Here's yet another almost adequate item from a colleague of mine. A medical device design requires a medical grade isolated UPS. After significant research and paper evaluation, a UPS was selected. It weighs more than 70 pounds. He ordered a single unit of this multi-thousand-dollar UPS and waited patiently for it to arrive. The big day came, and a truck arrived with the unit. It was heavy -- more than 100 pounds. The packaging material was pretty destroyed during the shipping process. Damage to the UPS itself wasn't visible until the box had been removed. Inside a second box was a collection of UPS pieces that had been part of the original unit. The UPS had come loose from its mini shipping pallet and evidently had traveled from Texas to California bouncing all of its 70+ pounds on the now-destroyed faceplate.
Of course, shipping accidents do happen. Another unit was shipped to replace the first unit. This arrived in a box that had been secured with duct tape. It too had broken loose from its pallet and had a destroyed front panel.
It was not exactly amusing that both of these units had wood attached to the faceplate with wood screws. Even if the shipping hadn't damaged the UPS, the wood screws holding a piece of wood onto the faceplate would have been enough to return the damaged unit.
Try entry number three -- another distributor, another order, another delivery. This time, the box came off in the hands of the delivery person. Once again, wood screws went through the wood and into the faceplate. Finally, my colleague called the manufacturer. The company agreed to ship a unit direct, even though its corporate policy was to send small orders through a distributor. This fourth unit looks like it has arrived intact, with no wood screws holding wood on to the faceplate.
These anecdotes illustrate three ways that products can become almost adequate: a change in production methods, a grossly inadequate datasheet, and shipping failures. We haven't considered the almost adequate design decisions that are all around us: the Christmas lights that might last a few dozen hours before they fail, "long-life" compact fluorescent light bulbs that fail as fast as their incandescent cousins, supermarket bagels that are moldy when the bag is opened only a few hours after they are bought. The list goes on and on.
There are some truly good products, but all too often we accept mediocrity. It's time to do away with "almost adequate" and make "good" mean what it says. There's no room for wiggling out by redefining words.