I have been reading a good book that I highly recommend. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan.

This short, concise book packs much thought and makes you also think. Here, for example, is rule 44 out of 64:

With food, as with so many things, you get what you pay for. There is also a trade-off between quality and quantity, and a person’s “food experience”—a meal’s duration or quotient of pleasure—does not necessarily correlate with the number of calories consumed. The American food system has for many years devoted its energies to increasing quantity and reducing price rather than to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food—measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond)—costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is a literal shame, but most of us can: Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, less than the citizens of any other nation. As the cost of food in America has declined, in terms of both price and the effort required to put it on the table, we have been eating much more (and spending more on health care). If you spend more for better food, you’ll probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care. And if that higher-quality food tastes better, you will need less of it to feel satisfied. Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories. Or as grandmothers used to say, “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor.”

As with food, so with other things.

Pondering this section, I recalled the Wal-mart effect. Are you old enough to remember when Wal-mart’s message was “Made in America”?

Suddenly its message was “Low Prices”.

The low prices translated to “No Longer Made in America.” The company’s buyers forced supplier manufacturers to chase ever lower costs. How could you make stuff even cheaper? Quality meant nothing. Buying a brand name product at Wal-mart you received a completely different product than if you bought one directly from the manufacturer’s distribution channel.

The idea spread everywhere. And buyers didn’t always play fair, either.

Once many years ago, I was at a Starbucks in Mount Prospect, IL doing something on my Palm Pilot (told you it was a while ago). A guy beside me asked to see the stylus.

Turns out he owned a small manufacturing company in the area that had bid on manufacturing the stylus. He quoted according to the specs as low as he could go–pretty much just to keep the machines in his plant busy. They told him “do not change the specs.”

He examined my stylus from the finished product. It was made much more cheaply than the spec. The Chinese supplier convinced Palm to change the spec, cheapen the product, and got the sale. Probably for a profit.

Tells me a couple of things:

  1. Be wary chasing the low cost supplier and customer
  2. Don’t be afraid to suggest changing the specs in the quest for business

Oh, and buy the book and practice the “rules”.

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