Acceptance of defective materials, poor workmanship, and inattentive & sullen service


Michael T

Greetings all.... here I go again.

According to Dr. Deming, "Acceptance of defective materials, poor workmanship, and inattentive and sullen service as a way of life in America is a roadblock to better quality and productivity. We have learned to live in a world of mistakes and defective products as if they were necessary to life. It is time to adopt a new religion in America." (Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position, 1982)

That was written almost 20 years ago, yet it seems as if daily there are problems with the quality of everyday goods and services. For example, I went to the bank at lunch (12:00 noon) to deposit my check. There were 16 people in line and only ONE teller. After 15 minutes of waiting, another teller finally opened a window but spent the next 5 minutes on the telephone, not serving customers. To top it off, the branch manager was able to view the whole thing from his office, yet did nothing to alleviate the situation. After I deposited my check, I had a little chat with him concerning the level of customer service at the branch. I was not confrontational, but wanted to express my dissatisfaction. All I got were excuses. When I raised the issue to the level of the corporate customer service department, I got practially the same excuses. I gave up in exasperation.

I'll give you another example... 2 weeks ago I was installing an L shaped shower curtain rod over our bathtub in preparation to add a shower (old house - old bathroom... :) ). The shower rod is supported along one side by a rod that attaches from the rod to the ceiling. Unfortunately, the attachment at the rod was manufactured so poorly that it failed to connect. I had to spend over an hour and a half making modifications to the attachment and rod to make the thing work. This should have been a 20 minute installation. Unfortunately, I didn't do anything about the poor quality of the product... why? I don't know... apathy I guess.

My point is... How many of us are accepting poor quality products and services every day and do nothing about it? According to Dr. Deming, this is just perpetuating the problem of quality in this country.

Thoughts? Comments?


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I couldn't agree more...

And what I find to be really frustrating is when you get lip is my example.

All the Moms and Dads here can appreciate this one.

A grocery store I no longer shop at has shopping cart with baby carriers attached to them. The design of these carts are such that they will nest inside other carts, with or without carriers. So there is no seperate storage location for these special carts. I went in one day with the baby and my husband, and each and every cart with a carrier was in at least 10 carts deep. My husband had to pull out cart after cart to get one with the baby carrier. When we got in the store, he spoke to the manager...very politely...and the manager was appologetic and stated he would correct the problem. Went back to the store 2 days later, just me and the babe...and GUESS WHAT....problem not fixed. Being that I was by myself this time, no hubby to yank out cart, I went to the manager and had HIM pull out a cart for me...Do you think that resolved the issue...NOPE. I no longer shop there except an occational quick stop on my way home. But most people would not take this step....they just accept poor quality.

I am sure we all have many stories like this to tell...but until we as a country start to demand better quality, better service...nothing will change. Does this involved some sacrafice at times, yes it can, but I will not spend my hard earned money or time on poor quality.

K....I have spewed for the day....


Michael T

Thanks for posting Carol...

Yep... lip service is enough to drive a person to drink. But why do so many people use lip service and a whole line of horse **** to make excuses for why they aren't their jobs? Since I got into the quality game, I've been much better about not taking the BS and standing up for what I know is right. I still don't do it all the time (as evidenced by the shower fiasco). However, every time I require someone to do their job correctly and give me a quality product, I get "the look". You know the one... the "this guy is being an a**hole" look. What makes me even more frustrated is the fact that I know when I get a customer complaint or a request for corrective action, I've gotta jump through hoops to make sure my customer is completely satisfied.

So... where does the change need to take place? Where do people learn that mediocrity is acceptable? In school (elementary school, high school, college)? On their first job? Or, perhaps a better question is, when does intrinsic motivation get driven out?

More food for thought....



Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Why do we accept mediocrity is if were a fact of life? What are our assumptions about ‘facts of life’? I feel this is where you will find your answers. (stepping onto my soap box)

Business in the Western hemisphere and in Europe still bank (pardon my pun) on competition to grow their businesses. Market share this, market share that. They do not understand that they are both in business to grow the market, not steal market share form each other, and improve the quality of their products and services for the benefit of mankind. Tons of money is shoved into marketing campaigns on how to sell more products and services without ever improving them. Less is invested on understanding what it is the customer really NEEDS and WANTS.

The game of tug-of-war: simply fruitless for the Customer at some point. But Competition is good, right? Fierce competition drives down the cost of things and services. The consumer wins!! Or, so we are told: a false assumption. The fact is that ‘competition’ as a focus will cause lose-lose as so noted in the posts above. The consumer is helpless to change this game of tug-of-war; he is an innocent victim of this war. To survive, the consumer must bounce back-and-forth with the competition to try and minimize the devastating effect. It is quite frustrating and a waste of effort for everyone involved. Finally, we succumb to the endless competition and throw up the white flag. But both organizations do not recognize this flag and as such, will let you be a victim. This is what I believe Dr. Deming meant about sitting idly by waiting for improvement, another false assumption that time will cure everything.

People are busy. Our lives gain more and more complexity as we reach mid-life. Who has time to put out fires that they haven’t started? Sadly, we fail to see ourselves in a System where we are the single largest component of the system with the largest duty to improve it. How is it that we can be so blind to this? What paradigm(s) have us under such control that we allow organizations to walk all over us and offer us no improvement to quality of life? We are trapped by our assumptions of how things work.

So who set this trap? We did. Our own shortsightedness has caused us great pain and damage. It is not beyond repair. Organizations must stop the pursuit of ‘instant pudding’ by netting short-term gains with a Product Out mentality. Organizations, as well as all other components in the System, must begin to focus on a Common Aim, the Aim of the System. This involves a Customer In mentality, understanding of other component needs, and patience. In my estimation, the Common Aim to any System is this: Value in its many forms. The Customer does not value profit but does value on-time delivery/service, availability, reliability, durability, and many more. Organizations value profit, sustained markets, good supply chains, and a intrinsically motivated workforce among many. Communities value tax revenues, employment of its citizens, and growth. Organizations also seek growth, but what Western Management does not understand is that Growth is not forced; it comes naturally through many efforts. The Environment values all that sustains the ecosystem. I have only scratched the surface here…

As the largest component with the greatest responsibility for improvement, we must challenge our assumptions and take task of our charge. We must unite to stamp out mediocrity in all of its manifestations. We must work to create better understanding through increased channels of information and as Peter Scholtes suggest: we must have patience and persistence to persevere. (stepping off the soap box).

Nice topic!!



Jim Biz

Heres a good one!!

My son works as a computer (MIS) tech - fo a local high school

They had need to install a secondary server so that required a new switch set-up.

They ordered 2 switches - and 2 matching cards for the system

a) one of the 2 switches was delivered "3 states" away from where he works (but did get there overnight as required) :rolleyes:

2) after tracking it down and making installation - the system still didn't work WHY?

one swithch & one board was produced in Mexico - One switch and one board was produced in singapore. - specifications were interpreted differently.

No matter what combination of hook-up they used NOTHING was compatiable enough to operate properly.

This is a case that can be corrected - BUT it's almost a single supplier situation & he has little option to just go somewhere else for it.


Michael T

Hi Kevin,

Pardon me while I try to douse the flames off the ol’ soap box…I don’t want to burn myself when I step up… :D That was a great post!

I agree with your sentiments and believe that we (everyone who is a consumer) needs to step up to the plate and demand that the goods and services they receive are top quality. Unfortunately, there are several mind-sets that need to be overcome in order for this to start happening.

First mind-set: The old Protestant Work Ethic; i.e., hard work will reward you for your efforts. This is not necessarily true. I believe that working hard the smart way will reward you for your efforts. This is particularly endemic of the United States. While the industrial revolution did not start here, modern manufacturing (the assembly line) surely did. A great many of today’s leaders are the progeny of the workers of yester-year; when all you had to do was buckle down and work hard and you could get ahead in the world. The problem with this is that, no matter how hard you work, if you are manufacturing junk, you are just manufacturing a lot of junk quickly. I am constantly reminding people that it is OK to be a little slower when they are working and ensure the product is top quality. Yet, production managers follow along and push the "out-the-door” philosophy. Far too few executives and managers understand that the “out-the-door" philosophy is a prescription for disaster. What good is it to run balls-to-the-wall (pardon the vernacular) manufacturing a substandard product when you risk the chance of it being rejected due to poor workmanship? If you slow the line down slightly, pay more attention to what is being manufactured, and ensure that procedures are in place to ensure the employees have the tools necessary to do their job correctly, the chances of rejections are greatly diminished. Hence, less rework, less returned goods costs, less scrap, lower costs, increased profits, increased customer satisfaction, more orders, fewer layoffs, more recession-proof, increased employee loyalty, happier employees, joy in work, pride in a job well done, better product, less rework… etc., etc., etc. Now, since a great many business (manufacturing in particular) have the philosophy of promoting from within, the Line Supervisors come from the general workforce. They have been subjected to “out the door” philosophy their entire career. Very few Supervisors get the kind of training necessary to make the effective leaders and promoters of quality. They are left in a bind. Upper and middle management preaches quality, yet, when no-one is looking, pushes quantity. While these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, they are extremely difficult to achieve together without quality being the primary focus and driver.

Second mind-set: (This builds somewhat on the first) Higher education (business programs) is failing to provide the adequate training necessary to produce the truly “well-rounded” graduate. Look at virtually any undergraduate or graduate Business Administration program and chances are you will not see one required course devoted to “quality”. Oh sure, there will be a smattering here and there sprinkled in with “management” classes or a brief glossing over SPC in a statistics class, but very few devoted strictly to the principles of quality and certainly none that are required classes. Yet, what is one of the main courses every business program requires? Accounting. Why?? (This is not intended as a slight to any accountants out there) While I will grant that a fundamental knowledge of accounting is necessary in business, I feel that the emphasis business programs place on accounting over emphasize the focus on the “bottom line” and perpetuate the “out-the-door” philosophy that so many in management adhere. If more business programs added an Introduction to Quality or some other type of Quality class as one of the core requirements, I firmly believe we would begin seeing the paradigm shift necessary to take the American business out of the “production first” spiral it is in.

While I agree that the American people need to start taking more responsibility for not accepting poor quality in the products and services purchased, I feel that the brunt of the quality revolution needs to come from a Top Down approach – not necessarily a bottom up approach. While many businesses claim to be consumer driven, how many truly are? Unfortunately, the average American consumer is brainwashed by the media hype that corporations use to convince us that their product is “the best” or the competitions’ is “the worst”, etc. If corporations would allocate the same amount of money to increasing quality as it does to advertising, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Another problem is that the American consumer doesn’t have the time it takes to “fight” for their rights to better quality. This shouldn’t be a fight and shouldn’t take a lot of time, but it does. I believe that this is by design… wear down the disgruntled consumer. If you don’t believe me, try making a complaint to any heath care organization about anything.

Yikes…. I’ve started the soap box smoldering again! I guess it is time to abdicate to another. :D

What do you all think?



Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Someone please, step up to the recently fire-proofed soap box. What are your thoughts on this topic?



Laura M

Great stuff guys, We probably all have our bank-line and defective product stories. But this happened this weekend.

My neighbor had a hospital emergency room visit this weekend for her daughter who broke her wrist. The bed they were given was "ruffled" - not obviously dirty, but there was a gown in the chair next to it and the blanket was in a pile, not spread flat and tucked. My neigher asked for the sheets to be changed since it looked like someone had been in the bed. The nurse responded "Its clean - no one has been in it." but my neighbor said - "I'd just feel better if it were changed, because it looks used." The nurse left, she assumed to get the change of sheets. She told her daughter to sit but not lay down. They waited 1.5 hours until someone came by to check on the girls wrist (an attending) and he was congenial, helping to ease the waiting time (another quality related story, but I'll stick to this one) and after a few minutes, my neighbor asked him if he could get the sheets changed so the girl could lay down. He looked at the bed, and she explained that it was how it was when they arrived, so he immediately changed the bed. The nurse who was originally asked was overheard in the hall outside yelling " I told them that was clean....she had no right to ask you to do it, and you shouldn't have done it."

I told my neighbor that she had every right to file a complaint on the nurse because her expectations and perceptions as the customer were not considered. Clean or not, the nurse could and should have said, " I believe they are clean, but if it'll make you feel better I'll get them changed" and the whole impression of the ER would have been better. Not knowing what the nurses problem was (hours cut back, just moved to an off shift, co-worker called in sick or a b**ch 24-7) it's still a management issue. Someone needs to let her know the customer expectations and follow through with her performance. The customer is always right!

On the other hand I guess is the nurse is the equivalent of the production supervisor - just get the parts (patients) turned around and out the door, with little or no control over the circumstances.


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Thank you for fire proofing the soap box!!!! I for one certainly appreciate it.....

Now for all the fine folks at the Cove, especially those 40 and over....remember the movie "Network"????


Ahhhhhhh...watta think??????



What a sad day

I came to visit the “Deming” thread because I have not read him. The posts are excellent until we get into the quality of service thing. The everyday examples are all too common. Growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, etc., I’ve witnessed the slow progression from getting “what you paid for” to “take it or leave it”. There are no areas where this has not occurred. It, in my opinion, is based on individual greed. Too many people without any guiding principles, except the acquisition of wealth. “The American Dream.” This topic can go on and on with what may be perceived as horror stories. Too late, Folks. It’s not going to change until honesty and decency return to the way we now do business. That will not happen in my lifetime and, I doubt yours.
The good old days, even with their problems, were actually good. People had stronger morals and believed if you did good, you were rewarded in kind. Not so today. You see millions of dollars embezzled, hard working people’s life savings lost and the perpetrators treated like they didn’t do such a bad thing. Many corporations are ruthless in making profits and treating employees unfairly. There is a general disenchantment with the system and no impetus for workers to do any more than they have to. Today, one just has to go shopping for anything and they will encounter less than desirable situations. But, you really have to know the difference. The majority of the population doesn’t recognize poor service or have resigned themselves to what’s considered today’s acceptable level of service.
So, Deming Deming Deming

This is a sad day to be posting, but life goes on.:(
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