I’ve been doing some thinking this last week about the factors that motivate people to make a purchase, and it occurred to me that I frequently see people equivocating the above three terms (beauty, quality, and luxury).
The problem is, these aren’t synonyms. They’re all qualities that can apply to possessions, but they’re not the same. This is true in the same way that your transmission, your engine, and your spare tire are all parts of your car – but they’re not interchangeable!
I could discuss this philosophically, but I think breaking it down with an illustration would work much better.
We’ll pretend you need a chair to sit in. You have several options, and many of them perfectly perfectly illustrate the difference between beauty, quality, and luxury. Let’s go chair shopping!
Goin’ To The Garden Center
You can stroll over to WalMart, and buy the most inexpensive plastic garden chair you can find. This technically meets the requirements (“a chair to sit in”), but how does it stack up?
- It’s not beautiful. It looks like a cheap plastic WalMart garden chair, both from a quality and a price standpoint.
- It’s not luxury. There’s nothing about it that makes it particularly valuable or sought-after.
- It’s not quality. If you sit on it just right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it), the entire frame of the chair can warp or snap.
Find One At The Furniture Store
You could go to a discount furniture store and get a thoroughly beautiful chair that’s made out of cheap materials, knowing full well that you’ll have to replace it in a few years because it’s not well-made. Let’s look at this option.
- It’s definitely beautiful. Making the outside pretty is much cheaper and easier than making a sturdy frame, so you get beauty.
- It’s not quality. The people who designed the chair were thinking about the soft fabric, not extended wear. You’ll probably be replacing it in a few years, if not sooner.
- It’s not luxury. You’re not paying an insane price premium, and let’s be honest – most people know what cheap chairs look like. You’re not going to be climbing the social ladder with this purchase.
Gettin’ Out The Hammer
You could, in frustration, buy a bunch of 2x4s and some screws and build yourself a chair. This would definitely work, but is it what you want?
- It’s not beautiful. Unless you go crazy with your finishing work, it’s going to look like you bought some 2x4s and built a chair.
- It’s quality. If you attach everything correctly, this chair would probably survive a nuclear war. They build buildings out of 2x4s – your chair will be pretty much indestructible.
- It’s not luxury. It’s not particularly expensive, and even though people may find it interesting, it’s definitely not a status symbol of any sort.
Ask The Amish
Last but not least, you could go track down an Amish craftsman to build you a chair – assuming you can afford one! How does this last chair measure up?
- It would be beautiful. Every joint would be carefully fitted, each piece painstakingly sanded, and every surface finished up with a deep, lustrous varnish.
- It would definitely be high quality. The wood would be some variety of hardwood, and everything would be reinforced and assembled with care to ensure a lifetime of service.
- There’s no question it would be a luxury item. Odds are good this chair would cost you close to $1000, if not more. A dining room full of these (with the matching table) would have any visitor talking.
What’s Important To You?
These terms (beauty, quality, and luxury) are gauges that reflect what’s important to you.
Some people love having things that look nice. Others insist on having things that are high-quality. Still others use luxury purchases to attract the attention of their friends and family.
The thing I think is the most important is having awareness of why you’re buying what you’re buying. Don’t kid yourself that you’re “buying quality” just because the price tag is through the roof, or that you’re “enjoying fine things” when all you have is a cheap piece of plastic made to look like something expensive.
Be honest with yourself, and use that honesty to help you evaluate your purchasing in light of your values.
And while we’re being honest with ourselves, care to share? Do you prefer beauty, quality, or luxury? Are you consciously aware of how that preference affects your spending?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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