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It's such a simple word. And it used to be the hallmark of any self respecting company. Providing a quality product was job one. It was always understood that price was an important consideration. But if hitting a lower price point meant significantly reducing the quality, most companies would draw the line.

These days it seems like quality is a thing of the past. Not too long ago, we had a prowler and my wife and daughter were feeling a bit nervous so I decided to install a motion sensing flood light in the back yard. The unit I bought was so poorly made that it was a challenge to get it installed without breaking it. The thin pot metal base gave you the sense that if you tightened that screw more than just barely snug, the thing would just collapse. The flimsy plastic stems were barely strong enough the hold the light fixture housings.

Not too long after that, I needed to install a new screen door catch. I bought one at the same hardware store I got the flood light from. It literally fell apart in my hand as soon as I took the packaging off and the two little springs that were supposed to keep the strike bar in place bounced into some obscure corner, never to be found again.

And then there was the "Rain Bird" style lawn sprinkler I bought that worked great for three waterings after which the little pot metal stem that holds the reversing mechanism snapped off from the brute force of the water pressure that was driving it.

What amazes me is that, in all three cases, I was not buying the cheap, generic junk from "Wally's Cut Rate Hardware." These things were bought from a major American hardware company and had that company’s name proudly plastered all over the package and cast in to the metal parts. But in every case, the fine print on the package said "Made in China" which, I guess, should have tipped me off.

I find myself confronted with this dilemma every day. I could use MDF or melamine for my cabinet interiors instead of good quality maple plywood. I could make my faces out of alder instead of cherry figuring that no one will know the difference anyway or if they do, will not care because "the price is right." But I end up thinking that I'd rather not make cabinets at all than to take that path.


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