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Buy American or Buy Quality?

In “Buy American” (“First Word,” November 2007), when Dirk Dusharme asks if he should buy a U.S. product out of patriotism, or only if it’s better, my response would be both. When faced with a decision regarding buying any (especially higher-priced) item, I first ask, “Is there a quality U.S. product that meets or exceeds the requirements I’m looking for at a price I’m willing to pay?” The answer is almost always yes.

I think that the poor quality of products, especially automobiles, of the 1970s and 1980s left a cross-generational poor perception of U.S. quality that is still influencing our choices today.

Most of these problems have been addressed, and now most U.S. products are as good, if not better, than the imported ones, but, the “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” way of dealing with disappointing purchases of the past still persists.

--Mike Twomey


Your premise that there are foreign-made products available at higher quality than comparable products made in the United States made for an interesting discussion with your wife, but it’s simply not true. For everyday items that most of us consumers use, there is no discernible quality gap in U.S.-made products.

For me, quality is a given if it is made in the United States. “Buy American” at every opportunity!

--Mel Ostrander


We “Buy American” every Sunday at the local farmers markets, where we can buy quality organic foods for less directly from the local farmers. This is probably the only time that we are really satisfied when we “Buy American.”

I have a 2002 Ford F-150. The cruise control has been disabled since they first mentioned the recall and Ford still has not issued new replacement parts. It seems to me that foreign automakers address these problems right away and offer solutions sooner.

“Buy American?” Maybe, if the product is as good and the price is competitive.

--Scott Davis


Made in the USA

I loved Nathalie Mitards’s article (“Made in the USA,” November 2007). Not only is it a very original and thought-provoking analysis of the effect of global trade, but it’s incredibly timely, in light of all the recalls that are going on. In general, I am a supporter of global trade as a very important tool for civilizing our world if it is applied effectively, but it has to be done within a comprehensive, directed strategy.

-- Conway Shields


Relax (Really)

H. James Harrington’s column on relaxation (“Relax to Create,” “Performance Improvement,” November 2007) is a wonderful addition to this month’s offerings. Thank you.

--Grace Duffy


Thank you for this article. It’s sure to be helpful for those who take it to heart.

--Gary Kopacek


I can’t believe that you actually allowed an article promoting transcendental meditation and self-hypnosis in your publication. Why exactly do you feel the need to include Eastern mysticism in a publication that is supposed to be focused on quality issues? I don’t really feel like expending the effort in explaining to you why it is absurd to be talking about this subject. Creative ideas are important and necessary, but it is not necessary to be in “… an altered state of consciousness by clearing the mind….”

--John Belbas


Thoughts on Afterthoughts

I just finished reading Scott Paton’s article (“Quality Afterthoughts,” “Quality Curmudgeon,” November 2007) and as much as I hate to admit it, I have to agree with his assessment.

As a quality manager in a manufacturing facility, I have seen and/or been involved in all of the recognized quality methodologies. Any of the methodologies mentioned in this article could be successful if they received 100-percent support. Unfortunately, most start out with a bang and end up being seen as a “flavor of the month” once support wanes. Like Paton, I also have seen quality from a large portion of our suppliers slip over the years, although the majority of these companies are ISO-standard-registered, practice Six Sigma, or employ lean manufacturing. The approach of having less people do more and multitask, in my opinion, has also brought about the decline in the “soft” side of quality, particularly in customer care. Far too little emphasis is placed on the quality of customer satisfaction, with organizations forgetting that the true gauge of customer satisfaction is not the number of complaints received. Some customers won’t complain; they just take their business elsewhere (or perhaps they tried to complain but could never get through to a real person).

The best quality methodology remains the golden rule, good old pride in workmanship, and the philosophy “if better is possible, good is not enough.”

--Carol Goynes


A Sow’s Ear

As usual, Bill Kalmar is right on (“Training a Pig,” QualityInsider, http://qualitydigest.com/IQedit/QDarticle_text .lasso?articleid=12395). Clients want value for training. Providers need to work harder to ensure that the trained can demonstrate that the training had value to them and their company. On the other hand, it’s up to the company buying the training to evaluate the program beyond reading the literature and signing up. ISO 9001 requires training and competence evaluations. I often find the competence evaluations very weak or nonexistent.

--Dick Fox