I went to the dentist this morning for a routine teeth cleaning and to get my yearly x-rays. My teeth were fine, but the x-rays showed something interesting – the crown my dentist put on last year didn’t appear to sit correctly on the tooth. My dentist stared for a minute and determined that the crown “installation” wasn’t up to his standards, and that he would like to schedule an appointment to redo it. He capped it off by stressing that “there would be no cost to me”. While it’s nice that my dentist has a warranty on his work, there is a cost. I’ll need to miss 3 or so hours of work, and there will be needles and grinders and temporary crowns to deal with. There’s no cash leaving my pocket, but the new crown certainly isn’t free.

Unfortunately, the model isn’t unique to dentistry. If a customer has a problem with their software program, we (software developers in general) can choose to provide them a fix “free of charge”. But it’s not free – the customer had to take the time to report the issue, and will need to take time to install the patch or updates. You also have to remember that the customer never would have reported the issue if it wasn’t causing him some pain or blocking his work. The fix is free, but the path to get there is not.

I guess in the end this is yet another case of my wish to get things right the first time. Good enough obviously isn’t, and it can hurt.

<note – the title of this post is a play on Crosby’s Quality is Free. Other than the similarities of title, this post and the book have nothing in common>