possible. I always ended up with a cheap barely stuck together bridge that would collapse as the train crossed and in some cases and up swinging the train to the other side before destroying it's self.

I viewed a standing bridge as an engineering failure.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:11 AM   #52
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Bridge building competitions. I won our undergrad engineering bridge building competition. The winner was to be determined by the maximum weight held relative to the weight of the bridge. I don't recall the exact constraints, but you could only use wood and certain types of glues and epoxies. We kept working and working on our design and it just wasn't coming together well. We were in the student lounge of an old building, and it was getting hot, so I propped open the window with an old 2x4. That's when it hit me: Occam's Razor. That old 2x4 was petrified from old age apparently and was super strong based on our initial tests. And extremely dry, so lightweight as well.

We entered this old 2x4 in the competition and after they loaded it up with about 1,500 pounds, their loading machine broke. They declared ours the winner based on the load to weight ratio. We had written "Occam's Razor" on the side too.
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:34 PM   #53
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Or I can but green coffee beans, varietals from around the world, Hawaiian, Jamaican, Indonesian, Central a & South American, and roast them myself to the degree that suits me. I don't recall those being available in the 70's.
-ERD50
There was a coffee roaster in The Seattle Public Market in the 60s that sold green beans. I think this was the prototype store for Starbucks.

I used to roast my own beans, grind my own wheat, all kinds of tedious hippie chores.

I would way rather walk into any one of 20 or so neighborhood coffee bars and get something even better. Though I did keep myself pretty well caffeinated with those home roasted beans.

One thing that maybe should go into this quality debate is the freedom that comes from having stuff that you can offload on Craig's list quickly, and replace just as quickly (and cheaply) if you move. It is not hard to get burdened by stuff that is too good to pitch out. And as far as your children or grandchildren wanting or using any of it- unless it's gold coins don't hold your breath.

I definitely understand the appeal of Shaker furniture, good Persian rugs, Creuset Cookware- but those things also have a downside.

Ha
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Old 02-23-2009, 09:15 PM   #54
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I used to roast my own beans, grind my own wheat, all kinds of tedious hippie chores.

I would way rather walk into any one of 20 or so neighborhood coffee bars and get something even better. Though I did keep myself pretty well caffeinated with those home roasted beans.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to the time the gov't realizes the huge tax base out there, and I won't have to roll my own anymore.
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