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Quality expectations

When you’re paying to have a job performed for you, you expect a certain level of quality in the finished work.

When a woodworker does something for you, it can generally be counted upon that the work will be acceptable. When it’s not, there can be a number of reasons – poor communication between customer and vendor; disappointment for how the finished item “fits” home décor; size issues; etc. These are all things best discussed in David DeCristoforo’s blog, but I think I can safely say that even when the results of professional woodworking are unacceptable or disappointing, it’s generally not due to a lack of quality. If that were the case, those professional woodworkers would be out of work. Woodworking customers have a set of quality standards, and those standards are strict and unforgiving.

The same is not true for other things we pay for.

Yesterday was the day all my household communication needs – Internet, local and long-distance phone, and TV cable – were to be consolidated with our cable company. I had no expectations that this would go smoothly. I was so confident in my expectations of a lack of quality that last week I e-mailed warnings to many with whom I correspond to alert them that I may be suddenly out of communication. My e-mail was humorous, but the joke was on me.

The cable guy arrived on time (a huge surprise), and within the first hour quickly improved my cable reception (another surprise), and switched the phone over smoothly and without incident (a shock, more than a surprise). Then he tried to get my Internet to work. Four hours later he gave up, handed me an 800-number to call, apologized for the inconvenience and hit the road.

After getting cut off twice while getting help from the 800-number lady (requiring lengthy wading through the cable company’s automated system to get back to a tech support person), they finally managed to get one of my computers online. I have two computers, my wife has one; we need them all online. The 800-number lady shrugged and suggested I contact the manufacturer of my network router. I did so, got my solution, and by late last evening I had finally managed to figure it out and do it myself.

The real tragedy here is not only did I have to end up finishing the professional’s job for him, but that I was in no way surprised that I had to do so. In fact, I expected to. In other words, I expected that level of quality, or lack thereof. What’s more, I paid full price for it.

This is akin to a woodworker delivering a table with a missing leg, spending several hours in the customer’s home trying to get it to stand up, then, slipping the customer’s check into his pocket, blithely giving the customer directions to the local Home Depot where they might be able to find what they need to finish the job properly themselves.

Thank goodness woodworkers have created a far better expectation of quality. If only other sectors of the economy engendered the same.

Till next time,

A.J.

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