Quality Control Requires Ethics, by H.L.

It seems to me that many Americans have gotten used to lack of quality control regarding many desired and needed items for use around the home. I have not! I had the good fortune to have a Father (born 1904 in Connecticut) who would not tolerate shoddy workmanship, either in running our 100-acre farm with the help of a hard working wife/mother of five children, or anything that he purchased after he had to medically retire from the Service Station that he built and ran.

I am 76 years old, and have the same philosophy. Too many American companies have shifted production overseas and neglected to insist on Quality Control! They have either never learned ethics, or do not really care. Ethics is defined as a code of behavior in reference to a group, whether family, community or a nation. The dos and don’ts in a company makes up its ethics, and when management does not insist, and Monitor Quality Control, they let down their company, themselves, and their customers. Effectively,  they are over-pricing and under-delivering their product. I consider that a form of “theft”. Hence: Quality Control requires Ethics, and Good Ethics equal Quality Control!

It was the final straw recently, when going out to water my flowers, and the not-inexpensive hose recently purchased with a plastic & brass fastener to the hose bib broke clean off! As Dad always said, “you get what you pay for”, but all too often paying more does not equate with great quality.

From the time I was age five and Dad taught me how to plant peas, exactly one inch apart down the absolutely straight furrow he had made with the hoe, to everything else we did on the farm, I was inculcated with striving for perfection. When he was nine years old he was trapping muskrats to get $1 a pelt, and he saved every penny. He was a self-taught welder, mechanic, surveyor, and started his own gas/service station/towing service in 1927. He thrived in the Great Depression because he could and did do it all and was open (just call him) 24/7! The motto in large red letters over the door said: “SERVICE WITH A SMILE”.

When we moved to the farm in 1941, he painted the renovated 1805 farm house, roofed the long tobacco barn, had a vehicle repair shop, fixed all our used tractors, trucks, the cars my older brothers dented, repaired one of the early washer and dryer, tiled the bathroom, repaired just about everything. We raised all our food, and meat animals. We helped him plant 250 blueberry plants, 500 pine trees, harvest hay, slaughter chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Everyone of us had “chores”, and he worked harder than all of us. Even when he injured himself, if he could tolerate the pain, he went back to doing what “needed to be done”. There was no  quit in him ever! If we did a shoddy job, he retrained us and insisted we do it right. He never raised his voice, had a sense of humor, but we all knew that he expected us to do our very best. He loved to garden and would leave produce on a neighbor’s doorstep, and we sold produce at our little roadside stand. Eventually we were running three freezers filled with meat and vegetables.

Connecticut was a powerhouse manufacturing state, and essential to the effort in World War II. Pratt & Whitney engines, Stanley Works tools, and so much more. Most of our manufacturing has gone overseas, and management all too often does not insist that Quality Control is absolutely necessary. They are neglecting the Code of Ethics, and letting themselves down and we, the consumers! I was appalled a few decades ago to read that colleges were teaching ethics. Good grief! If a child has not been taught ethics by the age of 8 or 9, then parents are failing them. College is generally too late!

We paid top dollar for an American Made (I will not mention the brand) top of the line 15,000 Watt propane-fueled generator six years ago, and it is serviced yearly. It has worked every time, but one time. It kept kicking off after a snow storm, and an emergency call to our electrician resulted in him changing the fuse. I asked him: “Is the fuse made in USA, or Made in China”? The answer was China! I was not surprised.

The generator was very helpful, however, we always have Plan B – a living room propane heater, plenty of stored water, months of variety of long dated food, two ways to cook it, hand crank radios, flashlights, candles, blankets, everything required to shelter in place and the 2nd Amendment lives in this home.

I believe in corporate profits, and have always been a Capitalist, but, not at the expense of quality control ethics. So, now I am checking ratings on an American-made rubber garden hoses, with 100% brass fitting, and hoping for the best.

Dad passed in 1987, but to his dying day, he never did less than his best in anything he grew or made, and demanded the same from others. He was not perfect, but his business ethics were!




32 Comments

  1. Have you tchecked if the Company takes resposibility for a flawed product?

    Are you sure you understand the reason, that Colleges and universities teach ethics?

    Ws the Company to cheap to buy Quality or to fit it in?

  2. Your right, just because they charge a hefty price doesnt mean you have a quality product. Most companies on RV manufacturing ring the cash register at all cost.

  3. Often, the expression “You get what you pay for” proves to be not true. How many times have we paid for something and it turned out to be less, or a lot less than what we expected/wanted.
    The expression “You pay for what you get” is always true. You can buy first quality clean oats for a fair price, but you can buy oats which have already passed through a horse for a much lower price. You pay for what you get.

  4. Probably all of y’all, have heard this rule before. I’ve never heard it named, but privately think of it as The Iron Law of Consumerism.

    You can have it quick.
    You can have it cheap.
    You can have it with quality.

    But you can’t have all three at the same time; pick two.

    Count on getting only one.

    Like H.L., however, of late I’ve noticed the quality thing has been slipping here and there……

  5. No one cares anymore about the quality of a tool and other types of products the USA produced. -“Just throw it away and go buy sum more China made junk.I still have my Craftsman tool box I purchased in 1955. Still some of the best tools you could get from “SEARS” . It cost me $19.95 for a full box of tools.
    If the American people don’t wake up they will rue the day we let our politicians run our lives. Most people don’t know about Argentina in 1916 how they were one of the richest nations in the world. They had it made, then socialism and the Hitler boys came to power and they went down the tubes. We are headed the same way .
    I will turn 80 years old this next month. I have watched the Democrats destroy this country My family fought and died for.Our schools are turning out a bunch of lazy uneducated “FOOLS” They don’t want to do manual labor,any job that requires hard work. So many cry about what they don’t have and how poor they are. In 1945 after the WAR most people didn’t have big houses and 2 or 3 cars. They worked for a better tomorrow. Life was hard but we learned to work and save what we could to have a better life. I have traveled to many poor places in my life in the 1960s and 1970s and people didn’t like the way they lived and work to improved their way of life.
    The Lord showed us all how to live our lives an not throw it to the wind and hope for all the best.
    God Bless America.

    The Gman.

      1. Don’t think that was the point, he was talking about the quality of the tools. Whether he worked 2 hours or 10, the point is the tool box and tools are still being used. Not many items you buy today will have the sample longevity no matter the cost.
        I still have the first set of craftsman sockets and wrenches I bought around 1973, well used but still in service. Many tools from sears purchased since are not the same quality. Notsure picking on them, just an example.

    1. The USA workers receive good wages and good benefits. The big Multi-National Corporations have sent many formerly USA jobs overseas, where the workers receive economic ‘Slave-Labor’ wages and NO benefits. [They produce ‘cheap stuff’ for the benefit of Americans.

      The Trade agreements were structured after WW2 to allow other countries, to ship the foreign made goods into the USA ~ Tariff Fee. … The USA made items, faced Tariffs and Unnecessary Regulatory Restrictions in other countries.
      …… Trump is appreciated by many USA workers for his imposition of Tariffs on China, and other countries. Trump wants Fair Trade; NOT just free-trade.

      The USA is still a great country. Many people believe in the Bible. = “The worker deserves his wages.” NIV 1 Timothy 5: 18 & “You must have accurate and honest weights and measures …” Deuteronomy 25: 15.
      Ethics in all things should be required.

      The English Protestants were instrumental in ending the Slave-Trade in the Western part of the World. William Wilberforce has a page on Wikipedia. … Later, the Textile Workers in Great Britain supported the Union cause in our Civil War, which ended slavery in our country.
      …….. Such support was an economic disaster, for the workers; but a good ethical decision. … Many wealthy people and nobility supported the Southern States. They were getting rich from ‘King-Cotton’ produced inexpensively by the slaves. [Surprise! Surprise! ~ Their spiritual descendants are in charge of Multi-National Corporations today.]

      From HL’s article = “He was not perfect, but his business ethics were!” = That’s what makes America, the best country on Earth.
      [Plus, life is more than just being able to buy ‘Cheap Stuff’ made by the ‘Economic Slave-Laborers’ in other countries. = Ethics in all things are important, too.]

    2. I bought my Craftsman’s tool and tool box in 1961. Still have them, still use them. A funny story: In 1972 I had a pipe burst. The shut off was at the sidewalk about a foot and a half down. It was the standard shutoff not too different from a natural gas shut off. But I couldn’t reach it and the water was flowing in the house. I took my largest 1/2″ socket, a 1 1/8th inch and broke the working end with a sledge hammer so that it would fit over and grip the shut off valve at the bottom of the access pipe. It worked. I knew I could take the socket back into Sears and get a new one for nothing. But my pride/guilty conscience kept me from doing it since I broke it intentionally. But in 2009 the local sears store was being closed down and I figured it was now or never so I went there and got my replacement socket. No questions asked.

  6. Companies used to make products and sell them, now have businesses like Stanley Black and Decker, that care less about products, they buy and sell companies, milk them for what ever they can in the short run, and then get rid of them. There is no pride or ethics involved in it, it is all about short term profits, tax advantages, leverage, and stock holder value. Many major corporations have been taken over by these banksters and the results for the employees and the customers has been almost uniformly bad. Stanley Black and Decker, Freedom Group, Cerberus Capital, all the other “holding companies” or venture capital companies.

  7. Have you spent any time reading the comments on Amazon before buying a piece of equipment? Ten per cent will have one-star ratings typically because the product has a history of early failure. Sellers wash their hands after thirty days, you often can not get info on the manufacturer, probably in China, and so a led light with a 50,000 hour life is useless after a couple months. It does not pertain to just “inexpensive” items either. I have been looking at programmable thermostats, it is sad.

  8. The saying “You get what you pay for” has another side that many don’t think of. It’s “You don’t get what you don’t pay for.” I’ve never gotten dumb lucky and got a real $20 value for $10, commerce just doesn’t work that way.

    I’ve learned to pay for quality the first time, rather than pay for junk time and again.

  9. I think we are forgetting that we have been groomed to be consumers, and consumers consume. Don’t be fooled into thinking that China only makes junk. When I hear folks complain about Chinese made products, I simply remind them that China is simply giving us what we want. If Americans demanded quality, they would get it. But we don’t. We want cheap affordable products that we can easily buy, use and when it breaks, buy another one..

    Consumerism is what fuels this nation. Not manufacturing, not production.

  10. Similar to HL I too grew up on a farm only in Oregon and a father born in 1914. He grew up in Portland and as a youngster had three paper routes to pay his way in to Benson Polytechnic School. That was his equivalent of high school , a trade school. As life often goes he never did become a printer. Instead the depression came along and he, his father, and a cousin made the best of things cutting cord wood. Sometime in the late 30s he got into Construction. His ethics showed when working on our local high school, he was fired because he wouldn’t cut corners. Ethics don’t just reside in corporations, although they should be there. Again as HL stated ethics should be instilled at an early age. If we as employees refuse to do shody work or partake in unethical practices, then we will have an impact on the ethics of the companies we work for. The same is true for our government. Both entities are ultimately responsible to their constituents. My dad used to say when building a wall for a home, if it’s out of square more than an eighth of an inch in a twenty foot run, it’s to #&@! Much. He also would say, if you don’t have integrity, which I will substitute for ethics here, you don’t have anything! So we as individual workers and consumers, Business Leaders, husbands and fathers are ultimately responsible for the failure of our corporations, our government and our famlies. We did not exhibit and stand up for our own ethics and we did not demand it of them. You may think that is a harsh condemnation, and unwarranted. The human condition of sin is a harsh task master. And lest we forget how important ethics are, remember, “narrow is the gate”.

    1. While I agree with what you said, it is not possible to police every manufacturer or service provider as a consumer (especially prior to the monetary outlay). It would be nice if the manufacturer or service provider took some self responsibility to quality. As a matter of personal pride I stand behind the service I provide. I don’t want my customer’s standards to be higher than my own. That’s just plain embarrassing.

  11. Wait. You were taught by this wonderful man to be super scrupulous yet you had to have some person replace a fuse?
    Good grief. Learn your equipment.

  12. Quick story. I had a friend in the tool business. One of his employees needed a screwdriver, so he took one out of a big box of screwdrivers. He couldn’t get the screw out and broke the tip off from the tool. He complained to my friend, and I use the term loosely, he said, where did you get that screwdriver? The employee pointed to the box. The boss said, well there’s your problem. Those screwdrivers aren’t for using, those screwdrivers are for buying and selling. He proceeded to get a good screwdriver out of his desk so his employee could complete his task. I’ll never forget how my estimation of this friend went right down the tubes.

  13. Since 2003, we full-time live-aboard in an ExpeditionVehicle we built from a 1997 commercial truck… all mechanical, no computers.
    We did south America twenty-four months, twenty-four thousand miles. Alaska, Panama. Winters on remote Baja beaches.

    Why convert a commercial truck into a RecreationVehicle?
    For a fun side-gig, we delivered RecreationVehicles manufacturers-to-dealers and dealers-to-shows.
    Every trip was a coin-flip about what part will fail first!

    I have zero interest in owning any RecreationVehicles at any price.
    For fun, we joined the mega-forum IRV2, and every day has a dozen threads about the fridge caught fire three times, the engine fell out, the tires melted.

    One of the four television sets exploded.
    The drinking-water tank for the sink is plumbed downstream of the commode.

    The windshield fell out.
    The 3″ plumbing vent required an 18″ hole in the floor. Spiders? Snakes?
    Axles on a BillionBuxBus screaming from no lube oil.
    Twelve-year old tires on a new vehicle.
    Under-size suspension for a GVWR and cargo-capacity barely adequate for a can of soup and a half-loaf of stale bread.

    Or ask any RVers about roof leaks.
    Ask any RVers about camping weeks at the repair shop while Highly Trained Technicians© fumble around with the equivalent of bubble-gum and masking-tape to ‘repair’ factory-installed defects!

    This’s the most fun I had on a forum since I owned a 1953 Austin Healey. Our monthly ‘support group’ potlatches for Brit car owners was a rollicking good time. What self-destructed / disintegrated today !?!

    I see poor quality as a way to weed-out the weaker members of our species:
    “It broke again, so I’ll call repair…”
    What happens after ‘repair’ doesn’t answer?
    Too fun!

  14. IMO quality waxes and wanes all the time. You see issues in certain products for a while and then improvements come and then you repeat the cycle. I have seen this in car parts for instance. Poor quality dominating for a while then improvements then issues again. All the while, inflation adjusted prices typically dropping. As they should per economists like Adam Smith because we continuously learn to manufacture more efficiently.

    I tend to think this is because of the continuous analytics done on products all the time. To keep costs down to values that the consumers will tolerate, over engineering is not tolerated. By the same token if things break too soon, nobody will continue buying them. Things are specifically engineered to walk this line. The people vote with their money and drive this.

    In my own case, I will frequently purchase cheap electric power tools. They last plenty long in my home setting and do the job of the more expensive ones. A lot of the more expensive ones become obsolete (particularly battery technology) before they wear out. I seldom see anyone wear out any electric power tool expensive or cheap. They tend to upgrade to the next new thing before their old thing wears out. My own exception is circular saws and that is probably from abuse like cutting things that should probably not be cut with them with them and destroying the bearings. I have burned up good quality saws but these days they are pretty cheap.

    I do buy higher end chain saws because I put enough hours on them to actually wear the engines and other components out without actually misusing them.

    A great example of them not doing it better in the old days is home construction IMO. Having worked on a few older homes, I see better materials (old growth lumber for instance) but not better workmanship. No they did not build it any more square or level. In the days before lasers, usually less square and level. (Not to be disrespectful, but if the gentleman referred to in one of the comments above was attempting to hold 1/8″ in a 20′ wall while on someone else’s pay roll, I see why he could get fired.) No they did not space the studs evenly. (I have encountered walls with studs 14″ to 18″ in spacing which can be really annoying when you are perhaps hanging sheet rock.) They probably used fewer fasteners on average. However OSB did not exist and so did not suck up water like a sponge and destroy things and the lumber often came from old growth that was better grained, more rot resistant and probably stronger.

    So I am afraid to say, like most other virtues, I do not view previous generations being more virtuous regarding quality than the current generation. Because we have computers and can do better analysis, I see engineering being honed down tighter with less over engineering than in the past. Because we can, we often use engineered materials that don’t hold up unless exactly as engineered. But I do not see that humans of yesterday actively tried to produce better products than humans of today. I think some did and some did not, just like today.

    I do not think human nature has changed.

    1. I fully agree with you, JBH.

      You can read Helen and Scott Nearing’s book, Living the Good Life for a commentary on the “good old days”.

      They roundly criticized their neighbors in Vermont for their sloppy habits. This was in the 40s and 50s.

      Modern companies that have come through with honor, that replaced a broken tool, no questions asked include in my experience Princeton Tec (headlamp) and Fiskars (branch lopper).

      They both have my business for life.

      Carry on

  15. I think bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., as our President is determined to do, is a first good start. I’m sick of not being able to find quality items at an affordable price. And I don’t mean dirt cheap either. I remember when you bought an appliance, it lasted 30-40 years, rarely needing a repairman. I was recently shopping for a new kitchen mixer, bought a Kitchen-Aid, a known brand. I paid $175. I was shocked to find that the mixer didn’t have the power to mix up a double batch of cookies. The motor almost burned up under the load. I went to the Internet to research and found that Kitchen-Aid makes several “levels” of mixers. You have to buy the “professional” model to get enough power, for hundreds more. Are you kidding me?! I just flat out refuse. I’ll mix by hand, even with my awful arthritis. I also purchased a known brand smaller hand mixer, before going to a stand mixer, which burnt out after the second use under a very light load. I had a stand mixer that I gave away because it was dented. It was 40 yrs old and still worked. Silly me. I’m disgusted with the lack of quality in major brands you used to could trust. I look forward to the second installment of this article. Thank you.

  16. An aside to my previous comment. Whether my farther always held to such high standards is most likely not possible. The point is however that one should strive toward such standards. When we slowly give way to less and less standards we eventually end up where we are now in so many aspects of life. When we accept less from ourselves and others that exactly what we receive. Providing less and settling for less seldom causes something to improve over time, usually the reverse.
    And by the way, Dad was working the next morning for a contractor who appreciated his dedication to exactness in his work, and promoted him to site supervisor. He worked for that high profile contractor on some of the highest level jobs in Portland at the time before he retired. Expect less get less, expect more and you’ll get more, is my point.

  17. It requires ethics all around. I heard a preacher complain about workers. But employers will hire illegals or send the manufacturing to Mexico or China. Or if you do work, the customers will demand a “discount” or they will give you a bad internet review.

    I admit I do Harbor Freight, but sometimes I just need to do one thing, one time. I do visit the local “pawn shop” and find all of those marvelous manual tools that probably are older than I am and will outlast me.

    One hypocrisy about “green” is that most of the readers here would prefer to be able to repair and adapt, but from phones to appliances, to cars, everything is designed to break early and be disposed of.

    Nothing in the iPhone is sustainable or repairable, but Apple is considered “nice”, as is Google. But tech is changing yearly so they need a disposable version instead of one where you can upgrade.

    1. tz, you do well in offering another perspective. Those here illegally would stay home if no one hired them. During the 2008-11 recession, there was a migration south since, indeed, no one was hiring them.

      Regarding the repair of items, in my community, a group of us gather to fix appliances, lamps, and other broken products. People love bringing their stuff to us and walking out with a functioning piece of equipment, at least 80% of the time. A bonus, we are committed to teaching our clients how to work on their items. Skill-share.

      Carry on

    2. tz, this is related to your first paragraph. It is an excerpt from an article about the recent ICE raids in Mississippi.

      Meanwhile, no employer in last week’s raid has yet been charged.

      What’s happening now, Chandler says, is quite similar to when the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to ditch migrant workers who had slaved to connect the nation’s railroads.

      Chandler has worked with unions in Mississippi and elsewhere, and says he’s personally witnessed abuse by U.S. border officers. “We have a long history of abuse in America,” he says. “Laws are passed to manipulate labor, not help immigrants.”

      Carry on

  18. Craftsman/Sears is a perfect example of what HL describes. In the late 60s or very early 70s my Dad bought a couple 75′ Craftsman garden hoses. When one failed he returned it but they only had 50-footers by then so the gave him two of those. A few years later the second 75-footer failed and had to also be replaced. I inherited those hoses and they are stiff with age now – like me -but still work. Even the one I had to replace the end on because someone drove over the connection. Craftsman tools have declined in quality terribly since Dad’s were made, even their sockets and wrenches are not worth buying anymore. Quality lasts, and so does the lesson of buying cheap.

  19. I would love to start a tool company that would build tools right!

    Grandad’s Tool Company for tools that can be handed down to the grandchildren.

  20. Ethics are mostly absent from corporate America and have been for some time. Even though quality was very high standard-wise, behavior was not. After working in aerospace / defense supply chain for many years I was “laid off” by a younger manager; not because I did a poor or inadequate job, just the opposite, but rather because I wasn’t willing to step on people and “throw them under the bus” as the saying goes. He frequently remarked he wasn’t afraid to be the “___hole” to which I replied I wouldn’t treat others that way. We bumped heads on methodology and approach and eventually he let me go. Then he left the company a month later likely to do the same elsewhere. It is sad and unfortunate that Christian principles and integrity are not valued in the corporate world and are often even actively opposed. Ethics in most of corporate America are guided by its values, which is essentially only a love for money. The U.S. we grew up in does not exist anymore. It is a shell of its former self, appearing more like a broken down, degenerate result of abandoning biblical principles in society. You may not always get what you pay for. And you may or may not get what you deserve. But America today is the consequence of seeking other gods before the Lord.

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