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Friday, December 28, 2012

Demand Better Quality

Someone once told me that a low price tag does not excuse poor quality.  He was talking about wine, of course.

He also said that when a person finds him/herself excusing poor quality without giving it any thought, perhaps it’s time to stop lowering their standards.

When I see things becoming acceptable, things that were once regarded as subpar or taboo or simply unacceptable for whatever reason, I begin to wonder why.  Culture becomes dumbed down, attention to detail goes by the wayside, quantity outweighs quality.  I once referred to this as the “White Zinfandelization” of our culture.

When I was in college, I majored in politics and minored in European studies (and this was before I knew I’d enter the wine industry someday), and part of my minor was studying a European language - I studied Italian and Latin during my college years.  I had one favorite Italian professor, a lady who made class entertaining and treated us with respect, and I learned a lot.  What she pointed out to us, interestingly enough, was that she spent more time correcting her students’ use of the English language than she did correcting improper Italian grammar.  This was odd because all of us in the class were native English speakers, and she’s a native Italian speaker.  She couldn’t understand why she had better command of our language than some of the American students did.

When I look at things I read and I hear people speaking, proper use of grammar sounds wonderful to me.  Several years back, I think it would have been the case that poor use of grammar would have disturbed me.  It still does, but it’s become much more normal these days, to see the language perverted.  The dumbing down of other things disturbs me, too.  I think one thing that surprises me is when someone is rewarded for doing a good thing.  Shouldn’t someone always be doing the good thing, and should bear the consequences when he/she does the wrong thing?  Shouldn’t “good,” “right,” “well done” be the standard?

I once knew a music professional, and one day he was conflicted with whether to tell one of his students how poorly she had performed on a particular occasion.  I explained to him that as a professional in his field, it’s his obligation to ensure good quality.  I think people in any profession have an obligation to ensure good quality.

People seem to settle for poor quality products, services, etc., regularly.  I don’t understand that.  Why should we accept less than what we bargain for?  I don’t care if a wine is inexpensive - that’s not an excuse for it to taste or smell bad, or have an unpleasant feel, or give the drinker absolutely no pleasure.  I don’t care if it only cost a dollar.  It would be a dollar wasted.  I’m amazed literally all of the time by how many people think they can’t afford good wine.  Most everyone can afford good wine, because good wine doesn’t have to be expensive wine.  There are good wines across the price ranges.  But whether it’s expensive or inexpensive, it’s got to be good quality.  Lots of producers realize now that people will settle for poor quality products, so they can turn out products that are subpar and still know with reasonable certainty that the product will fly off the shelves of wine shops and out of the cellars of restaurants.  Why?  People people have lowered their standards.  And it’s often quite difficult to raise standards once they’ve been lowered.

I drink wine every night.  Not alone - I don’t think I could handle that.  But I do drink wine every night, and each night, it’s something different.  And nearly every night, it’s a wine that retails between $10 and $15, and almost never over $20.  Nearly all the time, I’m satisfied with the wine.  A while back, I used to drink wines made by larger producers.  I didn’t know what was out there, available to all of us, if only we look for them.  That has changed completely for me.  Wines made by small producers show more attention to detail and better quality, and the wines are often inexpensive.  Those small independent producers are driven by quality over quantity, and that’s the best way to ensure satisfaction.  And here’s another reason why I find good wines - I shop in places where the owner or buyer has high standards and will only stock his/her shelves with wines of good quality.

So it’s not necessary to spend loads of money to ensure good quality in a wine.  And this tells me that price should not determine quality.  Like I said, just because something may be inexpensive, that doesn’t excuse poor quality.

I also mentioned something about how absurd it is to reward a job well done.  A job should always be well done.  Wine should always be good quality.  A job poorly done should be “punished” in some way, and in my opinion, the best way to punish someone for making a poor quality product is to leave the product on the shelves.  For the same price (or perhaps even less) we can find a much better product.  Show the producers that you demand good quality, and that you won’t settle for anything less.  If we keep on buying lousy products, we’re encouraging them to keep on making bad wine.  If we refuse to settle, and instead channel our money toward people who ensure good quality, we’re doing everyone a favor, including ourselves, by purchasing good quality wine, as well as forcing others to strive to make a better product.  If we keep on settling, we will never be satisfied.

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