Once in a while it’s nice to know that I am not going entirely mad. In last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Karen von Hahn wrote a wonderful article entitled “Purveyors of tat beware: Consumers are onto you”, celebrating the return to a consciousness for quality products in our society.
Why do I fear impending madness? Well, as one of the lone producers of high end (mostly Made in Europe) fabric care and steam cleaning products, our price points are sometimes two, three, four or even five times higher than the typical big box stores. Compare a home ironing board at one of the big box stores for $29.95 to our Made in Italy C60 (The Board™) for $149.00 and you’ll see what I mean. The Board™ is a thing of beauty though. We continue to make our ironing boards mostly by hand, and it has a solidness that is from another era. Still, for most people, the thought of spending that much for an ironing board when the alternatives are so cheap is an almost impossible hurtle.
But as Ms. Hahn writes, “we all grew up with the old adage that I am not rich enough to buy cheap”. Yes our version of an ironing board costs five times more, but it will probably last five times longer. Maybe even a lifetime.
There are times when I really believe there are only a handful of consumers left who appreciates quality. Of course we could produce a $29.95 ironing board as well. But honestly, why even bother? Ms. Hahn directs her readers to a Finnish design company called iittala, who’s website laments our “buy cheap” society in a doctrine they call “Against throwawayism“. It seems there are others out there that understand that “cheap” doesn’t always mean it costs less.
But this poses another good question, and that is, “how do you determine quality”. “Brand, Price”? Tricky stuff to be sure. I can’t say I really know the answer. Many of us have bought expensive items and been disappointed, I know I have.
The high level of marketing has made it almost impossible to know which brands to trust. As a manufacturer, I know we are only as good as our product quality. I hear of 10-20% returns for defective or deficient merchandise at mass retail and I shake my head in disbelief. I wonder if this can be sustainable Maybe the bigger question is should it be sustainable?