By Paul McNeil
Too many of us make price the bottom line when we buy something new. Too few of us link price to quality or consider the implications of always searching for the cheapest goods. While it is not always viable to buy the most expensive product on the shelf, here are ten good reasons why not to buy the cheapest one either:
- Better product performance
Good product performance isn’t made on the assembly line, it is designed in at the early stages of product development, and this costs money. Sourcing customer input, prototyping and re-designing are necessary for all but the simplest products. Once the euphoria of great low prices wears off, you soon realise how frustrating poorly designed, cheap products can be.
- Better after sales service
The longer a product does what it is meant to do and does it well, the longer it will stay out of the waste stream. Designing products so they are able to be repaired and providing the after sales support to facilitate this is an important aspect of good quality products.
If your product does fail for some reason, then your first reaction should be to see if you can have it repaired. Dyson vacuum cleaners are expensive, but their after-sales service and product support is excellent, ensuring their products stay out of the waste stream well beyond their competitors models.
- Improve the chances of re-using or re-selling
Most cheap goods become landfill once damaged. For instance, modern furniture made from foil- finished MDF is neither repairable nor re-useable.
If you buy solid timber furniture, even if it is pine, then you can repair or refinish it, and give it a whole new lease on life.
Many people are concerned about the environmental impact of disposable household goods, and wish to repair or reuse products rather than disposing of them. Investing in a product with a longer lifespan greatly increases its chances of serving more than one person well.
- Support the Environment
Manufacturers of higher quality products are often openly committed to reducing their impact on the environment, during manufacture, distribution and ultimately throughout the product life and through its recyclability. This all costs money.
For companies to source timber from certified renewable forests, to re-use water and dispose of manufacturing waste in accordance with environmental by-laws requires dedication and adds to the product cost. It is no coincidence that countries supplying cheaply made goods generally have poorly policed or watered down environmental laws?
The same companies that support clean manufacturing also tend to design their products to facilitate recycling. They are easier to disassemble and have material codes to assist in sorting. As an extension of this ethos, well-designed products will often have less or more readily recyclable packaging.
- Reduce greenhouse emissions through reduced energy consumption
A good quality five- star dishwasher will save you water and power, and chances are that less energy was used during its’ manufacture as well. If you purchase a product that you use daily, any incremental improvement in power consumption will be worth considering given the uncertainty of future power costs. Opting to buy green power, while maintaining your current high consumption, goes only halfway towards a sustainable energy future.
- Support product diversity
Large international companies should make great products, and some of them do. However these days, most products are made to serve an increasingly wide variety of customers and only fulfil some needs of each customer. In the case of the auto makers, they often end up making vehicles to cover such a wide market segment that they end up appealing to almost nobody.
Smaller companies making great quality niche products are worth supporting and retaining. Carman’s muesli bars are a great example of a niche product made by a passionate Melbourne based company. Without these committed small companies, a very bland range of generic “market friendly” products take over the supermarket shelves, which ultimately is bad for all of us.
- Supporting local businesses
When you buy products made in Australia, you are supporting more than just that company. Apart from direct employment, these companies source a diverse range of goods and services from other local companies. Apart from obvious things such as ingredients, packaging and printing these companies also require plant maintenance, transport logistics, stationary and even Christmas party venues!
- Pay more and buy less
Very few of us have the financial capacity to buy the best quality, sustainably-farmed food all of the time. Good quality meat sourced from farms that treat their animals well is going to be more expensive than meat from higher profit-based feed lots.
One way to afford higher priced food is to buy less. If you halve the amount of red meat you consume, you will automatically halve the cost per meal, while reducing your impact on the environment and possibly even improving your health.
- Support human and animal welfare
We should all aim to buy products from companies that treat both people and animals with respect. Just because you want cheap products does that mean that others should work for low wages in poor conditions to make them?
Becoming a vegan is difficult for most people, but choosing to buy free range eggs or 100% recycled toilet and printer paper is within the reach of most people.
- Feel better!
Why support companies who don’t care about product diversity? Why buy goods you know are destined to become landfill in a short time? Why allow people and animals to suffer needlessly?
You may not have the capacity to become a campaigner on these issues but you will feel better by supporting companies who strive to supply products that make a difference.
Paul Mcneil’s focus is on designing and making furniture that is distinctive, unexpected and original. Using new and recycled timbers he is available to make bespoke solid timber furniture for any occasion.
For more information about the author please contact Paul directly at the project workshop, details below.
- Instagram: paulsprojectworkshop
- Internet: www.theprojectworkshop.com.au