Quality products no guarantee now

Have you ever purchased a product you like, only to discover the product was changed and it no longer performed as expected? I suspect it happens more often than not.

A long time ago, my favorite brand of jeans was Levis. There were no options like slim, relaxed fit or stone washed. They had only two styles: boot cut and regular. And at one price.

Today, Levis is only a brand among many that offers a blue jean that comes in many styles and levels of quality. If one values quality above everything else, chances are the blue jeans will not even sport a Levi tag at all. Chances are, it may not even be available at a regular store, but at a specialty shop or online.

A couple years back, I purchased four pair of name-brand blue jeans for a reasonable price. Shortly after, the belt loops were falling off and holes appeared, as if by magic.

A closer look revealed the loops were fastened by only a few threads of string. As for the magical holes that appeared after the first washing, since I had not simultaneously exposed every pair to battery acid or other caustic substance, I suspect a lower quality cotton was used in its manufacture, or it had already been exposed to a caustic substance prior to manufacture.

A product of Mexico, the label said.

?You get what you pay for,? would be an expected response, I suppose. What happens when you pay for the quality and it?s not evident until after its use ends badly? If so, one had better hope the brand name is Crafts?man or Land?s End, or another brand equally synonymous with quality. They replace all products without any question or criticism.

Finding defective material in a product that even has a historical reputation for quality can take anyone by surprise. I learned that lesson one day, after purchasing a set of genuine John Deere screwdrivers from Deere and Co. The plastic handles melted in the 100-degree heat. The fine print said, ?Made in China.?

The downsizing of a product or replacing an ingredient with an inferior, cheaper one is difficult to spot, unless one is very familiar with the product. Candy manufacturers routinely downsize their products while effectively raising their prices on unsuspecting customers. There is hardly any chocolate left in a regular Hershey?s candy bar. Same thing with a Snicker?s bar. Ounce for ounce, there is nearly as much weight in the package as the snack inside. Yet the price suggests a rather significant purchase of candy.

Wendy?s, the popular fast-food chain, changed its pricing policy by including cheese in the price of their premier burger. Today, whether you choose it with or without cheese, you pay for it. This simple price change has a dramatic impact on the company?s bottom line.

In other words, the consumer can still have it his or her way, only it costs extra to do so.

On the positive side, their business decision is helping me to make healthier food choices. Since I cannot have it my way without paying for the privilege, I choose to eat fewer burgers.

Or not. The Braums burger, with no cheese, is still the best. It?s a good thing the McPherson store is 30 miles away.

The melamine ingredient commonly used by Chinese food processors brought the food safety issue of substitute ingredients to the forefront. Primarily used in pet food, it resulted in previously unexplained deaths of pets in the U.S. and elsewhere. Only when food safety experts discovered the product was also included in infant food did China take the threat to food safety seriously, resulting in the execution of two plant managers to put the industry on notice. At least six infants died while hundreds of thousands of infants were sickened by the product.

Incidentally, melamine was also found in chocolate and eggs that came from China. How?s that for a cure for one?s obsession with the tempting candy?

Imagine how focused the rest of the manufacturing and business world would be when people realize their prosperity depends on their continued success at staying alive while making others happy and healthy as well.

I?m not proposing we implement such ?incentives? for improving moral and ethical behavior in business. However, that thought is very tempting, especially since we live in a global community that trades goods across the border, often without thought or informed knowledge of not only the products themselves, but also the ingredients that are included in the manufacture of the product.

Lunch time is upon us. Time for me to decide which down-sized, price-adjusted food item looks good enough and practical to eat.

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