Thursday, May 17, 2012

Choosing Quality

Voila, feast your eyes on the completed instrument panel of Phoenix.

Instrument panel of our Hans Christian 33, including engine hours, engine temperature, oil pressure and the control panel to our Raymarine autosteering.

The micro-work of fitting out Phoenix has been a fascinating reflection of macro-scale transformations within America and the world.

Most items we have bought, whether it be a part or a tool, has been defective. There are the 12V outlets which were  manufactured with a grove on the wrong side. How did they end up on the shelf at West Marine? I’ve ran a manufacturing plant, so I know the answer. You are informed by the floor (if they even dare tell you) that you have a batch of 10,000 pieces that are wrong. Do you ship or scrap? It takes a lot of guts to scrap that shipment. After all, it’s just a small groove that’s on the wrong side. Maybe the end-user (that’s you and me) can file the groove on the other side? What if the shipment were 200,000 pieces?

Then there were the “lifetime guaranteed” tools from Sears. A thin skin of chrome was flaking off the steel sockets. And another ratchet wench didn’t work. When we went to replace the wrench, the others on the shelf didn’t work either. We know what decision was made by the Chinese manufacturer when it came to “ship or scrap.”

I’ve been able to experience the degradation of stainless steel. Steel fixtures that were original to Dolphins in the 80s looked nice and shiny after the transatlantic passage, but the new self-steering mechanism made of stainless steel was tinged with rust all over.

Batches of bad screws, electrical equipment that had to be returned, and unintelligible instructions that appeared to be translated three times before being rendered into a series of somewhat relevant words.

While most equipment and supplies are deteriorating in quality, other items of high quality are simply no longer made. ABI was a company that produced high-end bronze and brass, traditional boat fixtures. They no longer exist. We have been trying to find bronze parts to our Hans Christian, but they simply no longer exist.

All of this has made us almost more insistent on finding quality parts and spending money on them. We find small, independent merchants, selling odd and unique items. Like this first aid box:

Great looking first aid box.

It is a great design. Heavy metal. And it is being sold by a small shop trying to deal in just unique and interesting goods: The Curiosity Shoppe.

We have all stood in the store and chosen the cheaper. That has brought us Walmart. That has brought us the attitude: “So what; if the printer breaks, I’ll just buy a new one.” That is what is overflowing our landfills. And, I would posit, polluting our souls.

It’s time to start reversing the trend. Next time, choose the item of quality. It is not just a matter of voting with your dollar (which is exactly what it is) but for us, the choice makes us feel better, knowing we are surrounding ourselves with things that will last.


judymac said...

of your last paragraph, i couldn't agree more......, and of previous paragraphs, we've all experienced those.....but, i'm afraid, too many have not paid attention....

Gabriela said...

or beat out the crap from walmart and new "boutique" expensive yuppie shit and just buy stuff from thrift stores and goodwill. I like the sound of .99cents and old manufactured style .... dont you?

Mathias said...

Agreed, Gabriela! In fact, Jennifer has been replacing her wardrobe from a cute little secondhand store around the corner from our apartment in Baltimore. And we have made serveral trips to Bacon Sails, which is a fun secondhand marine equipment store in Annapolis.