30 Oct Quality Forever!
When I was a kid I vividly remember watching my four older sisters shop and consume like people possessed. They would seek out discount depots and bargain basements and drive for hours all over our city to chase any cheap stuff they could get their hands on. Half the time they didn’t even plan to use what they bought which confused and frustrated me. After their frenzied shopping my parents and I endured stories about the huge amounts of money saved. On one occasion, one of them purchased 6 singing/dancing Santa dolls because they were ‘only $10 each!’ Every family member was presented with a life-sized Santa and asked to pay for the amazing new toy purchased on our behalf. Compulsive buying was often confused with generosity in our family.
Later when my sisters moved into their own homes their consumption habits went with them. Now they had new spaces to fill and homes quickly overflowed with new clothes, kitchenware, furniture, toys, gadgets, ornaments, trinkets and huge amounts of plastic. The talk at family BBQ’s continued along the same lines – where to get the cheapest and how much money was saved with this spending. There must have been a conscious decision to shop this way. Fast fashion, poor materials and goods made with cheap labour seemed always to amuse them.
Over the years I’ve thought about all this. To me the need to accumulate masses of possessions is, at least, irresponsible at worst, an addiction. Some people recover, others do not. In many cases there are probably deep seated psychological issues but I’ll leave that to the hoarding experts and psychologists – it’s too messy for me. Boom–tish!
I’m not sure why I wasn’t hit with the same drive to buy masses of cheap junk. I guess I just wasn’t really interested in accumulating poor quality possessions. At the time I was probably more interested in riding my sturdy BMX bike around the neighborhood and hanging with friends.
When I got my first job and started earning, I became even more aware that I wasn’t driven by the same motivations as my sisters. I was always drawn to quality brands and things that were made well. If something broke or didn’t perform as promised I got really frustrated and made a promise to myself not to buy that brand again. Today I tell my family and friends endless stories about products I bought decades ago that are still performing as well as the day I purchased them. My wife can attest to the story of my favorite grey Adidas hoodie that still holds it shape after 32 years. Do they make stuff like this anymore? I’m pleased to say that my attitude hasn’t changed – I feel the same today about quality products and brands with integrity.
Being in engineering workshops for over 30 years has reinforced my attitude to quality. It’s the reason I’m doing what I do today. I have this nagging voice in the back of my head asking me if I’m doing things the right way, if I’m using the right materials, if it’s going to produce the best possible outcome. I’ve had many opportunities to take short cuts or find cheap solutions but I’m proud to say that I’ve opted for the quality path because I knew what the alternative would mean. I’m not saying I always achieved perfection but I always worked towards a quality outcome. Sometimes this has meant that I didn’t reach a goal in time, that shipments were late or that tempers were frayed but I’m still pleased I chose the path to quality. I did then, and still do know what I want to achieve.
Looking beyond my own family I’m delighted to see big changes in consumer spending and behaviour as more people realise the true impact of their spending. It’s heartening to see online communities across the globe encouraging each other to spend wisely and choose brands that care for workers and the environment.
I haven’t forgotten the dancing Santa which broke so easily – as they were designed to do – but I’m grateful to have developed, because of them, an understanding of the need for quality in products and to have made the decision to embrace quality in all parts of my life.