Case Study

Quality is in the Eye of the Beholder


Mr. Wantanabe, a Japanese customer, requested a sample of a new product. Mr. Sloan, an account executive in Japan has had a sample express delivered to Mr. Wantanabe from headquarters in the U.S. Since the model was new and the company had recently changed names, the carton containing the shipment had a label partially covering the old company name with the old model number crossed out and the new model number hand written in.

Mr. Sloan wanted to meet with Mr. Wantanabe to discuss the sample, but Mr. Wantanabe kept putting off the meeting, explaining that the sample was under review. After a long delay, Mr. Wantanabe agreed to a meeting. At the meeting Mr. Wantanabe did not seem to want to discuss the sample but rather showed Mr. Sloan a new watch which he took out of an elegantly wrapped box from Tiffany’s.

Mr. Wantanabe asked Mr. Sloan to estimate the value of the watch. Mr. Sloan had no idea but guessed at approximately $1000 given its packaging. “Precisely my point” stated Mr. Wantanabe. “The watch is worth $25.” Mr. Sloan was not sure what to make of this little game so he said: “Let’s talk about the sample.” Mr. Wantanabe said he was talking about the sample. Mr. Sloan was confused.