Quality vs. Value

By John Magee

Quality can be defined in so many ways. It could be seen as the summation, or combination, of efficiency, intelligence, reliability, durability, and several other characteristics.

Yes, Americans value quality. But value overrides, is more important, than quality. Americans define value as the relation between price and product. Product in the sense of quality and the other critical product characterics. In fact, Americans rarely define (judge or value) a product separate from its price. Products of low quality (efficiency, intelligence, etc.) can be considered of high value, however, if their price is low and/or service of them high.

In Germany, quality is king. Even greater. If there were such a thing as the Pantheon of product characteristic gods, quality would be Zeus. The head god, the top dog, the queen bee, the boss.

Value: decisions large and small 

Quality is for the German also a multifaceted term, both specific and complex. It is not easily put into a box. And because quality is such a revered god, the Germans are very reluctant to soil it, insult it, pull it down, by placing it in relation to price. Germans would not define value so pragmatically, so price-driven as Americans.

I think of my mother and her siblings (most of whom have passed away) and their generation. Born in the 1930s in the United States, raised during the Great Depression, struggled through the Second World War, only then to live in prosperity in the post-war era.

She and her sisters, despite their financial security as wives and mothers, were geniuses when it came to recognizing value and basing their purchasing decisions – large and small – on value. They knew which coupons to clip out of the weekend newspaper, where the best sales where, how to size up a product based on its most important features and charactertics.

Quality and value

They can – and still do – go to a shopping mall and purchase top-of-the-line men‘s dress shirts for their husbands or sons at Bloomingdale‘s, then head directly to a Filene‘s or Target or TJ Maxx in order to buy athletic or dress socks at a rock-bottom price for their children (or grandchildren), knowing full well that they would have to be replaced rather soon.

Quality: peculiar and essential character; an inherent feature; degree of excellence; superiority in kind; a distinguishing attribute; the attribute of an elementary sensation that makes it fundamentally unlike any other sensation

Value: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged; the monetary worth of something; relative worth, utility, or importance; a numerical quantity that is assigned or is determined by calculation or measurement; the relative duration of a musical note; relative lightness or darkness of a color; the relation of one part in a picture to another with respect to lightness and darkness; something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.

Quality vs. Value