I understand where you are coming from but don't completely agree.
1) Operations/QC and customer service are totally different departments. One can be "bad" and the other "good"
2) If AE were to have their QC tolerances set at a range to meet SF member requirements...they would be a $1,000 shoe. They set the range for first quality to meet the "average" customer expectations and to be able to maintain the COGS.
I call bullshit on that $1,000 shoe nonsense. AE uses material which is vastly inferior to those other brands. If they set decent QC, without tweaking their clearly shitty operations they'd lose money. If they clean up their operations they'd come out money ahead for sure - they're currently a textbook case of anti-lean operations. This all assumes that their owners are in it for anything more than a pump and dump, which remains to be seen.