Friday, October 13, 2006

Quality: A Tale of Expectations

I'm curious about something. What do people expect from the quality of their clothes? I realize that we have become a somewhat "disposable" mentality in our society, but I have to report what happened to me yesterday.

I thought I'd found the impossibly cheap but good quality t-shirt with a fabulously flattering neckline from the George line at Walmart. OK, red flags already, I know, but I needed some layering pieces for Wyoming weather and I was very impressed with the colors of these boat neck, three quarter sleeve silky like t-shirts. I was very happy with how they felt and how they looked.

Then, I suppose I made the mistake of actually expecting to wear these shirts more than once or twice. The quality of the fabric was so poor that after two wearings it looked as if I'd scrubbed my tub with it. The fabric was rubbing off everywhere, pilling and discoloring. I am not a rough wearer of clothes, being in the office all day. I'm not doing anything like holding a baby or moving around file boxes. I just sit there.

For the principle of it, I took them back to Walmart. The girl at the customer service looked at me as if I was a cheapskate like she had never seen. She refused to take them back. They have been worn. Uh-huh and see the fabric, I explained. The second lady comes over. They have been worn. Yes, ma'am and can you see the fabric? I just bought them and haven't even washed them yet. If I had washed them, I'll bet it would be even less of a shirt to bring back. Third, much more reasonable (but not apologetic, more like indifferent) manager is called and he allows me to return them.

Indignantly, I ask the first girl, "You understand why I'm returning this, right?" She shakes her head in disbelief, gives me a sparkly, gold-toothed half smile that made me think she thought I was pathetic, and says "Well, I wouldn't have brought them back." So that begs the question, what do people do with these shoddy shirts? I know they must keep wearing them, but after it wears out completely as it is destined to do, it's in the trash I suppose. And I'm assuming from this girls perspective of me, that it is really without a second thought that she would spend money (no matter how little), realize her shirt was worn out, and just move on probably back to Wal-Mart to buy another one.

Immediately I left the Walmart, and had three things on my mind.

First, am I alone in daring to return such a shoddy product? I am a frequent and unashamed returner if I don't like something, even drugstore cosmetics, so I thought maybe I am not in the majority on this issue. By the way, I recommend that you do return items to at least put a dent in the poor quality madness, if not stop it.

Second, how can quality this poor possibly be acceptable? Even if you are buying something at Walmart, does that mean it has to be such poor quality that it is practically disposable? I also bought a Mossimo T at Target and it is holding up very well. It was $6.82 so price is not always indicative of quality. Old Navy also is very good quality of everything that I have purchased. The t-shirts from there have lasted me 3 years already.

And third, that this mentality is not really helping those who can only afford these $8.82 shirts since they are forced to replace so often. Wow, what a vicious circle! It's overwhelming to think how this affects those who really can only afford a certain price level, OR SO THEY THINK! What if they bought one shirt for $25.00 that lasted 2 years, wouldn't that be better?

Well the questions keep coming. Should I boycott Walmart? I heard they pay poor wages and don't give their workers healthcare by keeping them part-time. If that isn't a good enough reason, then the lack of understanding from "customer service" certainly is.


Denial Renae said...

I don't shop walmart clothing because of that fact. Most things I buy there are ruined after the first washing. I have maybe 1 thing from there that has help up over time, and that is a rare thing!

sisty said...

Yes, boycott Walmart. There are more than enough reasons.

PS Love your column.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised on the French Chic list when you mentioned you bought those shirts at Walmart. There are indeed simple things that wear over time (Lands End has some feminine tees) but Walmart doesn't sell quality (among other shoddy labor/management issues).

Anonymous said...

Um, yes, you should absolutely boycott Wal-mart!!!

If you're interested in what it's like to work there, read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, who worked there for awhile as one of the low-wage jobs she took to write the book from first-hand experience. You will note that it's difficult for their employees to afford to buy shirts there, so the gold-toothed one may have been bullshitting you.

Your comments about Target vs Wal-mart quality are most revealing. Good for you for holding them accountable!!!!!!

serene said...

You are a girl after my own heart!! I would and have done the same thing. Some would call it 'cheap'.. but it is my hard earned money and there's the principle of the matter. Love it!

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