Jacqueline Drew: Finding quality

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
(Listen to the original audio)

If you're at all like me, you hate buying something only to get it home and realize it's a piece of junk. The problem is, things often look better in a store or display than they actually perform once put into regular use.

But really, as consumers, can we be expected to know whether or not we are really buying quality items? I think so. Let's look at three key product areas: clothing, electronics, and furniture.

Clothing and sewn products: What makes a sewn product of higher quality? The brand label? Not necessarily. Look for solid stitching - more stitches per inch make a garment, bag or shoe stronger. If you think you could rip out the seams without really trying, don't buy it. Likewise if you could easily rip the fabric. With leather products, look for a soft feel, and a clean, non-chemical smell - it should smell like leather.

Electronics: How can you spot quality in electronics? This is trickier. Here's what I look for: ease of use, an established brand name, and an experienced salesman. The problem with electronics is that you can't really tell how good they are in the store. But ask to speak to a knowledgeable salesperson, and that person will tell you whether the product has been returned frequently by purchasers, and whether the manufacturer has a good track record.

Furniture: Look first at the weight - heavier usually means solid quality. Ideally, the feet should have leveling devices, but even if not, the item shouldn't wiggle. Further, any hinges should be solid and well fixed, while drawers should be smooth and well sanded. With upholstered furniture, look at the stitching and leather as you would clothing, and ask yourself how many times your five-year-old could jump on it without tearing it!

My point is, there are lots of ways to avoid making bad purchase decisions if we simply do a little homework. In fact, there are endless websites out there that can teach you what to look for in your next purchase. Spotting quality isn't just about not wasting your money - it's also about not buying product that will fill up our landfills.

Regardless of your motivation, get it right, and you won't be disappointed.