When I watch professional sports, the announcers offer constant praise for mediocre players which makes it difficult to determine which players are truly "great". When I think of "great", I think of players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. According to the media, however, the backup guard the Celtics just traded for is also "great". "Great" has become a word in professional sports that needs further qualification. This is very similar to how the word "quality" is used when we talk about furniture.
It's important to be watchful of the word "quality", since it's thrown around so much in furniture advertising. I've found that the more a furniture retailer uses the word "quality", the lower quality the furniture actually is.
When I think of "quality", I think of my Fisher Price toys that I played with growing up. Not only did they withstand my two brothers and I, but my three boys go straight to the closet in Mimi and Grandpa's house that contains the green truck, the helicopter, the boat, and the assortment of characters that I played with as a child. I have no doubt that my grandchildren will play with these toys as well.
So maybe my view of quality is a little distorted. Maybe my standards are too high! Or maybe we, as consumers, have lowered our collective standard for what constitutes "quality".
Imagine that we decide to buy a dining room set from one of the giant furniture retailers, taking advantage of no interest and no payments for 12 months. But after 6 months, the furniture has cracked, the plastic drawer slider snapped, the drawer pull came off, the reclining mechanism in the recliner no longer works, and we haven't even made our first payment on the furniture! Yet we blame ourselves for being too hard on the furniture.
"Quality" no longer means that the product gets passed from generation to generation. Instead, it means that it looks decent in the showroom and can survive the delivery trip. It might be O.K. if you move it around once or twice, and if you're really lucky, it will still function as advertised by the time you make your first payment.
Furniture should be as it once was: A prized possession in the home, purchased with great pride for the family with hard earned money. Furniture should make memories and survive long enough for us to use while we enjoy those memories.
I received an e-mail from a potential consignor today and the e-mail began, "I have a 1930s era Heywood Wakefield dining room set. It originally belonged to my wife's grandmother, passed down through two more generations." Here is a photo of the set. This, my friends, is quality.