Career Changers

Quality Control

June 24th, 2011

Mistakes happen. As much as I pride myself in catching typos and errors before we output the finalized version of our Career Changers TV show, stuff slips through. Such was the case in the current episode when I misspelled the name of a local author/children's book publisher. Even though I had her business card on my desk while I edited the piece, I added an "e" to the end of Kerry Germain's name in the lower third on-screen graphics.

The problem was I discovered my mistake after we had already delivered the finished show to OC16 for airing. I had probably reviewed that one segment at least two dozen times, and my eyes just skimmed over the extra "e" ... until I uploaded it to the CCTV YouTube Channel and realized her name didn't look right. Without going into all the specifics, it would have taken hours to make that one small correction and redo the entire output, then ask OC16 to hold off on running the new show until I could deliver a revised file. My alternative was to tell Kerry the truth before it aired and apologize profusely. So that's what I did.

Perhaps because Kerry is in publishing and knows how even experienced proof-readers can miss a typo, she was gracious and told me not to worry about it. But to be honest, that entire morning I had a sick feeling in my stomach. It bugged me, especially since I expect people I work with to use the same kind of critical eye when I hire them to do something. Yet lately I'm finding a real lack of quality control in everything from local contractors to national big box stores.

I've been largely silent about my home remodeling projects the past month -- actually two months now, since it took over four weeks to get one small bathroom semi-finished, and the upstairs bathroom isn't even halfway done. The windows that were replaced by another outfit were all right (after finding out there was a $300 delivery charge that wasn't included in the original price quote). We also had our kitchen tiled... half looks good, the other half looks like crap because the tile we got had a lot of "fill" and black spots in it.

This is what I mean about quality control. Neither the contractor nor the tile guy he brought in seemed to notice that there were a number of "bad" tiles in the batch we bought from the big box home improvement store. Which might explain why that tile was on sale to begin with. The tiles on top that showed through the box looked fine. Inside though, were the ones with major imperfections. If you were laying tile for someone, wouldn't you stop and show it to the homeowner or contractor who hired you?

We had similar problems with other products that were made locally. A counter top for the bathroom vanity and cultured marble wall panels for the downstairs bath, both had black specks and obvious color imperfections. Yet the contractor still installed them without bringing the flaws to my attention. I also noticed a black speck on the rim of the new toilet we bought from another big box store, which I thought was dirt at first. But it was in the porcelain -- it looks like a tiny fleck of dried poop! Did the contractor spot it when he took it out of the box? Guess not. Did the plumber notice it when he hooked it up? If so, he didn't say anything. I don't mean to sound like a nit-picker, but when you spend thousands of dollars to upgrade your home, I think you're entitled to get what you paid for.

It's gotten to a point where I don't even want to think about hiring local contractors to do any more work around my home, and I'm wary of buying any product from any store unless I can take it out of the box and examine it from top to bottom before I pay for it. The sad thing is I think this is a reflection on the state of manufacturing and customer service in America at large. Instead of taking pride in superior workmanship and making quality control job number one, it seems like buying American -- or local for that matter -- is settling for just being "okay."

And to think adding an extra "e" on a name for a segment we did for free, made me feel like I really screwed up big time. Silly me. In any event, you can see the feature on Kerry Germain and Island Paradise Publishing through next week on OC16. She recently published a charming children's picture book called "Plenty Saimin" by my writer friend, Feng Feng Hutchins. It's a very nice story about two moms, who turned their writing dreams into reality.


For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out videos from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Have a nice weekend!

9 Responses to “Quality Control”

  1. Mr. B:

    Re: Contractors and other people in the service industry

    I share your frustrations, Rich. It seems that many people simply do not take pride in their work anymore. I don't know how else to put it. Many people in our current society take the "It's not my responsibility" attitude. Today, many people in the service industry have the attitude, "I am doing YOU a favor." They seem to forget that the CUSTOMER is paying good money for the services, and they could have easily taken their business elsewhere.

    My grandparents were 2nd generation Japanese Americans - Niseis. All four of them had took such pride in their work and in EVERYTHING they did. They took personal responsibility in everything they did, and with their interactions with people. Relationships were of utmost importance. If you embarassed the family name, you may as well kill yourself - literally. When the Nisei soldiers went to war, oftentimes, their parents warned them "Not to embarrass the family name."

    If my grandparents made a mistake, they apologized profusely, and took the necessary actions to make things right. On top of all this, they were extremely humble and modest people. This is why the WWII generation is accurately called: The Greatest Generation. You rarely find people like this today.

  2. Rich Figel:

    The other thing I notice is that many locals -- especially Japanese-Americans -- don't like to confront or criticize people who give lousy service, so the offenders don't think they're doing anything wrong. I'm guilty of that too, sometimes. Like when we go out to eat, and the food isn't very good, but when the server or cook asks how it was, we often will say "okay" when we mean it was bland or not very good.

    Another thing we've encountered with people who installed blinds or did paid-for deliveries is the "open hand" as if automatically expecting a tip... for doing their job! Sheesh.

  3. Innocent Observer:

    You have to remember, hiring someone to install materials you purchased yourself, you are responsible for any defect. All they do is install, they do not warrant the quality of the material; however, if they purchased and installed the material, they would be responsible for any imperfections. Unless you told them to review the material for defects and not to install imperfect materials, they will use whatever materials you provided them. So, it would not be fair to complain about them for something which you should have been responsible for.

  4. Mr. B:

    Speaking about "open hand". I simply cannot stand the current method used for fundraising by many youth sports teams, clubs, and even the Foodbank.

    I'm talking about the people who stand in busy intersections and who stick a fishing net in your window expecting a donation. First of all, this is very dangerous. These people always choose the busiest intersections - ones with complicated traffic light patterns and multiple turn lanes. I've even seen young kids - 7 or 8 years of age, walking between cars solicitating donations! And when the light turns green, these kids are standing on skinny medians, with cars, trucks, and buses whizzing by at 40+ mph! It boggles my mind how the state/city can allow such practices. It's distracting, and it's dangerous. How is this different from begging?

    On top of that, what are they teaching their kids? They are, basically, telling their kids, "When you need money to buy something, just ask people for it."

    What happened to the old fashioned ways of fundraising - car wash? selling things door-to-door? When kids do these types of fundraising, they are forced to WORK for their money. They also get exercise, and can also practice their people skills.

  5. Rich Figel:

    Innocent Observer:

    Really? I thought the reason one spends extra to hire a licensed contractor for major remodeling projects is that THEY are supposed to be the experts. In my case, the contractor actually did order materials through his sources and should have been responsible for spotting the defects before he installed the faulty products. Instead, he made excuses -- and he was already so far behind schedule due to his own mistakes (not measuring stuff before cutting materials or ordering custom items that weren't the right size) that I wasn't about to wait another 2-3 weeks for him to fix the problems.

    However, the products I bought from the big box retailers could have easily been exchanged had he shown me the defects BEFORE he and the plumber installed them. A good contractor would have brought it to my attention first. I seriously doubt this same guy's wife would let him install faulty products in their home. Moreover, the big box stores aren't gonna let you open up the big boxes that their toilets and vanity cabinets are packed in, to examine them before you bring them home. The manufacturer is responsible for quality control -- not the customer.

  6. Innocent Observer:

    well, it appears that you did not hire a reputable contractor. Did you obtain several bids? Did you select the one with the lowest price? Did you ask for references? As you now know, just because a person has a contractor's license, it does not mean that he is a very good contractor. Remember, you get what you paid for.

    Did you ask for a price adjustment because of the faulty materials used, which he did not replace? By law, he must correct any mistakes he made. If you did not want to wait for him to make the corrections, then not sure who's fault that is.

    The items you bought at the big box store, it was your responsibility to see if it was okay; not the contractor, as long as the toilet was not leaking an functional, that is all they are resonsible for; imperfections are the responsibility of the purchaser. You could have opened up the box at home before it was installed, and could have returned it for a replacement.

    To blame others for everything is a bit much; you have control over the process. You hire a lousy contractor, you have to watch him closely.

  7. Rich Figel:

    IO -
    By your logic, if a consumer buys a tainted food product, it's the consumer's fault for not checking the source themselves. And yes, we did try to get bids. Contractors either didn't get back to us in a timely manner or came in with high quotes when we made it clear we were on a budget. The contractor we hired was a referral from people we trusted, but they had not used him for bathroom remodeling.

    As far as I'm concerned, if you hire a contractor to oversee a remodeling project, it's the contractor's job to inspect the materials before they are installed. That's just common sense -- and if the contractor takes any pride in their work, they would do that as common business practice. Your view seems to be workers should only do the bare minimum they are specifically told to do and manufacturers shouldn't be expected to check their own products before they put them on store shelves.

    Are you a contractor?

  8. Innocent Observer:

    Then why don't you sue the contractor for shoddy work? If you are unwilling to allow them time to correct any deficiencies, the whose problem is that? No, they should not do the bare minimum work, but if you see that their work is not up to par, then you should get involved at that juncture, demand improvement in their performance. Were the responsibilities specified in the contract? Don't you look at the work as it progresses?
    I am not saying that the contractor is not at fault, he is, but you as homeowner has the responsibility to review the work as it is being done and can intervene any time if you are not satisfied.

    Your analogy about tainted food is not does not apply to this situation; faulty materials purchased can be replaced without hurting someone as tainted food might.

    You have to take some responsibility for the work, even if you were unwilling to evaluated the contractor's performance as the work progressed. You had the ability to do so. You are the "boss", not the contractor. You allow him to do shoddy work, then you are responsible for it, just as much as he is. Enough said.

  9. Rich Figel:

    IO -
    Reread my post. Mistakes happen, I wrote. So I was trying to cut him some slack. "Sue the contractor" is certainly an option if he doesn't correct all the mistakes. Yeah, I probably should have fired him, but I wanted to give him a chance to fix things he screwed up... so maybe I was naive and too nice about it. Of course, I have been pointing out all the problems as the work has progressed, and given him more than enough time to correct each thing. The only other option I had was to fire him, and take a chance on a contractor that might not be any better.

    In fact, my wife and I couldn't find anyone who could recommend a contractor for bathroom remodeling that they would stand behind. There is also no Angie's List type ratings locally yet (I signed up to see if there were complaints filed, but there are hardly any reviews of local contractors thus far).

    Re the food analogy, you're the one who said the consumer should check out products that are packaged before buying or using them. My point is you can't tell what's in the package until it's opened, and the manufacturer -- or supplier (farmer) -- has to be held responsible for whatever it is they're putting inside the package. Most working people can't be around to supervise their contractors every second... in fact, that's why we hire contractors, isn't it? THEY are responsible for quality control on the job site because the homeowner is paying them for that function.

    What line of work are you in? I'm guessing it's not quality control, since you seem to place the onus on the consumer instead of the contractor. But you pretty much proved my argument: you can't rely on people to do a good job without watching them every second and putting in writing exactly what you expect from them. The days when people took pride in doing superior work on their own accord are dead and gone. Instead, you have to tell workers/contractors exactly what you want or, as you contend, you should expect them to do the minimal amount of work or not care about the finished product. No wonder DIY shows on TV and places that help people do their own work are booming... if I had more time or skill, I would certainly do it myself too.

    The sad thing is he's not a bad guy. However, I've had neighbors ask how things were going because they are considering doing some remodeling too (we live in townhouses that are the same age). Rather than badmouth him, I just invite them in and show them the work that's been done... when they see the caulking is already coming out, the vanity was damaged while being installed, and some of the other problems, that's lost business for him and the people he subcontracted. So when I hear how tough business is for local contractors, do I feel sorry? Nope. There is plenty of business out there... for GOOD workers, if you can find them.