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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

buying quality crap 2 of 3


BUYING QUALITY CRAP 2

At the same time that Wally was sneaking in either price increases, or lowering quality, or both, other companies moved from screwing both stockholders and employees to humping their customers ( no doubt inspired by the heroic adventures of Obammy ).  Quality started going to crap everywhere.  Now, I don’t mind terribly when the net weight on products is reduced, per se.  I keep on eye on that and have for twenty plus years after I found out from a Frito-Lay employee that the corporate strategy was to alternate product reduction with price increases.  At least it is easy to keep track of.  Quality reduction is impossible to judge, baring being with the particular company, until you waste your money ( “going Maytag” ).  Every broth injected chicken breast, every Pink Slime hamburger, every “five week wonder” shoe you buy, and NOT at any kind of discount, these are the standard practices companies engage in nowadays.  You avoid companies which provide too low of quality, both from experience and word of mouth.  But you can’t JUST buy expensive and expect quality, either.

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Do you really think a $300,000 home is any better quality than a $125,000 one?  They are both made from the same crappy material.  Isn’t a Ford truck at $40,000 a better buy than a $45,000 Chevy ( for the record, I always preferred Chevy, and they were a great company at one time.  Now…? Of course, that is a bit of apples to oranges as both companies are racing to the bottom ).  Not that I’d EVER, ever buy a truck for that amount of money, mind you.  I’m merely pointing out that price isn’t a true barometer of quality.  A $25,000 Honda is a far better product, but of course than you don’t get macho points.  Is a $700 AR a far better buy than a $500 one?  Of course-I don’t know if I’d want to risk my life with the cheaper one.  At the same token, a $1200 AR isn’t necessarily better than a $700 one ( again, for the record, I don’t know if I could ever buy one at any price.  Yes, a GREAT mid range sniper rifle, a fine platform IF you don’t use it as an assault rifle, but also a rather flimsy and less than rugged material platform.  I wouldn’t be opposed to scavenging them, then using as a sniper, but pay for one…? ).

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My current bicycle was a necessary increased price purchase, as Wally bikes are made to break, at twice the price.  But I “bought American” and I spent a smidge above “middlin” price and the thing is crappy quality.  Higher price didn’t protect me there.  When I replaced the wheels, a $60 unit broke quickly, whereas a $30 one lasted much longer.  Yes, there was surface rust shortly after it began raining.  But that was some time ago and the thing is still mechanically sound even if sporting a hideous appearance.  Higher price didn’t protect me there, either.  My $1 laundry soap might not deliver as robust of a cleaning job as Tide brand at $5, but with about a nickels worth of “Shout” pre-cleaner the load comes out pretty nice looking.  Perhaps not 100% compatible but close enough.  That’s ABOVE middlin quality.  While buying a $20 pair of shoes is a complete waste of money, buying a $60 pair only gives you about twice the life ( I have one more brand to try.  Dickies at Big 5 seems like a good last bet ). 

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BUT, if you go ahead and buy a $200 pair, will you get ten times the life?  That seems like a very expensive roll of the dice.  If you spend $200, and the shoes only last three years, would you have been better off spending $40 each until you found a pair that lasted more than six months?  If you know that the $200 is well spent, that is all well and good but if you are gun-shy about yet another company screwing you, and if you know that your odds of getting “Maytag’ed” are about 50/50...  Retail is in its death throes due to energy decline, overpopulation and economic collapse.  You can’t just assume what worked in the past will still be true.  If you gamble on everything you need to buy by only Buying The Best, not only will you receive far less than you need, you will not necessarily get the best quality on everything.  The odds are better, true.  But it is still a gamble. 

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I gamble myself, by constantly trying to minimize costs.  I don’t automatically buy the cheapest ( see earlier firearm and transportation examples ) because some things have gone lowest quality and have stayed there, but automatically going to highest price is just as problematic.  A LOT is just peacock feathers, companies selling status ( rich people don’t just piss away money because they can, but because they are signaling their wealth to potential mates and/or rivals ).  A LOT is a once quality product company bought out and then run into the ground for a quick pay-off.  You lose money on both ends of the spectrum, but one is a lot cheaper than the other, education wise.  The truth is that plenty of middlin products are both affordable and decent quality.  Some things you can get away with for cheap.  Some need middlin price.  A few, you are better off ONLY going high price.  There are no simple answers.  ONLY buying the cheapest is as stupid as ONLY buying the most expensive.

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The best land is usually the cheapest, from a survivalist standpoint ( off the beaten track, no power lines pointing to its location, away from population ).  The best firearm is WWII surplus bolt guns ( leaving aside the semi verses bolt issue, focusing on longevity and battlefield ruggedness ), yet also almost the cheapest ( the break open single shots are the cheapest, and most likely the least parts breakage, yet are not made to be abused ).  But the cheapest places to live, on-grid where jobs are, is NOT a very good bargain given the crime rates and other quality of life issues.  Spending more for location is encouraged.  The most expensive survival food is the worst for you, the cheapest the healthiest ( with wheat, NOT with dried hot dogs ).  The cheapest doctor isn’t the best health care you could get.  I’d avoid traveling to a Third Country craphole ( although to be fair, a lot of the US is entering that category ) for medical procedures, always worried I’d end up dead with my organs headed back without me.  In short, no easy answers to buying quality.  More tomorrow.

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34 comments:

  1. Such is modern capitalism. Makes me long for the good old USSR. Ak's for everyone! We are so screwed...

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    1. Modern "capitalism" is more like "asset stripping".

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    2. Doubtful you 2 young doods ever participated in capitalism. And no, what you are dealing with now is NOT it.

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    3. No one living ever participated in capitalism.

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  2. As I posted in yesterday's post, I think that keeping it as simple as possible is the way to go, and in many cases in combination with purchasing used, but quality older products from such places as Ebay.

    When I was looking to purchase a crossbow, I made it a point to avoid the compound versions, with their many more moving and wearing parts, and went with a recurve model.

    Another good example would be the simple single speed bike that you always recommend, but rather than a Walmart bike, buy a 50 year old Schwinn from Ebay, that will last 50 years longer than a brand new Chinese bike.

    Don't own a grinder yet, but from what you've reported James, it sounds as if the metal is of low quality. I'll bet an antique off of Ebay would last forever.

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    1. If you just get the Wally bike for its frame you can do up a cheaper bike. Of course, yes, older real steel would be preferable.

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    2. Well, I was about to suggest for bicycles, the military surplus bikes that I saw over at the Sportsman's guide, that is, until I took a second look at the prices. A fellow would probably have to be certifiably insane to pay the same for a bike as what a car costs. They're probably pretty good bikes though. If you ever happen to come across one at a decent price though, it would probably be worth picking one up.

      http://www.sportsmansguide.com/productlist?k=bicycle

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    3. If you have to pay a grand for a bike with decent materials, we've started sliding down the right side slope of Peak Everything already.

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    4. Sir Lord BaltimoreMay 18, 2016 at 7:22 AM

      Lord Bison,

      12 years ago whilst living in the east coast heroin hive known as Baltimore I spent 500$ on a quality single speed bike. The best 500$ I have ever spent. My friends at the time thought I was nuts. I had no delusions of being Lance Armstrong or Eddie Mercxx. That 500$ bike allowed me to not be at the mercy of taxis or public transport. It allowed me greater mobility to get to work and job opportunities than the crappy chronically late and dangerous bus system.
      At the time I was in debt and working a bunch of shitty part time jobs.
      I further indebted myself by paying for the bike with a Visa card. HOWEVER: The money that I saved by not paying for rides allowed me to pay the bike off in 3 months and then slowly chip away at the existing debts that I had accumulated.
      I still have that bike. I use it for most of my short hop commutes and grocery runs in the small town that I live in. That 500$ has saved me so much money over the years. Moral of the story. Buy a quality bike.
      PS-Those 50 year old Schwinns on EBay might sound like a good idea--Keep in mind they are heavy as you know what. Best to go with something lighter as none of us here is getting any younger.

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    5. If you pay a grand for a new bike, it should be perfectly-fit to you, have deluxe accessories for cargo, integrated generator/lighting (USB charging!), the best tires/tubes, enclosed multi-speed (7 to 14 speeds!) sealed hub (Shimano or Rohloff) that extends the life of chain/belt. If you buy it from a shop, they should do a couple tune-ups at no charge for a year. For a grand, you don't get Lithium-Ion battery/motor on a good bike. I would look at Surly bikes in Cro-Mo, for strength & repairabilty. If you "have" a $1000 in-hand, you can do VERY WELL on the slighty-used mostly-stored bicycle market. It's a good thing to own the tools needed to repair bikes and fix up some cheaper bikes as spares. Invest in sturdy locks, and use them religiously when stepping away from the bike.

      Peak "new-good" stuff, but cheap good unpackaged stuff is in your local trash/recycle/thriftstore. People move and imagine that they will buy new for next nest, dump now. Peak labor-value: you will probably get enough to eat as long as the power is on, but your income will stop buying lots of great imported stuff. I notice that new Glock 17 pistols are now $670 instead of $449 or $499. Ford Escort of handgun have long since paid off R&D/tooling/etc, now bare production cost. Value not changed, money turning putrid. Still, half-ounce of gold price.

      pdxr13

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    6. Money turning putrid, along with wages.

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    7. SLB-do you have a brand name for affordable replacement parts? Or is 3k miles as good as a wheel is going to get?

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  3. Firearms are a great example.
    Look at the new "hunting" rifles.
    Tube and a barrel, with a race to the bottom price wise.
    Figuring that Fudd is going to use 5 rounds to sight it in, then shoot a deer from his back window every year...it'll last forever.
    For him.
    Assuming he doesn't break the cheap $15 scope that comes aboard, that is, then it'll get replaced by some crap from Tasco.

    Same with anything.
    I wanted a Ruger SP101.
    Local gun store had them on sale, $499.
    But it's not made as well as the older model I got...so I had to pass. I'll look for another "used" one instead.

    Andrew

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    Replies
    1. A $300 hunting rifle is good for acquiring a newer military carbine.

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    2. A few years back, I picked up a Howa 1500 SS boltie .308 sold as a Weatherby at Bi-Mart discount sporty store. Japan-made, Mauser-style action, was nicely finished and better quality than the other sub$350 rifles at the time. It's not a K98, but they didn't make stainless synthetic K98's for WWII (at least not in my local surplus gun shops).

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  4. I don't know why I laughed when you mentioned the dehydrated hot dogs. I guess cause I suspect you will smirk to yourself whenever you mention them.

    Accurate post. As far as vehicles. I live about 40 miles from my job. I know but I am in a pretty good spot this far out and will be better off than many come collapse.....fingers crossed. I had a full sized GMC 4 door that was a decent truck but i needed to spend about $2,000 for all the maintenance it needed. Tires and windshield was a chunk. It got 16 mpg going down hill.

    I did some calculating on my options. I still owed about $10,000 on the truck. After my divorce some cost cutting was in order. I contemplated an economy car for commuting and an old truck for my side work. I wanted a new or newer car only cause a used toyota is not a bargain. People want a fortune for them. Cheaper in the long run to buy new. Long story short I bought a new fairly basic 2x4 tacoma. Been A great little truck. 4-banger getting me about 25 mpg and it has let me make almost $10,000 since I owned it. When I figured costs of 2 vehicles, insurance, ect it was an informed decision. I am still planning on building the permanent house myself and the pick up will be useful.

    Did I pay alot for the truck? Yes, $20,000 is alot but I got a 120,000 mile bumper to bumper and it is still valued at $15,000. I put alot of miles on it with work commuting and side work. Mostly due to more remote living. 14 miles from the nearest anything. I average almost 2,700 miles a month. But its still cheaper than 2 vehicles and less maintenance since its newer. It would be crazy to spend $45K on a truck. If I needed a V-8 to tow I can find a decent basic US made one for $5-10K.

    Agree on the junk today. Needed steel toe black boots for work. Found a set with the zipper sides (saves lacing) for $100 and have abused them pretty well for 2 1/2 years. Getting down to replacing soon though.

    Agree on the firearms too although I do have more options.

    Thanks for having the magnificent hair.

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    1. I thought it was just me, noticing how much everyone wants for used anything. Really, Crapheel, you think a US truck with 100k miles is worth a third of new? How many more miles on it? 40k, optimistically.

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    2. I can verify the Tacoma mini trucks dependability. We bought a 2x4 in 2000 new, has 170,000 on it now and we've had to do nothing but normal maintenance! The thing still rides and drives just like the day we bought it too. Everyone I've talked says we can expect at least 300k out of it too. Ain't no American Detroit manufactured crap that can compare.

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    3. Frankly I'm astounded Detroit makes anything anymore. Or that folks buy from them. That is not patriotic, that is All Dollars And No Sense.

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  5. Old stuff, well maintained, is often vastly superior to its modern manufactured equivalent.
    This holds true for tools, heirloom seeds, and even to some extent for knowledge.
    Here is some good old knowledge that could be of use :
    http://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/05/16/22-old-weather-proverbs-that-are-actually-true/
    Weather predictions based on general observations without tools can prove a lifesaver- imagine being dressed for heat and being caught in a cold rain without the ability to get to shelter because your masters want you toiling in the fields (or else).

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    1. Thanks for the link! I forget about that site most of the time. I'd better "favorite" this time.

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  6. Regarding the $ 20 Wally shoes. I swore by them for years then my feet went to hell. Now I drop $150 on a $ 250 pair of boots on ebay, litely used. Ebay has deals on litely used clothing, etc just got look regularly. peace

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    1. Even the brand names recommended ( such as Wolverine ) are still getting some bad reviews on Amazon. I might as well go back to tennis shoes.

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    2. Hubby is trying out the Timberland White Ledge Waterproof Mid hiking boot from Amazon for $71.

      He's been wearing them since December. So far, so good.

      Idaho Homesteader

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    3. Please keep me updated. Desperately searching for an affordable pair of anything that lasts a year.

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  7. Agree with the cost of home comment. The same crew that constructs the $60,000 tract home puts the $180,000 luxury home. The cost diff is the khome size, appliances / plumbing fixtures and the finishes, mainly.

    Also agree with vehicle assessment. My 2000 GMC pickup has 168,000 miles and still going strong, though electrical sometimes gives me fits. My coworker has a 2012 Chevy and complains of constant small / large components going out. So far covered with warranties, but soon, they will run out - then what ? Damn contraptions seem to be designed to crap out shortly after warranties expire.

    Thanks for post.

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    1. The brand new work truck will probably still be running as the body rusts away from around it. Everything cheap on it, a $30k diesel 450 flatbed ( with another company installing a refer box ). What do you get for your money?

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    2. Most of the time, people aren't using their their trucks for hauling rated loads or pulling heavy trailers. A lot of new large consumer truck/SUV are luxury heavy vehicles that were made to comply with EPA/DOT fuel economy rules when people really want a 1970 Buick Estate Wagon with 455 GS engine. A 4-banger Toyota PU with a hitch and overload springs can carry a huge volume in the bed and a light trailer. Older beast-trucks (5500-series+, 3-ton capacity) can be borrowed or bought cheap since everyone objects to riding in them for passenger service.
      pdxr13

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    3. The last real gas price increase, folks were selling muscle cars for a months wages. Wait for a repeat of this and buy a hauler for an ounce of gold.

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    4. Yes and if you are set up to only go to town once or twice a month for grocery trips and pharmacy runs, mileage and gas prices don't matter. I go to work 7 out of every 14 days. Was ten but went to 12 hour shifts...yeah. But if I was where I'll be in a few years, retired I could cut back to a town trip every 3 or 4 weeks. Heck I only go to the grocery store every 2 or 3 weeks now and that is with an adult son living here.

      I'll have to pay the cheapest liability insurance which is about $45 a month but to be able to live in the sticks and maybe drive 100 miles in a month? Thats 4 gallons with the current truck. I can do that at $20 a gallon gas.

      The house. I'm currently in a nice newer single wide thats paid for. I want a house 800-1200. Rectangle, insulated, blah blah blah. Should be able to build pretty cheap. No labor costs.

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    5. There's that intermediate time when folks are feelin' the pinch, but still eating and watching Teebee (expertly explaining how this next really-smart-guy has a way to fix the jobless-foodstamps-eviction problem, while punishing the rich for, uh, having all the money). We are here, loyally submitting ballots so that some-guy can be Mayor of Portland with 51% of the 12% of registered voters who bothered to fill out the mail-in-only fraud-enhanced "ballot". Yeah, we are idiots who will endure a ten cents a gallon gas tax for the next 4 years. City gas stations continue to be few and costly. The money will be used to increase congestion and narrow roads! really. We should sell into this super-bubble of free money, but go where?
      pdxr13

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    6. Nightshift-it matters little to our discussion, but curiosity killed the cat. Are you planning on just extending off the single-wide? Seems like a winner, always building just three walls at a time rather than four.
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      PDX-Don't you love those 10 cents tax hikes, one right after another, never repealed? Here in former low tax Nevada, a pack of cigs is, literally, half tax. I wonder how a gallon of gas adds up. How much was that tea tax we revolted over?

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    7. James, I don't want to keep the "trailer" living area. The fixtures are still cheap and other long term issues with trailer. The trailer is raised and the critters and mice running up and down the duct work and destroying the insulation underneath are an issue. I can build a 1000 foot home for perhaps $30,000. A lot of money but I can get at least half back from selling the trailer. Its worth $20,000 now. I have experience with what you said but with a smaller camper that my parents closed in for a camp. I plan to build for my daughter to live in it so 60+ years?

      The house will be a rectangle. Cheapest to build. 100% of the labor will be me and friends with the skills. I don't even want central air. A couple small 5,000 btu units will cool. Heat will be wood, solar and well insulated. Maybe a couple electric base boards to keep the code people off my ass.

      I can go as small as 800' but the extra 200 feet will go along way.

      I could add on the the trailer but it would still be a trailer. Kids running through a trailer sound like a stampede. Slab. Quiet. Thoughts?

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    8. Okay, it makers sense to sell while still retaining some value and knock half the cost off the house. I was only thinking of the advantages of an existing paid-off home being improved and expanded as cash is available. But your arguments are sound.

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