I am wondering if there is a word for a product that does not meet the expected quality. Something like a 'below average product', but that does not feel correct so I was hoping for a better word.

In this specific case it is about a refurbished product, which is sold for a lower price than the regular product. So it is the same product (it is even tested to comply with standards), which could retail for a slightly lower price.

In context it could be something like this:

People assumed that the refurbished product was of ___ quality.

What would be a word for a product that is below the expected level of quality?

  • 2
    Is the product being compared to other products that are exactly the same, or to products which may be more expensive? Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:46
  • 5
    The question is protected now so I can't add a real answer, but I can't believe no one mentioned "shoddy". Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 16:47
  • Reject, seems appropriate Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:03

9 Answers 9


I think the word substandard might be a good fit. Some official definitions of this word include:

  • Failing to meet a standard; below standard.
  • Of inferior quality; not meeting the minimum quality requirements.
  • Less than the normal standard.
  • falling short of some prescribed norm
  • below the usual or required standard (link)

As an example usage, blogger Christopher Scott wrote:

Operating a business based on hiring and employing the lowest-cost worker, however, usually results in substandard products.

  • @Neograph - I'm glad I thought of a word you can use, but I still think it would be better to leave your question unaccepted for the rest of today. Sometimes it's better to wait.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:08
  • Thanks for the suggestion. By the time I accepted it, you had already 3 upvotes and I felt it would fit the situation. But I unaccepted it and will give it some more time :) Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:12
  • First word that came to mind.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:44

I would also submit subpar.

  • below an average, usual, or normal level, quality, or the like; below par: This month his performance has been subpar.
  • 2
    The weird thing is that "below par" is a golfing phrase, and being below par is a good thing. It means you've completed the hole using fewer strokes. I think this is an example of a confused metaphor. A bit like how people have misheard the cricket phrase "off his own bat" (meaning to score runs when you were the batting player) and it's become "off his own back", meaning to do something of your own volition. Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 12:02
  • 4
    @JonathonCowley-Thom While "par" is often associated with golf, that is not its origin. It comes from the Latin, meaning "equal", and means "normal or average". In golf, the goal is to take less strokes than average. But in many (most?) other things, it is generally desired to be greater than average.
    – Jerrad
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 15:32
  • 1
    So there is confusion about the confused metaphor? Brilliant! Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:24
  • Every day is a school day. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 12:31

Another word that can be used here is inferior:

Consumers assume that it is an inferior product.

One could also say the refurbished product is of inferior quality, although to my ear that's a less natural usage, and less common than substandard quality as suggested by another answer.


A noun for a product that is below-standard quality is lemon. From Merriam-Webster's Definition for English Language Learners:

a product that is not made well : a product that does not work the way it should

In your example, if the product was inspected and guaranteed to be up to certain standards, then it should not be an actual lemon. However, you might still say that

People assumed that the refurbished product was (or would be) a lemon.

Note that we ordinarily wouldn't need to use the word quality, since the term lemon includes a judgment of poor quality.

This term might be more common in American English than other dialects (in the US we even have "lemon laws" protecting consumers from bad quality products). It also is slightly informal, although it is sometimes used in technical contexts relating to product liability.

  • You're right about this being dialect-specific: this would not (generally) be understood in the UK.
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:49

I like substandard. But what about of low quality or of lower quality?

24. of inferior quality or character:
a low grade of fabric; a low type of intellect.

  • People assumed that the refurbished product was of low quality.
  • People assumed that the refurbished product was of lower quality.

In a context of new and refurbished products, of lower quality implies lower quality compared to a new product.

By the way, there is also, low-quality: people assumed that the refurbished product was low-quality.


"Remanufactured", "refurbished", and "rebuilt" are good descriptions for the kinds of products that the original poster asked about in the comments. For example, automobile manufacturers offer "rebuilt" engines, transmissions, and other parts. These products typically meet the same standards as the original parts. They are typically either sold at a discounted price, or they are sold when the original product is no longer being made.

"Seconds" are products that are rejected because they do not meet the standards for "first-rate" products, but are sold at a discount to customers who are aware that the products have some defects. For example, I own ceramic dishes that are somewhat wavy. I did not pay much for them, because they were "seconds".

  • Thanks for your suggestion, though in this specific case I have a refurbished product where people are afraid the quality wil be below that of a non-refurbished product. (It was written in a comment below the question, I will update the question.) Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 19:09


  • lacking the quality or quantity required; insufficient for a purpose.

People assumed that the refurbished product was of inadequate quality.


Not an exact fit to the usage, but worth using in different circumstances:

In the UK something that is new, but not up to expected quality and hence sold elsewhere, is colloquially known as "factory seconds". There are various shops around the country specifically selling them, and they're often used as stock for the cheaper pound / dollar type shops.

Often (but not always) the products are re-branded if possible (such as boxes of assorted broken biscuits).


There are many words that can fit that description..

Probably one of the most common is "subpar" where "sub" obvioulsy means 'below' and "par" means 'expectation' like in golf. So the word subpar literally means 'below-expectations'

Other words you can use, which aren't as good of a fit but still make sense are:

Lackluster - Often used to describe the performance of an individual i.e. a sportsperson or businessperson.

Bemusing - A word used to describe something that turned out to be less interesting/exciting than intended. Ie. a bemusing play, or a bemusing announcement.

There are also more generalistic words that would also work here, however they would also work in other scenarios that do not match this context there are LOADS of words you can pick from in the English language like: Disappointing, Unimpressive, Let-down

And one final point, no one will have trouble understanding if you just use below-expectations as an adjective/noun like the following examples:

The sales teams' performance this week was below-expectation.

The sales team had a under-expected performance this week.


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