The Difference is in the Details

I work part-time as a merchandise manager for the premier cooking store in Atlanta. Last week we had our annual training day at the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. Some of the training courses were not new to me, as I’ve been through a bit of training in the past, but there was one vendor that surprised me, reminding me that as someone once said, “The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.” In other words, this particular class session reminded me that the difference is in the details, that truer value lies beneath surface appearances (important in dating, as well, but that is another story…).

The vendor was a tableware company, Fortessa, who represents a crystal glassware manufacturer from Germany, called Schott Zwiesel. In our kitchen store, we’ve carried this collection of wine glasses and barware for some time, marketing it alongside its rival, Riedel. However, most of us sales associates never understood the significant differences between the two lines of glassware.

At first sight, the two collections of stemware appear almost identical. Both have delicate, thin stems. Both offer many different sizes and shapes to bring out the best flavors in wine varietals from Bordeaux to Chardonnay. However, one look at the price tags on both reveals there must be some significant differences, with Riedel being a significantly more expensive option. None of us knew what those differences were, though, until training day.

You see, Schott Zwiesel is an entirely different type of crystal than Riedel. Riedel is leaded crystal. It’s like the Rolls Royce of stemware, and requires Rolls Royce type maintenance, as it is very fragile. It’s delicate, elegant, and designed to bring out the best in any sort of wine. Schott Zwiesel, however, looks as delicate and elegant, and also brings out the best in any sort of wine, but it isn’t leaded crystal. Instead of lead, it’s fused with titanium, making it a much sturdier crystal. With this design, it stands up to the banging and abuse it gets in so many of the restaurants and hotels that use them. But the vendor had to demonstrate its strength for us, because we certainly couldn’t know that simply by looking at the two side by side. Moreover, it would have been easy to make the assumption that Riedel, being the more expensive of the two, was intrinsically better.

A similar experience happened to my husband and I this week when we took our Mini Cooper in for service. The dealership kindly gave us a loaner, another Mini Cooper. When we drove the car out of the dealership, we noticed immediately that it wasn’t like our own, even though, from the outside as well as from the interior, the two cars looked almost identical. They handled completely differently. The loaner sounded tinnier than our own, the doors seemed lighter and looser, the acceleration more sluggish. And yet, one wouldn’t have known this without driving both of them, and taking a deeper look.

Analytical thinking is one of the most profitable abilities one can learn, and yet seldom do instructors teach it. Furthermore, as a society grows more complacent and/or lazier, we are all too quick to hand over our thinking for someone else to conduct, when we haven’t even bothered to analyze that person’s level of expertise. “Hey, I read it, agree with it, why should I fact check it,” seems to be the mantra of the day.

When we fail to take a deeper look, then we make inaccurate judgments that often result in our own suffering. This kind of negative outcome happens so often that we have several adages that warn against it, including, “Beauty is only skin deep,” and “Appearances can be deceiving.” In short, we often miss the wolves in sheep’s clothing, even if the tailoring is clearly askew.

However, even worse than our own suffering, in my opinion, is when our lack of analysis leads to someone else’s suffering. Most notably, this happens when we think less of someone than he/she is truly worth, because we haven’t taken the time to get to know the person first, before passing judgment. I love the saying, “Do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat.” Wealth, or the appearance thereof, does not rightly determine the intrinsic value of the rich man’s heart any more than the term “crystal indicates the usefulness and durability of a piece of stemware.

Furthermore, a good soul might be hidden beneath a scarred face. And it’s been my experience that the good souls are infinitely worthier of knowing than the beautiful but shallow-hearted. So, take a deeper look to what lies beneath the surface, both with material things as well as with people, and even animals. You never know what surprises await there because the difference is in the details. Give love, live loved. Have a great week.


2 Replies to “The Difference is in the Details”

  1. char

    My last Riedel survivor was more than a few years ago! Every time one bit the dust, we felt bad. Memories of my mom came to mind, as in her lament, “I can’t have anything nice.” I now have the cheapest wine glasses around, but when they go by the by, I could care less! My peace of mind is worth more to me than nice things or any judgement of me based on the quality/quantity of my material possessions.


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