The Price of Quality

“The world has changed from quality to quantity, and so have we.”Santosh Kalwar

Each month, as I entertain topics to write about, there is usually an idea or concept in the depths of my mind that breaks free and surfaces as conscious thought. As if to validate that I’m on the right track, the universe becomes a collaborator, laying out examples all around me.

This month quality is really on my mind. I am sorry to say, like manners and good conversation, it is a rare commodity these days. Slowly, and without anyone noticing, we have become a world full of mediocrity.

Think of the last time you had a helpful sales clerk, or got something that exceeded your expectations. And why exactly do we need dollar and mega stores filled with unending rows of needless crap? Or multi-acred supermarkets, whose healthy food choices couldn’t even fill 2 aisles. Our world has become so inundated with a mass produced, flavor of the day, here today and gone tomorrow, get it cheaper mentality that we’ve forgotten that quantity comes at the cost of precious quality.

What defines quality? The irony is that it’s hard to quantify, but when you see it, you know it. It somehow stands out above that sea of mediocrity and looks, tastes, feels or acts different. Quality is not whim, nor is it transient. It cannot be rushed, nor is it hastily tired of. It is borne of inspiration and preparation and executed with experience and skill. Quality means that someone set out to do a better job and succeeded. Being of high quality, as a product or a person, is high praise becoming a standard by which all are measured.

Quality is a reflection of what we think about ourselves. To see quality says we have value, to see quantity says we are fleeting and insignificant.

Surrounding ourselves with things of quality is not a matter of status or wealth. Rather, it is a way of establishing value in our selves and in our world. Becoming aware of how different we feel in the presence of quality makes us strive for it. When standards are high we tend to rise to the occasion, bringing out the highest versions of ourselves. When standards are low, we too follow.

Quality is not something available only to the very wealthy, but it does come at higher cost. When outwardly looking at two similar items it may not be readily apparent why one is $20 and the other is $100.00. I experience this in the interior design world all the time. I present a design product or concept and within seconds a cheaper version is pulled up on the web leaving me to explain how the two have nothing in common. Quality comes with a backstory that is not always visible. Prices are influenced by quality of materials, time devoted to product design and testing, skill of labor, care in manufacturing, attention to customer service, etc. When the cheaper option falls apart in half the time, where is it’s value?

The same is true of using quality professionals. A seasoned designer, contractor or engineer commands higher prices because of the education and expertise they bring to a project. They think of all the probable pitfalls before they happen and know how to remedy them if they do. Often, the amount of collaboration, forethought and discipline required to complete a successful project is not evident until the end product is completed. While it may seem a huge expense on the front end, it’s nothing compared to the cost of having costly mistakes fixed on the back end.

I believe it actually costs more when we disregard quality in our decision making process. In fact, lower quality products aren’t more economical because they need more frequent replacement, which depletes resources and causes increased waste issues. From that standpoint alone buying goods of higher quality becomes our civic duty.

Lowering the qualities we look for in a job, a friend or a mate can have negative or irreversible impact on our lives and futures. Demanding quality increases our chances of stability, security and longevity and contributes to an increased quality of life.

While quality may be harder to find and take a little longer to acquire, it is never regretted once attained. When it becomes part of our lives we seek it out in everything from our food to our friends. Understanding value in all its forms gives us a unit of measure, making it easier to identify and eliminate the things we don’t need. A life built around quality is a rich life indeed.