“The market will reward quality.” This quote is on the cover of the January 2010 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which sits on my desk hoping to enlighten me by osmosis. In the umpteen years we’ve subscribed, my knowledge of personal finance actually has increased a little, but I am still puzzled by quotes like this one by strategist Liz Ann Sonders.

Of course it’s a small piece of a larger quote: “In the first phase of this bull market, we saw a market that was biased toward very, very low-quality companies. What we’re likely to see now is a shift into an environment in which fundamentals will come a little more into play and where the market will reward quality to a greater degree in the next leg of the cycle.” And of course I’m baffled because I’m relating this quote not to personal finance but to my work with products and my experiences as a customer.

The dictionary describes quality as “character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence; high grade; superiority; excellence.” I think everyone has a sense of what it means for something to have quality. The dollar store items my kids buy with their pocket money often fall apart before we get home, which indicates a lack of quality (at least to me!). How often you have to replace or repair something might be one way you consider its quality. The materials it’s made with, its design, and how skillfully it’s made might be other ways. I go through a mental checklist of some or all of these things when I make purchases. I also think about quality when I choose ingredients, packaging, labels–everything for my own products. I “kick the tires” of potential purchases because in general, I want quality. I assume this is something most people look for.

A quote like this is baffling to me because if quality IS what people want, the “market” should ALWAYS reward quality. My own feelings about quality don’t fluctuate with trends or markets. I guess for me there are always “fundamentals” in play that don’t ever change. How do you feel about quality? Is it important to you when you’re shopping? Is it more important than price? What do you think?