Slow and Expensive

A yacht in Lorient, Bretagne, France

When did I become an advocate for slow and expensive? It was a gradual thing. I don’t really think it was a question of choice, as much as, a rebellion against the alternative, fast and cheap.
For reasons that remain elusive to me, fast and cheap have become beacons for consumers. Fast and cheap food has been a staple for years.  Forbes magazine rates McDonald’s as one of the top five brands in the world. But fast and cheap have begun to invade sectors that make no sense to me at all. What is the point of speed dating? Are you looking for a fast talker? What about dating sites that state, with pride, “We don’t waste your time with a lot of questions.”

Hmmm… even if I met a man who had been vetted through friends or family, I’d want him to answer a few questions, but then I think there is value to be had in that four-letter word, time. Yes, call me old fashioned, but I think you get what you pay for and you pay with time and or money for quality.

Which takes me back to fast and cheap. Let’s start with fast. So what’s the rush? When did speed become synonymous with good? Like any Luddite might, I blame technology, or more to the point, I blame our inability to separate what’s good for technology from what’s good for us. Do we think that the speed at which our computers boot up, we move through the Internet, we download movies can some how be extrapolated to apply to the real world?

What if job interviews were a minute long and applications asked only one question? What if we only aged our scotch for a year and all wine was new? Perhaps all steak should be served rare and visits to the doctor to should be marked in seconds not minutes. Slow growing plants like evergreens should be eradicated, while those persistent and pretty dandelions should be encouraged. Education need not take years… whoa! Some things simply take time. As a woman or as a man, do you want to be thought of as fast? Many things are better because they don’t happen quickly.

The appeal of cheap is a complete mystery to me. Cheap has never been a harbinger of value. Cheap is the car sales man in the loud jacket steering you towards a lemon. Cheap is the invasive and cloying scent of cologne purchased for a song. Cheap is the derogatory term we use on the boss that does not pay you you’re worth. Cheap is the umbrella that breaks the first time it rains. If someone called you cheap, would you take it as a compliment? What would you think if it was applied to your work?

Sale In A Sale Shop Selling Sale Signs

Sale In A Sale Shop Selling Sale Signs (Photo credit: the justified sinner)

Therein lies the rub for me. Cheap and fast may be popular, but it’s not how I want my skills perceived. It’s not how I brand myself. I’ve never wanted to be considered by any of the other meanings attributed to cheap either. I am not shoddy, stingy or heaven forbid, inexpensive. My abilities to assess and respond were not acquired quickly. It has taken me decades of experience, years of research and more failures and successes than I care to count to build my body of professional knowledge. I save my employers and clients time and money because I take my time and apply my years of hard earned knowledge to the challenges they face. In short, what I offer is neither fast nor cheap.

You are no doubt thinking that happier times can be found in more modest approaches. Why not aim to be moderately fast and reasonably priced? Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue? The problem with moderate and reasonable is that they do not capture the imagination. They make me think of mediocre. Even when we purchase things in the mid range, we’re really hoping they are about as good as the higher priced item, but a better price. We all love getting a good deal and I’m no exception.

When promoting a brand you have a few ways to go, you are appealing to a unique niche, you are best in class or you are cheaper. If you are offering something unique, you are not competing on price. If the market is competitive you are left with quality or price. Unless you are willing to fight on price, a war no one wins, then you are left with quality.
Quality is rarely if ever associated with fast and cheap, but it has kept company with slow and expensive.

Which would you rather be, fast & cheap or slow & expensive?

Image: A yacht in Lorient, Bretagne, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


0 responses to “Slow and Expensive

  • Gosh, this really made me think about some past experiences. I am more a slow and expensive. I think of it more as good value. I say that because sometimes the cheaper something is, the more expensive it can be in the long run. I have seem this in action way to many times on personal level and of corse in government expenditures. 🙂

  • Hey Debra,

    I think the old saying that you get what you pay for rings true in this case. Granted I think it depends on what exactly you’re talking about because a lot of what you shared here I can’t imagine anyone really being that interested but then again, I’m probably dead wrong.

    Just like us building our business online, these things take time. Go the cheap route and you’ll be spending more time and money then intended because of that very reason. Speed up the process and you won’t get your desired results.

    For this instance I couldn’t agree with you more. To go buy a cheap set up jacks so I can play on the floor, no problem. I take cheap any day. 😉


  • Hello Madam Debra,
    With things taken on different dimension in our current world, everything has now become more or less like a rush without when to actually stop unless there is red signal on the the traffic light.
    What is the use of fast and cheap when there is a cruise with comfort-ability?

  • I am usually very happy to pay ‘something more’ if there’s quality behind. There are some products/services for which we can’t leave aside quality.

  • I think there is a time for slow and a time for fast. I don’t know that the choice is between cheap and expensive for me, but rather comes to down to value – quality at a reasonable price. Sometimes I am prepared to pay a lot for high quality. Other times I don’t need a high quality item. As for my own work, I care about the quality of it and if that takes time, it takes time.

    • Donna as I said at the start, I don’t think it was a question of choice for me as much as a consequence of wishing to avoid what looks like an overwhelming race to the bottom. Slow is about taking time to consider and expensive is about all about seeking value for me. Cheap assumes we live on a throw away planet. I’d rather buy second hand than buy something cheap that will break and be thrown away.

  • TheRecipeHunter says:
    July 11, 2014 @ 04:10 pm

    I love the picture of the yacht – what could scream slow and expensive more than that? Perfect! While there is a time and a place and hopefully a need for fast in appropriate situations, I sure don’t want cheap nor do I want to be thought of as such! Slow and expensive – It looks as though a lot of us will be using that line from now on!

    • I had a good chuckle when I came across the image of the yacht and thought the same thing, talk about slow and expensive! It feels like a strange fit. I never thought I’d proudly be telling people I was slow and expensive, but with so much screaming that the opposite was good… 🙂

  • Now a days people want fast yet best, with low price. Ever thought of that?

  • valerieremymilora says:
    July 11, 2014 @ 02:01 pm

    Excellent post Debra! And I could not agree more. Quality wins in my book and I’d rather take my time to do something right than rush, do it wrong and waste time trying to do it right the second time around. As a mother it saddens me to see the heavy emphasis placed on speed today, especially when it comes to communications.. How hard is it really to pick up the phone and take the time to actually TALK to a friend rather than send text after text with coded language filled with abbreviations that all too often are misread and lead to unnecessary stress. But knowing how to value our time and personal worth is a lesson we can only learn through time and experience, and with the help of mentors who have travelled the road we embark on before us. Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

    • Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

      Valerie, my husband has commented on more than one occasion that he is disappointed by how often we can be alone in a room full of family. It’s the curse of the technology that makes people think, it’s ok to say, I’ll just be a minute answering this text or this will be a quick call. What gets lost is that you have effectively said to those with you, you are not as valuable as the person on the other end of this message.

  • Debra- Slow and steady wins the race!! I am all for taking my time just like a good wine!! At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.

  • The first thing your post made me think of was the “slow food” movement, which I believe sprang up as a backlash to fast food. It’s preserving the traditions and culture around preparing and enjoying food, which is a lot healthier than the alternatives! We’re so crunched for time these days that we forget what it’s like – I think it’s much less stressful to let something brew and simmer, whether it’s a stew or an idea. And yes, we value productivity, but at what cost to quality? Great post!

  • Hi Debra,
    Efficient perhaps, but not speedy for the sake of striking something from a to-do list. I think your question speaks to quality, especially in light of today’s throw away consumer world. To answer your call to action slightly different, I would rather be a few inches wide and a mile deep than a mile wide and a few inches deep.

    • William you hit the nail on the head. This is a conversation about quality. I’m not going to spend money I don’t have to on anything, but I don’t start any process by trying to figure out what the fastest and cheapest solution will be. The starting point is always, what is the best solution, and then I move on from there.

  • jbutler1914 says:
    July 10, 2014 @ 05:10 pm

    I’d rather do things at a constant pace and expensive. Doing things fast is one of the biggest problems of this microwave. I hate being rushed to do certain things. Cheap is just that….cheap. You really do get what you pay for. A constant pace means that I’m not going too fast or too slow either.

    • I hear you. I’m not proposing anyone operate like a slug, just that speed is not synonymous with good. I do think going at something, particularly big jobs, at a consistent and steady pace helps you to get the job done without wiping yourself out.

  • I’m definitely in the slow and expensive camp as you know, Debra, with my love of artisanal chocolate. Commercially made chocolate blasts hundreds of chocolate bars thru in the time it takes an artisanal chocolate maker to create just one small try of bars. But oh … what a difference in the flavour, texture, and sensual experience it produces in the mouth. Slow and fresh food all the way. Yes, it’s more expensive, but your senses and your body will thank you for it.

    • Doreen, chocolate is such a perfect example of something that is better when it’s slow and expensive (or at least more costly) that I feel foolish for not having included it in the first place.

  • I’m for slow and expensive. Well, except for a Ferrari of course. I’m thinking more of my husband and my boating life. We’ve had 7 or 8 boats in our life. Fast, slick, higher end in cost but not expensive. I think maybe expensive is a relative factor. But our favorite boat was a 43 feet Defever trawler: slow and kind of expensive. Talk about a friend magnet! You make a good point Debra.

    • Patricia slow is not want I want to talk about when it comes to cars unless you mean that it will be slow while I save up enough to buy exactly what I want. 🙂

  • In the area of food, not only do many people prefer fast and cheap but they also want large quantities. This combination has been very successful in producing large people as well. I prefer small, carefully prepared portions of exquisite cuisine.

    • I hear you! My husband and I have been trying to get handle on our weight and when we eat out we are always dismayed by the portion sizes that show up. We would definitely like a less but better.

  • I just had a conversation with my career coach just the other week about this very topic. People who appreciate quality understand it takes time to accomplish and will pay for its worth as well. On a slightly related note, I’m the total opposite of my mom in the shopping arena. She buys tons of cheap curtain and throw rugs in order to change the look of a room, but they always just fall apart. I’d rather buy something I really like that will last.

    • Jeri I work with freelancers and small independents on a regular basis. If I have no money or very little to spend on a project, I’d rather go without support than to purchase cheaper services from people who can’t deliver the quality I need. If you give me value, then I stick with you. What I have found is that over time we work more like colleagues than supplier and client. When I have the resources, I use them and they deliver value. When I don’t have the resources, they still work with me and deliver value because they know that I always want quality outputs (which works for their portfolio too) and I return to quality suppliers.

  • crystalzakrison says:
    July 9, 2014 @ 08:56 pm

    I would say hard work does not come fast or cheap. It took me three years to get my associate’s degree with working too. its like that book that says to master something you have to put in ten thousand hours. I am a bargain shopper but I look for quality stuff that is not ripped or beat up. It takes time to find my deals. I have to go through racks of clothing or a garage sale to find that one golden nugget. I would say “slow and steady wins the race.” Great article! 🙂

    • Thanks Crystal! Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” explores how many hours it takes to become expert and I think that’s a great point. I don’t think you should buy things because they are expensive, I think you should NOT buy things simply because they are cheap. I’m a great thrift shop, antique shop hunter. I believe in getting quality and in giving it. When money is tight that’s precisely when I think you need to be smart and strategic in your purchases. That usually means not buying things that do not fit or function as you need them to.

  • As a kid my grandpa would say, “You get what you pay for.” I, of course, didn’t understand this until I was an adult. I guess I’d call myself frugal, as I enjoy finding deals and don’t mind going to the thrift store. I like the idea that I’m creating less waste by reusing. But there are services and products that I’m willing to pay a pretty penny for.

    • I am a huge fan of antique shops and thrift stores. It takes time and patience to look for what you want in shops like that, but what you find is so often worth the wait. They are definitely about slow. 🙂

  • I am a Luddite too, thank goodness finally someone gets me. It seems like technology has taken us away from the appreciation of the basics of life.

  • Fast and cheap is one of the most powerful and pervasive myths of consumerism and capitalism. Thanks for starting this conversation, Debra. The dark side of that myth is increasingly evident—think sweatshops, underemployment and the pollution caused by e-waste. So fast and cheap is often long-lasting and expensive. As a freelance writer and producer who’s never missed a deadline, my clients often demand fast. I stick to the maxim: “clients are free to choose any two of fast, cheap and good.” As a consumer, I’m a moderate who usually opts for something between fast/cheap and slow/expensive.

    • Well said.The idea that filling the planet with throw away items is somehow more economical baffles me. I’m not looking for unnecessary costs, I’m looking for value. When I see fast and cheap,I get skittish because it generally means I’m sacrificing quality.

      I agree with you and Lorraine, fast, cheap and good, pick two, because you are unlikely to get all three.

  • Hi Debra – I love your ‘cheap’ paragraph. I write about frugal living which people often associate with being cheap, but to me its the total opposite, in that it means getting the best quality for the best price. I don’t do cheap, so I guess that makes me slow and expensive.

    • I TOTALLY agree,being frugal has nothing to do with cheap. Having followed your blog, the focus is on a quality, healthy lifestyle. It’s about not wasting. I think cheap epitomizes waste.

  • This reminds me of the Venn diagram freelancers use. Fast. Cheap. Good. Impossible to have all three! Therefore, if you want fast and cheap, it likely won’t be good. If you want fast and good, it won’t be cheap.

    But such is life.

    Personally, I favor quality – when it comes to writing, dating, foods, friends, etc. Always!

  • Correction of a typo in my comment: I’ve decided to NOT be the low cost provider of writing services!

  • I love slow and expensive. I’ve decided to be the low cost provider of writing services. Writing isn’t just putting words on paper, it’s understanding a client’s brand, and the ability to communicate key messages about the client’s products or services. Slow and steady wins the day. I’m shocked and disheartened when I see writers on sites like Elance who are willing to work for pennies. I just looked at some listings. One is for a writer who is willing to accept $50 to write a 5,000 word “book that will educate and fascinate people and get 5-star reviews on Kindle.” The buyer wants a 5-star book for $50? Unbelievable.

    • Jeanette I usually have to work with writers as part of my work, I can’t imagine what I could possibly get if I was paying pennies. When I hire a writer I’m not looking for a typist. I’m looking for someone who thinks, creates and conceives ideas. I want someone who can paint pictures and ideas with words. I don’t know how many times I’ve spoken to one of my favourite local writers as part of an assignment and when he comes back with the finished product, I find myself learning things! $50 for a 5000 words? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

  • There is a time for fast and cheap, but not in my business! I like to think I am methodical and priced accordingly and I am not considered “bargain basement”. Absolutely you get what you pay for and very recently I am stepping into my power and not apologizing for it. When I purchase things for myself, I will invest the money because I know it will last. I would rather go without than have a bunch of stuff, which is usually junky. Love this post – you stated the obvious that many people consistently miss!

    • Thanks Laurie, isn’t amazing how easily we con ourselves in to getting less and making do with things we don’t really want? Often a little patience means we actually get precisely what we are looking for – slow works. 🙂

  • Hi Debra; lots of stuff to think about here. slow and expensive doesn’t quite roll off of my tongue either, but then I’m known for being cheap. 🙂 I do agree that many things we place a high value on do require time in production or in aging to give them their value. Lamborgini recently sold three cars for 4.5 million each and had to tell several people no. I can’t compete on cost in my amusement equipment brokering because the other sites are sponsored by advertisers or derive their income from financing so they don’t charge sales commissions. I have to convince people of hard work and progressive ideas. For example I’m the most active on social media of any of the companies that sell amusement equipment. And I would put my mailing lists up against any of the other guys. thanks for sharing your thoughts. Take care, Max

    • Max you could say that I am substituting expensive for quality. I do it only because when you challenge manufacturers or service providers to produce better quality, they often site costs and time as a barrier.

      You may not be able to compete on cost, but I would trust you to sell me products that have value. That’s a trust based the amount of time and effort you put into describing, promoting and engaging on your products. When you are talking about things with the ticket price of an amusement park ride, then I would think that would be integral to success.

  • This is food for thought, Debra and a great read. I would say that in my professional life, I like to take my time and make sure I am delivering a high quality product that surpasses expectations. I enjoy fashion and could be considered cheap because I like to shop at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom’s Rack and get a great deal; sometimes cheap and cheerful and other times an expensive item reduced. Personality wise, I like to smell smell the roses, enjoy balance and meditation; so I enjoy a slower pace in life; nice and easy!

    • I like fashion too, the consequence of that love is that I am an expert shopper at second hand boutiques that carry designer labels. I’m also a regular contributor to the Salvation Army and the Value Village. 🙂 None of it strikes me as cheap because there is no waste and lots of value.

  • Arleen says:
    July 8, 2014 @ 04:24 pm

    I guess I am slow and expensive. I remember my parents saying haste makes waste and you get what you pay for. I don’t know what the hurry is today and I know time is money, but I would rather pay more and have it done right then get something cheaper faster that becomes a problem. I travel alot and do like to stay at a hotel that maybe expensive with service that is worth the price, then stay at a cheaper hotel where you are number. It reminds of a commercial here in the states for car insurance. The pig wants to ask a question and the person behind the desk who ignores him and says next. I don’t want to be number that gets pushed along.

    There are many expensive brand names that have stood the test of time. Just look at the high end cars. Now some of the them are fast and expensive.

    • It’s a strange place to find yourself, being a proponent of slow and expensive, but it just seems to get closer to what I’m ultimately looking for than the alternative. I keep waiting for quality to make a come back. 🙂

  • I think it could also be said that the blurring of the line between fast and cheap and slow and expensive (quality) has driven the former to record heights. No-one can be sure anymore if the expensive item really is high quality so they go for the cheap one and if they have to dispose of it then they can get another cheap one. I love good quality products and services but can attest to the fact that it is not as easy anymore to distinguish between the two. We even have a very popular tv show where they renovate an entire house in 7 days. I want to know what happens to that house after 4 seasons have gone by.

    • So very true about that blurred line. The new and expensive models of appliances seem to come with shorter and shorter life spans.

      As for those renovation shows, friends of ours were silly/brave enough to have one of them come into their home and “transform” a room in one weekend. They had to redo EVERYTHING. Having watched the show a few times, I cringe at the idea of letting someone come in and do in a few days what would take a professional a few weeks to complete.

  • Value will always be more important than cheap. The price tag alone is no indicator of quality. I am reminded of the diamond market. Diamonds are no more rare and no more precious than emeralds. The diamond cartels control the market and the publicity. Through their actions the prices are now much higher than other gemstones.

    Value is something much more important. What is the quality you are getting for that price tag. What purpose does the item serve in your life. By item I refer to anything you want to throw in your question here. Your kidney holds far more value in saving your childs life than your exspouses.

    • I agree. I’ve had great wines for $15 a bottle and I’ve had terrible wines at $60. For me, what I find bothersome is the concept that somehow we are getting a bargain from speed and and that racing the cost of something to the bottom is also good.

      As for diamonds, I’m not a diamond girl myself. Seems silly that it should be worth more than others when it is not rare. My wedding ring is the birthstone that my husband and I share, garnet. Our birthday is the same day, so made sense to me. It’s not an “expensive” stone by most people’s measure but a very valuable one to me.

      • I have felt much of the same way about our race to improve technology. Just because we rushed the next upgrade for the latest and greatest computer of the week out the door, doesn’t mean it is any good. Why can’t we take the time for a good solid product that will last for longer than the time it takes to bring out next weeks microscopic update.

        • I feel like I was sold something when I wasn’t looking when it comes to technology. How we let the idea of buying the next model devolve into, we’ll let you buy a prototype, we’ll learn where all the bugs are and then sell you the “improved” model for more money. Huh? When did I agree to that? 🙂

  • Good article, Debra. When you buy quality it’s expensive but lasts forever. Doubt that I will ever need to buy a business suit again because my expensive designer suits will never go out of fashion. If I buy another suit it’s because I want to.

    Love to be slow and expensive and leave fast and cheap to people who thrive on that.

    When a cheap and fast option is chosen it usually turns out to be a mistake. Just look at the buildings in Dubai that are falling apart. They sure were fast and cheap:-)

    By the way, I hate yachts because I always get sea-sick on them so when it comes to boats I actually prefer faster and cheaper ones.

    • Great point about the suits and the buildings Catarina. Very little of value is had for next to nothing.

      Don’t tell anyone, but I will confess to feeling nauseous myself, but a photo of a speed boat wouldn’t have made the point quite as well. 🙂

  • It seems to me that what underlies fast and cheap is the promise that one can have MORE of it and fit MORE of it into the available time. At some point conventional wisdom decide that MORE was an easier proposition to sell than BETTER but, as most follow conventional wisdom, there are more and more competitors scrambling for an ever diminishing piece of the MORE pie. Since it requires greater effort to provide BETTER, those who do so tend to do well within a niche that appreciates quality over quantity.

    • So true Paul. More is easier to sell but it all comes down to what you are trying to buy. There are few things in my life that I’m willing to have the cheap version of. Even garden soil when bought cheaply tends to come with weeds.

  • “Which would you rather be, fast & cheap or slow & expensive?” – if you put it that way, I will certainly pick slow and expensive! I do think of one of my favorite retailers, LLBean – they seem to be moderately priced and fast. I get their stuff really fast … and it lasts longer than stuff I have gotten from say, Nordstroms.

    • Leora, it sometimes feels like those are my choices, whether I like it or not. Interesting comment on LL Bean, I would never think of them as cheap and fast and I would say they would argue with anyone who suggested that was their branding approach. They are all about quality and are one of the few organizations to have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. One they have honoured even in the most ridiculous of circumstances since 1912. As the story goes, the first pairs of rubber hunting boots their founder sold fell apart weeks after being sold – he reimbursed every single customer. It nearly put them out of business, but he stuck to his values and built a reputation for quality.

  • Okay I’ve found the best new line, thanks to you…I’m slow and expensive:) I’ll let you know how that flies on the dating scene:) In all seriousness, I sold value against price for many years in my industry with my products. Sounds like it makes sense but often (particularly in government bids) price, or fast and cheap, would win the day. Personally, I think it’s counter-intuitive Yet too often people confuse quality with a higher price and that isn’t necessarily so either. But I think you’re right in that it is ever present in technology where fast and cheap has become de rigueur. But in the long run, these brands do disappear. All but McDonalds, that is:)

    • I’ve been trying it out as a line, it feels awkward at first but I’m getting used to it. 🙂 What cracks me up about government bids is that while they always take the cheapest offer they always end up spending more money fixing the inadequate solution. I’ve known for years now that government does not lead, it follows.

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