Pop quiz: Quality versus Crap pt.2
Well, Monday’s pop quiz was very educational. The correct answer is “insufficient data” but not for the reasons that it seems many people selected it (judging from comments but even that isn’t conclusive). The final score (as of this writing) was 45% which falls short of the 50% challenge but I made the donation (to Accion, a micro lender) anyway. Yesterday. Before the challenge ended.
Insufficient data is the correct response because quality means adhering to a standard -whatever that standard may be. Since no specifications were provided for either product, there was no way to know whether either met its specification.
However, it seemed many people selected “insufficient data” because they thought the silk gown was crap and not finding it within themselves to vote for the paper gown chose what amounted to a default “none of the above”.
Quality is the wrong question- it’s value. Consider these comments in the context that any votes for or against either product means a value judgment absent the specifications (upon which quality is determined) was made:
M said: The dress is crap… The $3 gown appears well made and highly functional…
A said: I voted for the paper gown. It has lots of cool features…
S said: I would have to say the “paper gown” will do what it was designed to do, but the silk dress might not.
Some people who responded closer to the intent of the pop quiz said:
K said: I think it’s a draw. Each piece is quality based on it’s purpose.
A said: I know what the wedding gown is for, the paper gown looks like it might be a scrub gown? I can’t tell how well it serves its intended function [extensive good details deleted] none of which are visible from the photo. Data insufficient.
R said: I say we need more info on the paper gown… insufficient data
S said: I voted Insufficient because I’d like to know what the requirements are for the garment.
Some comments had a foot in both camps:
D said: We are not told where each of the garments stands in price compared to other garments for the same purpose. And while one can surmise the use the wedding gown is put to, the use of the disposable gown is less clear, so it is impossible to guess how well it will meet requirements. Totally insufficient data.
J said: The standard of quality is relative to others of a similar type… the price quoted here is not in the high range. So, this is not a high end wedding gown.
S said: I voted for the paper gown because I think quality means consistency to a standard. A relatively infrequently made, elaborate custom garment could never be as consistent to a standard as simple paper gowns made by the thousands.
Since quality is determined by adherence to specification (whatever that may be) price is not a good determinant of whether something is quality or not -although price often can be in the context of competing products; something the comments mention. However, high end doesn’t necessarily mean high quality; high end can be all over the map especially if it’s a one-off [who is going to write specs for one item? It's not cost effective]. However, that a high end one-off isn’t the highest quality does not mean it is not high value. Value my friends, is in the eye of the beholder.
What I’m getting at (and the subject of my next post) is that people are often making subjective judgements when they make pronouncements of quality. In this respect, the first two comments were correct in that they indicated the items needed to be compared with like items in order to make a determination of value. “S” had the correct definition (consistency to a standard) and while she is probably correct in that a paper gown made in huge lots is more likely to meet specified standards (as compared to the wedding gown meeting its standards), there is no sure way to know without comparing each to their respective standard. To recap:
Quality indicates the degree to which something meets a standard. A standard is a yardstick. Without a yardstick, you can’t measure it.
Value is an evaluation a customer makes to determine whether a product will suit the purpose for which they have intended to use the item.
The idea that value is subjective for both consumers and manufacturers is important for two reasons:
- As producers, you must understand that no one can determine value for anyone else. You can increase the cost of your product with whistles and bells but it is a waste if your average customer does not value those amenities to the extent they are willing to pay for them.
- As consumers, it is gratuitously unkind to make subjective conclusions about people who have different purchasing criteria than you do. It is likewise unkind to make subjective judgments about producers of those products (see #1). We each have different lifestyles, preferences and needs. To suggest anyone should prioritize their spending to dress in a given way amounts to elitism and fashcism (my word for fashion fascists).
The issue at heart is that people are confusing price and value to arrive at opinions of quality. In relation to that, M.Smith said [edited]:
Are we supposed to be conflating quality with value? Necessary quality is relative as people have pointed out. No point in hand stitching a paper gown as it adds no value whatsoever, so designing to meet expectations of functional requirements = quality? That dress has me stumped. I expect more from a wedding dress because its purpose is to impress and celebrate. All of a sudden quality is looking more like a mathematical equation with a whole lot of social variables.
It would be more accurate to say value is based on a whole lot of social variables (opinion) but quality is a mathematical equation to measure adherence to developed product standards. Value is an opinion, quality is not. That said, perceived quality is often used to determine one’s opinion of value and subsequent decision to buy (but not always). Therefore, one could say the wedding dress or paper gown is of value to me (or it’s not of value to me) but one couldn’t say either is quality or not without comparing them to the standards.
And that is the subject of my next post. I’ll bet you’re squirming with giddiness to read that. heh
An aside: in preparation for this post, I did more research than you’d imagine and found some interesting things. Specifically I looked at garments used in clean rooms. I would have to say that the average clean room garment is more likely to be of high quality than the average sportswear item. In this video at about minute 3, you can see workers who are themselves wearing clean room garments, processing clean room garments. It makes sense that they would.
And now, a note completely off topic: Mr. Fashion-Incubator works in solar energy so they have a cleanroom. He says that even though their average production worker is slimmer than average, the most popular size for cleanroom uniforms at their job site is an extra large. He challenged me to guess why but I couldn’t. He said extra large was popular with the women because they could wear dresses and skirts under them (dresses are preferred for many reasons). My thought was that this represented an opportunity. A too large garment can be dangerous (as mentioned in the children’s sizing police post). Maybe someone could design a clean room garment that fit closer to size that would permit the wearing of skirts and dresses.