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What happened to quality?

October 15, 2009

100_0229Here we go again!  My new boots.  I can live with the fact that candy bars are smaller and cost more, I want candy – but I don’t need it.   But I dearly like to have dry feet unless I am in the shower.  I used to be able to buy steel toe rubber boots that would easily last a full year if not more, and they cost about $25.00 at the local logger clothing supply shop.  Then they changed the boots to PVC and they cost a little more but they held up almost as long.  Then as most things do, the loggers got run out of business, the clothing supply shop closed and we had to search elsewhere for heavy duty clothing and outerwear.

After trying on a pair of Muck Chore Boots at a friend’s house, I was sold – they were warm, and comfortable and despite the price of $85.00, I bit.  I loved those Muck boots, I only needed one pair of socks, they never leaked, and were all around wonderful.  Then I started slipping every time I walked on the slightest incline.  No fun wearing milk, or falling in something that belongs in the compost pile.  My child was sure it was old age – but a closer inspection revealed that the tread was totally worn off, from wearing them daily for two years.  No wonder I kept slipping, they were as slick on the bottom as my Romeo slippers!  But they still didn’t leak.  So I bought another pair – they set me back $85.00 but they seemed thinner in the sole and much more flexible.  Not good, within a few months, they were leaking at a flex point on the upper.  So with misgivings, I purchased another pair for $85.00.  I asked at the feed store where I purchased them, if anyone else was having trouble with the boots, and the lady replied with a wink, that I was probably just wearing them too much!  Plus, she stated, rubber boots always leak.  So much for that.

This time though they didn’t even last through the summer, I wear them daily, but summer is pretty easy duty for rubber boots around here.  Doing more research online, brought me to the conclusion if I stayed with this company’s boots, I would have to spend $150.00 to get a more durable boot with the upper that wasn’t so flexible.  So as of last week, I changed brands – to Bog Ranchers.  I have no idea if they will last long or not.  Except my kid wears her Bogs daily and abuses the heck out of them so time will tell.  These boots have a better designed upper (or appears so to me) and the sole is thick and strong like the original Muck’s I purchased.

I understand the need to make a profit, but if you lose customers is it worth it?  To lessen the quality but charge the same amount would be the same to me as selling a dozen eggs but only put 9 eggs in the carton. 

What items have you purchased lately that seemed to have changed in quality?

42 Comments leave one →
  1. Sena permalink
    October 15, 2009 8:58 am

    I would have just epoxy’d a new tread on the ones that lasted 2 years before I bought new boots since they were otherwise still in good working order. Likely you could have found them through a shoe repair shop or supplier. Even if not, cutting out boot-shapes from a discarded tire that still had good tread would work too. Never underestimate the efficiency of attempting to repair first before buying new 🙂

  2. October 15, 2009 9:41 am

    Just curious – on the original pair of $85 boots that didn’t leak but the tread wore out – could you do something to re-tread them? It is too bad the quality has degraded so much & the “customer service” folks seem to think this normal.

  3. October 15, 2009 10:58 am

    This is why we go to a small local hiking shop for our boots. They’re expensive ($100-$150) But they last so long. I bought a pair of LLBean Gore-Tex boots 1o years ago and they’re just starting to wear out. I don’t wear them every day like you, but they get a lof of rugged wear in all seasons and they’re still watertight. I do maitain them with a special wax to keep them up to snuff.

    • October 15, 2009 11:45 am

      Chiot’s, I think the difference may be that I have to work in mud, snow, or tall, wet grass for hours at a time most days through the rainy season. Most days I probably walk a minimum of 3 miles, no matter what the weather. My leather work boots are a different story though, even though I only wear them when it is dry, I grease them weekly for waterproofing, and they get a lot of hard miles too – but they last so much longer, the last pair I purchased has lasted 4 years.

      I am liking my new boots so far though 🙂

  4. October 15, 2009 11:32 am

    I would have retred the pair that worked, it would have been worth it for me. But in response to your question what happened to quality? The answer is we sold out for cheaper items, so now companies that had a quality product have to compete with companies that have a cheap product and eventually everyone cuts corners. Take a look at the Crock company. They built a good product, and put themselves out of business. Partially because their product doesn’t wear out, and partially because people opted for the knock-offs because they were cheaper.

    I would love to find a pair of warm, water proof boots that lasted more than 1 winter up here. Good luck in your search and let me know what you think of the new brand. 🙂

  5. October 15, 2009 11:34 am

    Sena & Kathryn, I repurposed my first ones by cutting off the tops and just using them when I need to run out quick and don’t want to get my leather shoes wet, and the other leaky ones my DH patched with Shoe Goo and we gave them to a friend who has a small garden and she needed a somewhat non-leaky type of boot so all has not been lost. 🙂

  6. October 15, 2009 11:47 am

    Beef. Just doesn’t seem to taste as good as it used to.

    • October 15, 2009 8:28 pm

      Farmgirl Cyn, I have noticed that too, if I eat meat from somewhere else. Most likely the feed the cattle are eating.

  7. October 15, 2009 1:13 pm

    GORE-TEX SOCKS–that is your answer. When I was working on a goat farm (in the nasty, nasty Oregon winter), I could NOT find a leak-proof pair of muck boots to save my life. So, I found the most leak-proof boots I could and started wearing Gore-Tex socks (they’re really more like booties). I could wear my wool socks under the Gore-Tex socks, and pull my boots over the whole thing, and stay toasty, dry, and mobile. 🙂

    I highly recommend them. Far cheaper than another pair of boots!

    • October 15, 2009 8:30 pm

      Kelsie, that is a great idea – sometimes we are in the snow or water for hours at a time! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  8. October 15, 2009 2:31 pm

    Ouch, that’s not good news. We have two sets of muck boots, winter and summer (tall & short). So far so good. All the other kinds of boots we have had have been too cold _and_ have worn out too fast, cracking and getting holey. When I bought ours I did notice that there were a lot of different kinds. Were the new pair the same as your old pair or a different style?

    • October 15, 2009 8:36 pm

      Walter, maybe you will have better luck – mine were all the same – the tall chore boot – but the last two pairs were noticeably thinner, making them cold and prone to getting a hole at the toe flex area. The first pair never did leak and were very warm and sturdy, I just walked the tread off. If I wanted to stay with Muck, I would probably have to spring for the commercial grade boots. Best of luck!

  9. Marcia in Wyoming permalink
    October 15, 2009 4:12 pm

    We have found that $24 Wally-world boots last just as long as the $75 ones at our local ranch supply store – although we are VERY hard on footwear here – wading through our creek a couple of times a day, etc. Also, are you familiar with “irrigating” boots? They are very long (upper thigh on me) and fold down to calf length – run about $70 at our little general store – but do last longer as they are used only “seasonally”. (hmmm.. who would have thought that a “boot post” would create so much discussion!)

    • October 15, 2009 8:39 pm

      Marcia, I’m such a weirdo, I would probably get claustrophobic in boots that tall :O So far these new ones are great – but they’ll get put to the test during the winter. The Gore-Tex socks that Kelsie mentioned sound like a good add-on. Now that means I have to go shopping!!

  10. October 15, 2009 6:46 pm

    I have Muck boots but prefer my Blunstones. I don’t like that kind of change at all either, what are they thinking………………obviously they aren’t ;(

    • October 15, 2009 8:52 pm

      Linda, when something is made well it is worth the price, but planned obsolescence is the way these days. Sigh.

  11. October 15, 2009 6:56 pm

    Yep, my Muck boots started leaking at the flex point where the foot bends. Having sold shoes and boots for well over 14 yrs at a major dept store part-time (then I got wise and realized that least half of the general public is just a bunch of idiots so I went into hobby farming for the part-time job) I can say that shoe companies have yet to get the flex point right in rubber boots. Contact them. I did that with a pair of LLBean boots that split in 6 mos and they were very accomodating. Its all in the sales speech and tone of voice:) The gortex socks as mentioned above are awesome however!

  12. October 15, 2009 9:03 pm

    Kristi, glad I am not the only one! I can go to a heavier duty boot that would probably hold up – but I like the lighter weight, for the ease of movement. I’m going to get a pair of those socks just in case though!

  13. localnourishment permalink
    October 16, 2009 4:21 am

    I’m so tired of having to buy new stuff to replace old stuff that should still be working. I’m just old enough to remember fountain pens, refillable lighters, Revereware pans, patched jeans and shoe repair places. I’ve become a fan of antique stores, not for the overpriced, fancy furniture, but for the refillable, reusable, repurposable stuff that you can’t buy at Wal Mart.

    After the winter clothes change out this month, I put on a dress I’ve been wearing for 17 years. It cost a fortune at the time—$50—but it still looks new. Who knows how long this thing will last? It was handmade for me by someone who cares about their product and loves their work, and that makes all the difference. Sure, shelling out $50 for a single dress really HURT at the time, but over 17 years that works out to about $3 a year. I’d love to see our society go back to valuing quality over quantity, saving over spending, meditation over rushing…(oops, getting off topic, sorry. Rant over.)

    • October 16, 2009 5:23 am

      Localnourishment, rant away, you’re entitled. Companies tweak the design a little and the price stays the same but the quality or performance is lacking. My Calfteria nipple bucket is starting to give up the ghost, so I purchased a new one, same company, same concept, but they changed the bucket – so now the nipple doesn’t quite screw down tightly and the bucket leaks. I am living with my old one that has seen years of use and is limping by, and the new one just languishes.

      Your dress story reminds me of our stockpot purchases. We paid dearly for restaurant quality stockpots and they will last our lifetimes, and will be able to be passed on. Well worth the money. I never mind paying the price if the quality is there.

  14. October 16, 2009 4:52 am

    You won’t regret it!

  15. October 16, 2009 5:43 am

    It seems that everyone is talking about that recently 🙂

    Goods designed to break down (so that the consumer comes back for another pair), brand names that don’t mean anything as they’re sold and licensed to anyone with cash twice a week, consumers, trained to shop by the price … And to make things even worse, you’re a farmer and our needs are somewhat different from the rest of the population (we need stronger not more comfortable or cheaper goods) but it’s too few of us to get attention of any of the 10 or so behemoths who produce and sell 90% or so of all the boots out there. In short – we screwed 🙂

    I do hope that we’re somewhere near the rock-bottom of this inferior quality mentality though … There are some signs that quality is coming back … so, just glue new threads on your boots and wait another couple of years 🙂

    • October 16, 2009 7:00 am

      Leon, I hope you’re right, just a few more years… Recently we needed a new electronic ignition for my farm truck, and also a new, hotter coil was needed just to keep things equal and all, you know. Long story – long. The new, improved racing coil did not have enough spark, so he took it back knowing that with electrical parts, they usually do not take them back because you could have easily not hooked up said parts correctly. No refund, buy another, wife at home needing truck. Second coil, does not work, no spark, turn around and take old, original coil off ’66 yard ornament pickup,(don’t ask)install and truck takes off like a scared cat. He shipped the coils back to the company and explained the situation, and his mechanical prowess, and requested a refund – they sent him two new coils. It seems the copper was of poor quality (China)and the coils weren’t wrapped correctly. So now we have two new coils that we didnt want, and that we are apprehensive about, and less money.

      The big trend to manufacture out of country and ship inferior products back is killing us. Meanwhile fatcats just get richer – BTW, Nike is in my back yard, so we are pretty familiar with the concept, money uphill, crappy goods downhill.

  16. October 16, 2009 7:16 am

    We have all been seduced into thinking that cheap and fast is the best measure of worth, instead of quality.
    Price has become the first, and often the only thing, we ask about when buying.
    Boots, food, houses – we want it all cheap and big. Instantly, too.

    • October 16, 2009 7:58 am

      ej, I know I hate to admit when I shop for deals, and we try to buy quality as much as possible. We have chicken waterers that have lasted for years that cost the same as the cheaply made, widely available models at the feedstore. When we find something good, we hope it doesn’t change too much by replacement time!

  17. Tami permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:52 am

    Now that it is cold, it seems every single heater we own is out, stock tank heater; out, bird water heater; out, fan on pickup heater; out. I remember growing up having the same heaters each year, I think they all have a two year life now, max. Thank goodness we heat the house with wood, so far it isn’t out anyway…I have been able to curl up with my new read, The Awakening Land (very interesting), in between my trips to chip ice!:) I am having troubles with my Boggs, same as your one pair, where they flex, I like the idea of a big Gore-Tex sock, maybe they couldn’t flex as much and crack…

    • October 16, 2009 8:02 am

      Tami, sorry about the ice – it is 60ish here and feels good. I guess saving the old pickup for parts was a good idea 😉

      You will love The Awakening Land, I reread it every so often, absolutely smitten. There was TV mini series about that too, Elizabeth Montgomery played Sayward. It was so good, along the lines of Centennial etc.

      Stay warm!!

  18. October 16, 2009 8:44 am

    Chore is one of the kinds we have. We have several of those and they’ve been fine. We don’t have the kind with the steel toes although I’ve wished I did so I could use them when chainsawing but I have kevlar/steel work boots for that. We all found that the traction with the Muck boots was mediocre from the beginning. They’re great on snow or mud but awful on ice. I don’t know if it is the material or the tread design – they slip sideways very badly.

  19. monica permalink
    October 16, 2009 2:28 pm

    I too had a pair of muck boots for YEARS until the tread wore off and the neoprene stuff started to fray and rip . I liked them so much my hubby purchased a new pair for me for my birthday (since they are kind of expensive—and I did ask for them 😉 that were the tall ones this time. So I could wear them in winter and tuck in my pants instead of having to wear my “farmer alls” to keep my lower pant dry. What should happen within just a few months though? Crack in the upper where it flexes! Was he saddened to say the least since he gave them as a gift. I ended up wearing those until the sole separated off both of them (which NEVER happened with the first pair.)
    Lately I have been wearing my regular “boots” but it is getting wetter now and I need to do something before I ruin them. Glad you brought this up. I will check out your alternative brand and maybe some of the ideas from the others—like gore tex socks.
    And really…I do hate wet feet but I particularly hate wet AND mud in my boots. That does suck!

    • October 17, 2009 5:20 am

      Monica, arrgh I really dislike that wet and muddy sock feeling too. I wear the tall ones in the summer too, with my pants tucked in – the grass is always tall where I have to build my electric fence. And more often than not the grass is wet 🙂 Too bad about the gift 😦

  20. janelle permalink
    October 16, 2009 5:51 pm

    Have you tried XTraTufs? I grew up in Juneau, Alaska where we celebrate the “Southeast Alaska Rain Festival” January 1st thru December 31st 😉 These are known as the “Juneau Tennis Shoes” and I’ve heard of people having to replace them for more… out-there reasons than that they wear out (dog chewed a hole, stepped on a knife, bear used as toy, etc.) Granted, I haven’t bought a new pair for over 20 years so I don’t know about the current quality, but, I did trail work, hiked, fished, waded creeks, did just about everything in these boots and they are still going strong! I have a friend who hiked the Chilkoot Trail in them (that trail in Skagway you see pictures of all the miners lined up the almost vertical trail in winter? 35 miles!)

    I highly recommend them for your next pair… you can even make them “short” by folding the top down! Many commercial fisherpeople I know, both on boats and in processing plants swear by them, and, well, fish slime is pretty slippery!


    • October 16, 2009 6:59 pm

      Janelle, thanks for the tip! Those sound like just what I need – no shortage of rain here either! A store not to far from me carries them too 🙂

  21. Angrywhiteman permalink
    October 17, 2009 5:33 am

    34 comments, you’re still getting mileage out of those old boots. Who’d a thunk it?


    Have a great day.

  22. October 28, 2009 4:34 pm

    Muck boots have a 1 year warranty. If they leak, or lose tread, etc. call the company and they will replace them. we have had to do this once before and they were really nice about it.

  23. October 31, 2009 4:31 pm

    I have been having a discussion about this over on my blog, and somebody sent me this link.
    I think almost everything- and it’s not just that we expect cheap- because as you demonstrated, you were willing to pay more, you just did not want to pay more for something that would last less.

    In general, we’ve become complacent about the disposability of products that we once expected to last years, if not our entire lifetime.

    • November 2, 2009 12:27 pm

      Deputyheadmistress, thanks for stopping by – I agree so many items now are not even one use. Bobby pins I have had since high school :O are still good, new ones don’t last. I have found the same thing with straight pins. Old ones I have had for decades are still in very good shape, despite hard use, but the new ones I bought for my daughter when she was learning to sew, are a joke, bending when put through two layers of quilting cotton. Cheap materials, cheaply made, but still fairly expensive. It’s sad. Great post BTW.

  24. Chelsea permalink
    February 9, 2010 3:38 pm

    Found your blog yesterday and have been reading through all of your back posts. Love it!!! I felt drawn to comment on this boots post because I too, have a love affair with my work boots.

    My husband and I are considering making a move to the Pacific Northwest in search of a better growing climate (this year will be my first year gardening, but I’m trying to be more self-sustaining and dream of a homestead life). However, I grew up commercial fishing with my family (who ironically, were farmers before they became fisherman in the 1950’s). I still fish, and have brought my husband into the family business. While we love this lifestyle, our climate does not do so well in the gardening area (short, cool summers with lots of rain).

    Being a lifelong fisherman, I’ve worn my fair share of boots, and I was pleased to see a fellow Alaskan mentioning Xtra Tuffs. These boots are a way of life up here. We wear them in the summer for work, we wear them in the winter for snow, they’re great for hiking, heck, I even wore them at my wedding last summer (did I mention I was slightly obsessed with them).

    Like the above post mentioned, they last forever! I’ve only had one pair wear out, and it was mid-calf, where I fold the tops down to make them into slip on shoes. However, they make great clogs when they get to that point. Just cut the tops down and there you have it, another new pair of shoes 🙂

    I believe they were originally marketed to farmers in the midwest, but when commercial fishermen discovered them, they’ve subsequently become the standard out on the water. (There’s even a pair in the maritime section of the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, DC)

    Long story short, they’re pretty much the best boots ever. They run about $80-90 these days, but are well worth the price. Not sure where you’d be able to find them in Oregon, but I wish you luck if you decide to try them out.


    P.S. your blog is incredibly inspiring and makes me wish I had land to farm.

    • February 9, 2010 7:08 pm

      Chelsea, what a great comment – thank you. Those boots sound perfect – it rains here all the time too. Your wedding sounds like mine – we got married in a clear-cut 🙂 Fishing was a way of life here for many people I know – now that is kaput like the logging. Your life sounds grand to someone who thinks there are too many people around here! But I understand wanting to be more self-reliant and less dependent – which would be hard in your climate. You must be a hardy soul. The climate here in Oregon and Washington varies greatly from wet to dry land and high desert. Myself, I like the wet side – but some people really get put off by the rain. But maybe we don’t get so much if we don’t know about Xtra-Tuffs 😉

      Thanks again – happy homestead hunting!


  1. Boot report « Throwback at Trapper Creek

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