I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Quality is in short supply

Sauk Mountain trail two years ago
Although you cannot see the magnificent flowers in this picture all that well, when I was on this hike with the Trailblazers two years ago, I remember being astounded by them and took myriad pictures that were pretty much like this one: nice, but nothing like my memory of them.

A couple of weeks ago, I lost my favorite (and expensive) glasses on the bus. I had placed them on top of my head and forgot, until later at the coffee shop when I looked all over for them. Retracing my steps, I realized that they must have fallen off on the bus and I didn't notice. No problem, I thought: someone would turn them in, since they were obviously expensive frames with progressive lenses. Well, I checked in the Lost and Found for a week and nobody ever turned them in. Perhaps someone thought they could make a buck from the frames. I'll never know.

I went to Links Optical, where I had originally bought them, to order a replacement pair. It was on one of my Trailblazer hikes that someone mentioned to me that they felt this is the best place in town, which is why they became my eyewear specialists, too, after cataract surgery and the need for some good distance glasses.

Sure that I would have to find another set of frames, I walked in to start the process of searching through endless pairs for others that I might like as well as my lost ones. They pulled my chart and looked up the paperwork, and the clerk told me that they could call the manufacturer and see whether they had another pair just like the ones I lost. And guess what? They did and in my size, too. They ordered them and I sat down to talk about what I wanted in my new glasses: make them just like the others, please. That meant progressive lenses, transitions to darken and lighten, scratch resistance, and anti-glare as well.

Everything those previous glasses had were repeated and we sat down to figure out the cost. I remembered how expensive progressive lenses are (several hundred dollars just for that) and steeled myself for the verdict. Ouch! It took my breath away, although I had paid that much before, except for a discount on the frames. Not this time. Was it worth it? As much as a new cellphone?

Yes, I decided; it was worth it. I paid half before leaving the store and promptly forgot about them. I had ordered a new pair of glasses from Links soon after my cataract surgery, but they don't have progressive lenses because I balked at the cost back then. They are now my spare replacement glasses, which I used until the new ones came in. I found it very annoying not to be able to see the face of my watch, the dashboard in my car, always needing to peer over or under them to see anything within arm's reach. Most of the time I muddled through without any glasses, except for driving, where it was mandatory to wear them.

They came in yesterday, so I went to pick them up. It's not a large store, and the owner, Link, was there, helping people get their new frames fitted properly. He is a master at it, which meant that my new glasses would be just like my old ones, incredibly comfortable and pretty much identical. I walked out of the store, happy to have been treated to such incredible quality of care.

Never before had I found a place anywhere comparable to Links. They definitely are a cut above any other place I frequented before. My first trip to the store was when I had my first eye done and realized I was going to need some new glasses. The doctor's office had taken out the lens from my left eyepiece and I was walking around with an empty lens. It didn't bother me that much, but when Link saw it, he asked if I would mind if he put in clear glass, and I agreed. In a few minutes, he came out with my glasses looking normal again. After the second eye was done, I was given a prescription, which I took to Links to order what became my replacement glasses.

My eyes had gotten bad enough that I couldn't see 20/20 any more, but after the surgery, with the glasses, both eyes were corrected to give me the ability to see details I had forgotten were even there. I could read street signs, even tiny little letters! Now I take it for granted. My eyes, even without any glasses, can see so much better than before the surgeries. I did find, however, that my naked eyes could no longer read for hours without eyestrain, so I got a prescription for reading glasses that has made all the difference. They are usually sitting atop my latest book, as I only need them when I'm reading for hours at a time. I tried off-the-shelf ones, but both eyes are different enough from one another that they didn't help all that much with eyestrain.

That whole experience has got me to thinking about quality, and how rare it has become in our lives these days. Most companies cut corners, looking to optimize profit over customer care. It's everywhere these days. From the small stuff like underwear, to the big-ticket items like cars: nothing is made to last any more. I learned about built-in obsolescence a few years ago and see it everywhere. From that Wikipedia link:
There is an information asymmetry between the producer, who knows how long the product was designed to last, and the consumer, who does not. When a market becomes more competitive, product lifespans tend to increase. For example, when Japanese vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.
My 2001 Honda Civic has around 150,000 miles on it, and my mechanic tells me with a smile it's just now broken in. I love my car, and although I sometimes lust after someone's newest vehicle, I wouldn't trade them, because I would no longer have my pal, who has been with me for more than fifteen years. It was four years old when I got it, with 44,000 miles. I've enjoyed it with little worry, and I keep it up to date with all its maintenance. I realized not long ago that I might never have another car before I can no longer drive, which isn't that far away. If for some reason I end up having to replace it, I'll probably buy something similar, by an owner who decided to get a new car when nothing at all was wrong with it, except that it wasn't new any more.

Yes, quality is in short supply. Only a few places prize quality, and they make the customer pay through the nose for it. But everything everywhere costs more. I notice that often familiar items in the grocery store look similar, but they are in smaller containers, costing the same as before. This is what the future looks like, I guess: we have grown to expect shoddy workmanship and smaller packages. It's sad, isn't it? All in the name of higher profits.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. —Roger Staubach
I never expected to write a rant this morning, but that is what I've done, and I'm sorry for going there. What I really wanted to highlight is how scarce quality has become in our lives. But here I sit, typing away on my old laptop, tempting me to trade it in for a newer model, which I will eventually do. But I will miss the ports that the newer versions have eliminated. I'll make do for awhile longer.

Until then, I'll be here, every Sunday morning, pondering what I will write about today. I hope that you will find joy and happiness in this day, and that wherever you are, you will have a companion to share it with. There are always people who are in need of a visit, and critters who always appreciate your loving care. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I feel the day calling me to action. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friend.


gigi-hawaii said...

Interesting post about quality. Glad your glasses are as wonderful as you expected them to be. Your Honda Civic is just amazing even with all those miles on it.

Linda Reeder said...

We still have our 1998 Plymouth mini van. We traded in our 2001 Toyota Corolla two years ago only because it was getting hard to get in and out of it. We have a 40 plus year old freezer in the garage. Our other appliances, newer, have been replaced several times. I guess I am underscoring your point. Good service and lasting products are hard to find these days.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yes glasses are so expensive and some folks now buy cheap ones via internet. My daughter did. Weird way to buy something for sight. And yes all is made not to last as long so that we continue to buy and create a market. After all the entire wealth system sits out there on the stock market. It is the norm for now. I wonder how long that system will work for the job market as more robots replace humans?. I do not envy the kids who have to live in the future with foods all changed , climate causing havoc and jobs hard to find in order to support housing costs, etc But then again my parents came through a horrible war. I was lucky. Life for me has been fascinating though at times challenging.
Wish I could get better vision in my life time. So far I have had all that can be done. I am waiting for the stem cell corrective measures but it is in infancy still. Seems our eyes are the most complex issue to fix along with spinal cords. Have a super week.

Elephant's Child said...

As always this is a post which spoke to (and for) me. Quality is important to me. I would rather pay a little more and have an item which lasts (disliking shopping is probably part of that).
Sadly I think the constant push for new, new, new carries through to treatment of and attitudes about people as well. Which peeves my aging self.
Have a great week - and continue healing.

Arkansas Patti said...

Glad you got basically your same glasses back but it was a shame no one turned in the old ones. Glasses are soooooo darn expensive.
Know what you mean about planned obsolescence. Somehow I feel the lawnmower I just bought falls into that category. Sadly it is made in America.
Remember many years ago that if something was made in Japan it was considered junk. Boy did they turn it around and gave our manufacturers something to shoot for. I have a 2003 Toyota with 160,000 miles and it has NEVER been in the shop for repairs, just regular maintenance.

Rian said...

So sorry you lost your favorite glasses. They are expensive. I too use the progressive lens and love them... but no longer get the transitional as they don't block out enough sunlight for me. Too much glare will give me a migraine. Instead I use those wrap around dark sunglasses that go over my glasses. And I agree that things don't last as long as they used to. Our old Maytag (top loading) washing machine and dryer were bought second hand and have lasted forever. I hate the thought of having to ever get the new ones. And our old Lincoln Grand Marquis (that I wrecked last summer) was a 1995 and ran great for 23 years!

Red said...

Now I was sure that you were going to find the old pair of glasses. You have a good rant. Quality and service are gone. Try call centers. They get worse every week.

Marie Smith said...

Quality and service are hard to find these days. When we moved to PEI nine years ago, we asked locals where to shop and get services. We were never led astray. Where the locals shop is usually the best place.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Quality and service at the same place is rare. Glad you can see okay again:)

Rita said...

So sorry you lost your glasses! But glad you got an identical pair since you loved them.
Yes, quality and service have changed a lot over the decades. Nowadays you really do notice good service because it stands out brightly. Quality seems harder to find because only time tells us the truth. I depend more on reviews than I ever expected I would. ;)

William Kendall said...

Rotten luck on that pair of glasses. Fortunately you've replaced them.

troutbirder said...

Exactly. And repairs? Forget it. They cost as much as a new one...:(

Galen Pearl said...

I had to laugh when I read this because I just picked up my new glasses today! And I went through quite a lot to get them so I spent some time today thanking the people who were so persistent and patient to make sure that everything was exactly right for me. Also because my Honda has about the same mileage as yours and is about the same age!

John's Island said...

I sure enjoyed this post. You said so many things I’ve been thinking about. I am so aware of the way products at the grocery store are coming in smaller packages and yet the same old price, if not more. It sometimes makes me want to buy a different product altogether. And I so hear you about the glasses. I also ended up buying some custom reading glasses because the ones at the drug store just didn’t work well enough. I’ll bet you might not wear your new glasses on your head in the bus again. :-) By the way, thank you for all the kind comments you leave on John’s Island. Although I’m taking a blog break for a while, I’ll be keeping an Eye on the Edge. :-) John

Mage said...

What a very nice rant. I too have now had one eye repaired, and for the first time in my life can see 20/20 with glasses. It's really exciting to be able to read signs, to be able to see the leaves on the trees. My other eye is repairable to 20/40, which offers a big grey side to my viewing. Soon I will have that eye fixed too.

Friko said...

We over here in Europe find it almost unbelievable that any fool can buy a gun in the US. Even people with mental problems can. Of course I am not confessing to Schadenfreude, never that, but I do, in common with most Europeans, ask myself how US citizens can be surprised that so many deaths are due to shootings, whether suicidal or homicidal.

I seem to have mislaid the correct order of your posts; I hope you get to read this comment.