Fixing crappy designs?

Caution: rant ahead…

So, it seems like I have to keep fixing crappy designs. I pay good money for products and then have to customize or fix them so they actually work. Today’s examples:

  • I just paid $3,000 for a new sliding glass patio door (installed) because the vapor seal had broken on the old one and I needed to replace the screen door (bastard size that couldn’t be replaced). The contractor installed it, then we tried to open the screen door. The latch is so stiff and flush that most people in the house can’t open it. I just returned from the hardware store where I bought two $3 cabinet handles that I will need to install. No other option.

  • I bought a gazebo (metal & canvas) from Target earlier this summer. It lasted 3 days before a thunderstorm took it down like a house of cards. I went to Home Depot and bought one that looked twice as sturdy (for twice as much money). That one lasted 2.5 weeks (same circumstances). Now ordinarily I would blame it on unusual weather, except we had another similar gazebo in the exact spot for THREE YEARS!! I went out and rented welding equipment and added angle iron to the remains of the Home Depot gazebo. I also stuffed rebar into all of the roof supports (thin square tubing). The thing is built like a bunker now (added $60 worth of metal).

Bottom line - why should I need to fix brand new products? Possible answer - We’ve managed to design the value out of products to hit retail price points? Quality has left the building.

Yeah, I’m not really sure when I starting buying things with the intent to “fix” them as soon as I got home, but I feel like that too sometimes.

I think for me, I am at some sort of nexus between consumer disgust, and the desire to just build full custom furniture. We cut apart and rebuilt about half the stuff in our house, ranging from simple paint jobs to completely cutting apart and screwing back together a chest of drawers, to the coffee table I built from scratch.

I ran into this issue with a dresser we got from a nice furniture store that I will keep nameless. We had them for about 2 months when the bottom of the drawer starting falling out. I then had to break out the wood glue and clamps and repair and put my high school shop class skills to work.

The sad part was that these dressers replaced dresses that I had in my bedroom at my parents house my entire childhood and my dad had sense he was a teenage. The old ones still work fine but as you can imagine where a little out dated.

Oh its not “bad” design, there is no such thing as “bad” design :laughing: bad engineering, engineering for price…but who needs engineers anyway…phooie…they just ruin a designers “buzz and vision”.

My opinion is that not everyone is gonna “fix” the things they buy. You might not like it how it was designed, but I bet some ppl might like it. It just depends on the individual…a designer can’t satisfy everyone.

There is a major difference between not liking/liking a design, and the product failing under normal conditions.

If the product catastrophically fails after 2 or 3 months, it doesn’t matter if there was any “liking” involved, its a failed product

(in most cases of course— some products should only last for a short duration or single use-- toilet paper, condoms, motor oil, soda can, etc).

wow, so I’m not the only one fixing stuff I just bought. I think you hit the nail on the head- anything to save $0.005. Might just be the old switcheroo with the materials supplier as well…

Another thing that bugs me is the stuff that should squirt, spray, etc that fails to do so before you’ve used it a third time and still have 90% of a bottle left…

As I see it the issue is that some retailers / buyers fall in love with volume price points. They need products at price point levels not quality levels. Lets face it the retailers are in the business of making money first, supplying products and services second. Then some where down the road supplying quality products. At the end of the day the buyers and the retailers are associated with competitive pricing and shopping experience not the price vs. quality. There is a price threshold in a retail environment that some retailers will not exceed no matter how fantastic the product, because their belief is people will not pay a higher price as often as they will pay a lower price. And why would they keep a higher priced product on the shelf when they can keep a comparable assortment of lesser quality product that they will sell through 4 times as fast? Answer they wouldn’t because there is less money to be made in that scenario.

The price vs. quality relationship is the responsibility of the national brands or manufactures. This is becoming more and more difficult for this group due to the ever changing world we live in. In a world of double digit raw material cost increases and the weak state of the US dollar the price vs. quality equation continues to suffer. Now more than ever there is a need for great design and engineering because the old way of generating the price to quality relationship is not effective. We can not continue to make the gauge thinner, reduce the amount of zinc and plastic as still maintain the original design intent or we end up with what this thread is about.

Sorry about the rant but this eats at me.

so in sum, people just want STUFF, more and more STUFF not good stuff just STUFF…go look around at all the garage sales/e bay if you need more data points.

If any of you have dealt with the abusive world of “reverse auctions” in the retail world you’ve seen first hand how quality is systematically removed from a product.

Brief version:

Retailers (read Target, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc.) invite a list of qualified vendors to a meeting to see who will bid the lowest price for a whole category. The process usually involves having all of the vendor’s decision makers (including the manufacturing people) on a conference call to see what they can strip out of the product to hit the lowest bid price. Often we figured out the cost part AFTER we won the business. Theoretically the product specs couldn’t change, but the retailer often turned a blind eye to that factor. Other times “program dollars” were thrown into the bid to buy the business. Of course this came from somewhere (product quality?).

So if you wonder why your products fall apart after a few days/weeks/months you can partially blame the business model some of these guys use to improve their profits.

The clever vendor starts using their own reverse auction for components and raw materials (if the accumulated volume is big enough). The crap flows downstream to the last guy in the value chain. Then he has to figure out how to use lead paint on toys bound for the US…

This reminds me of dinner,

Every night I get home and ask, hey steph, what should we have for dinner, gee tony I just don’t know blablabla. So we start out thinking quality, organic even. get to the grocery store and then realize organic lettuce is like 4 buck a head and regular lettuce is like 99 cents a head. So my dinner’s quality starts to diminish. Then by the time I have a basket full of beef, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and buns I realize all I wanted was a damn cheese burger in the first place and wendy’s is like right across the street, so I set the basket down and walk out of the building. Somewhere along the way I drive by the White Castle and think back to how funny that harold and kumar movie was so all the sudden my free range beef burger with organic lettuce and blue cheese has become a slider.

Just like in products there are some areas I don’t skimp in, like the baby’s food, his stuff still comes from the natural foods isle, so mine apparently comes out of a tube.

So thats how the noguchi coffee table you wanted from DWR becomes that black wire frame thing with the broken glass top from Walmart.

know it well, in the bike business its down to trimming the size of the decals… :laughing:

It gets even worse in the candy packaging biz…With our product only selling at $.65 or lower for a singles it is sometime a fight just to get marketing to even consider design. Even though with proper store placment and display of the product they can sell much more.

slotting is EVERYTHING in retail

This is the unsightly side of design they don’t tell you about in school. Rave on brothers rave on…

Okay I just got finished making dinner and started to put my lunch and breakfast together for tomorrow when I thought of this topic. I pulled out English muffins that I bought just 2 days ago on Sunday. When I went to get a muffin out I noticed that there was mold on it. I then looked at the date and it read “sell by jul 23” That’s tomorrow and it is a sell by date not a spoil date. So I guess my friends this topic goes further than just design, it is also in quality of food.

i’d like to get some perspective on the marketing side of things, i’d be interested in exactly what these people are skilled in and what makes them tick. from what i hear, they usually make design their biatch.

sorry about the double post here, but

i have no experience what so ever, but the way i see it, the higher material costs get the more important design is. not just design that will make products prettier, but design that will use a right brain approach and direct engineering to make products that will last and be cheap to manufacture. our shortlived modern era has seen industrial techniques that make raw materials cheap and entirely disposable. hopefully a return to high material prices will lead consumers to seek out durable and usable products driven by design, instead of cheap disposable crap. at least, thats the dream lol.

its a great dream and one that I think a lot us share, but I don’t think the market behaves like this, at least in the short term.

Guess which retailer does best when purchasing power decreases? Wal-mart.
People have less money, so they buy cheap.
So the same retailers who create a low price, low quality market benefit when cost increase.

try telling a family who is barely making ends meet to buy an steam iron for $100 instead of $50. Typically the $100 will serve them better and last longer, thus costing less in the long term…but that doesn’t factor into someone’s purchasing decisions who doesn’t have the $100 dollars.

Did anyone watch Koppel’s report “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”
In the show he profiles the closing of the Briggs and Stratton plant in Rolla, MO (they moved it to china). During an interview with one laid-off worker, the worker stated that the govt. needed to do something or there would not be an living wage jobs left in America. The interviewer followed up with a question about whether the worker shopped at Wal-Mart. The worked said yes and that she had even been there this morning. When asked why she shopped there she stated she can save a lot of money. The interviewer then asked if she released that was due to the majority of the products there being made in China and other low labor countries, the same reason she lost her job. She had no repsonse…she seemed to be able to understand that fact, but have no solution to the issue.

“WE ROLL BACK OUR PRICES!” At the detriment of everything else…Wal-mart and big box stores will effectively destroy America’s quality of life in the long term.
(and no I don’t think is justified by the fact that you can get that steam iron for $50 and are therefore ‘saving’ money)
The real question is will consumers ever reach the point where they are willing to forgo something immediate and prioritize in order to buy quality?

doubt it.

never heard of that program but sounds interesting. the “blame china, but can’t live without” mentality you describe in the show is something that really gets me + when i hear it from people who buy cheap and complain about how crappy those products are, it drives me nuts.