Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chinese junk

Last week I bought a new potato peeler at Walmart in anticipation of mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes as part of my Thanksgiving dinner.  On Thanksgiving day, I happily plopped my potatoes in the sink under slightly running cold water and began the chore of peeling the potatoes.  One, two, BREAK!  On the third swipe the potato peeler broke in half.

Having bought the potato peeler at Walmart, one doesn't need to strain too many brain cells to figure out where the potato peeler was made - China.

Unfortunately, my experience with Chinese quality (said with tongue firmly tucked inside my cheek) is the norm, not an anomaly.  We have completely abandoned quality, and our economic well being, in exchange for cheap goods made in China.  We are also risking our collective health because the Chinese, in their quest for insanely low manufacturing standards, are using questionable materials and ingredients.  

The official PMI definition of quality is: 
"The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements"

Now, let's all yawn and take a nap.  While technically accurate, the PMI definition leaves a lot on the table.  Quality, by nature, is defined by the end user, whether it be a client, customer, employee, etc.  A jeweler can rave about the "quality" of a colorless or near colorless diamond, but if the customer really likes the yellow, or fancy diamond, the jeweler's definition of quality doesn't really matter.      

Quality is about expectations.  My expectation for my potato peeler was to get a little more use out of it than three strokes.  If I'm looking for a blue SUV with at least 200 horsepower, four doors, adequate storage space for family trips, and fuel mileage that exceeds 20 miles per gallon, the requirements can be fulfilled by dozens of SUVs on the market, but would they actually meet my standards, what I expect to buy?  Requirements are more like a minimum punch list, but expectations get closer to the real goal of what quality is about...and the Chinese just aren't meeting any level of expectations.  

We need to rethink our giving away our expectations in exchange for Chinese junk.