Made In The U.S.A.

One more thing about the coffee comments…

In Adventures on September 22, 2009 at 12:37 am

Okay, so I promise after this I’ll let the coffee comments (see previous couple of posts) go.

Yesterday I listed some common comments that I found on a blog from someone trying to find an American-made coffee maker. I listed those comments. Now I want to address them.

I just think it’s *better* for the US economy if we would buy more “Made in US”.
It sure seems like it would be. It only makes sense. Except, it may not actually be any better that we make our own stuff (economy-wise, I mean).

If something, anything, is made in a foreign country and it’s far below standard, I personally feel it’s the fault of the AMERICAN manufacturer that sent our jobs overseas.
Good point. However… The American manufacturer is only supplying us what we want to buy. So I think it’s really our fault, as consumers. We vote with dollars.

USA manufacturers have not always been angels when it comes to purity, safety, and telling the truth about their products either.
Correct. But at least we know there are some standards and fail-safes here, like the CSPC and FTC and impassioned bloggers who help keep an eye on companies who screw up.

Just because something is made in China doesnt mean anything really, there are millions of companies that outsource their labour; it’s cheaper. Even good quality brands do it. It’s just their standards that you have to look out for. As in the company standards, not China standards.
Hard to argue with the  idea that the quality of a product is dictated by the company outsourcing the labor. At some point, they made a decision about the slightly better construction from the slightly more expensive labor, or the slightly cheaper option. That goes for whoever the company, whatever they make.

My problem is that China is not America’s best friend and I fear what they can do to weaken us by their intentional ‘slip ups.’ Lead poisoning causes brain damage in children, for example.
I’m not about to suggest that Chinese manufacturers are intentionally lead poisoning the future best and brightest of America’s children. Common sense tells me that their standards and checks aren’t quite as tight as they may have been in a U.S. shop. But the idea of a country, any country, controlling the production of vast amounts of your stuff makes you worry about the “what ifs” that the future relationship with said country may bring. If during WWII Germany was making most of our stuff, they may have had more capacity for their own military machine, and we would have had less. Still, I’m not sure that I want to establish trade regulations based on eventual wars. But that’s the sort of thing government economists do, I think.

America needs jobs and manufacturing must return to help the economy. If enough people refused to buy ‘China Made’ they might consider coming back.
I’m sorta feeling false, then true on this one. I’m not actually convinced that we do need manufacturing jobs. If we’re moving up the food chain, away from the menial tasks and manual labor, as long as we’re evolving it may not be so bad. I’m no government economist, but theoretically we’d have a better society if we weren’t all doing tedious manual labor for eight bucks an hour, would we? I do think that if enough–which is probably some massive percentage, btw–of us stopped buying Chinese-made products, manufacturers would turn to other countries of cheap labor whenever possible. Theoretically, they’d do the same thing if we insisted on American-made stuff. But if our socks and backpacks and DVD players were suddenly universally MITUSA, we couldn’t afford them. We vote with our dollars, remember?

Many factories are full of 12-year-olds working 16-hour shifts. While some products from China are [made] well, much of the economy [is] based on slave labor.
Again, I can’t argue with the concept that many factories in many countries are full of labor that is, by our standards, horrific. But if your other option is even more underpaid and more horrific, wouldn’t you rather work in a less horrific factory? (The same thing could sort of be said for our own jobs. If we have the option of toiling over a sewing machine in a hot factory, or toiling over a CAD design system in an office, wouldn’t that office–no matter how awful–be a less horrific option that we should gladly trade up for? Aren’t those the jobs we’re trading for by outsourcing our “unskilled” labor?)

My rule is not to buy anything I put in my mouth from China. It’s getting harder and harder.
Probably not a bad rule. Or maybe you wear a tin hat. That’s the thing; it’s so hard to know what’s smart and what’s paranoid.

There are 3 main reasons I will NOT buy any products from China–1) Safety 2) Environmental (buy locally-within US) and 3) Human Rights Violations.
1) Okay. We’ve got rules here that decrease the odds of making lead toys. 2) I’ll buy that, but probably as much for the transportation issues. 3) Hard to argue with that. Sorta seems impossible for the layman to know exactly what’s going on where anywhere overseas.

I have been a label reader for 20 years plus. My friends used to laugh at me. I too will not purchse products from China… Safety, human rights, the environment & the loss of jobs and sturdy product once made in the U.S.
Your friends sound mean. The biggest travesty is, probably, the “they don’t make ’em like they used to” thing. Although even if we made stuff here, it would probably still be mostly crappy plastic. Again, if you want a well made thing, buy well made things. Then they’ll make more of them to sell us. Stop just finding the cheapest thing and buying it all the time. If you can afford to, I mean.

If Americans would network once a month, every month, getting the word out via the Internet, ceasing all purchases of China-made junk (often dangerous) we may drive our point home.
I’m not very good at networking. I vote that we vote with our money. Seriously, if what we really want is no stuff from China, JUST DON’T EVER BUY STUFF FROM CHINA. Get everyone to do that, and then we’re all set. (The same thing applies to everything you buy. If you hate peas and you don’t want grocery stores to stock peas, stop buying them. Then convince everyone else not to buy them either. As soon as nobody’s buying them, nobody will sell them. The same holds true for all sorts of things we used to buy and they used to sell–galoshes, VCRs, horn rimmed glasses, poodle skirts, typewriters, etc.

Bunn seems to have gone to China…
Well that stinks. But why again?

What really amazes me is stores like #1 retailer Wal-Mart once built its reputation on buy American and now nothing in their stores is made outside of China and third world countries. What a great retailer for our country.
Wal-Mart sells what we buy. Period.

If you buy Chinese junk, you hate America. End of story. Buy American.
I think if you write comments like this you probably don’t get much of the complexity of how this whole thing works. It feels good to feel like you’re bringing back jobs we may not need, and voting with your dollars even if it’s a statistically insignificant amount, and if you’re not just literally buying MITUSA stuff 100% of the time forever you’re breaking your own dumb rule. Also, I think you’re probably a jerk. You make it hard for the rest of us to shop with a conscience for fear of being seen as small-minded jingoists like you. (Who’d have thunk it? Since when am I moderate?) Also also, you might just be an idiot. By this logic, the unbelievably vast majority of Americans (those of us who buy socks and TVs and eyeglasses) hate America. That’s just dumb. Please don’t comment on the web any more. Seriously.

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  1. To the Wal-Mart point, I have been waging my own quixotic one-man fight for a few years now. Way back when (89-90) I spent a couple of summers working at Wal-Mart. EVERY aisle was draped with ‘merican flags and loaded with signs screaming MADE IN THE GOOD OL’ US of A. I thought it was kind of jingoistic and silly, but didn’t really care. Now…the flags are still there, but they aren’t attached to any products. They are simply part of Wal-Mart. I really enjoy your site and find your writing to be extremely thoughtful and well reasoned. But I am going to vehemently disagree with your Wal-Mart point of “they sell what we buy.” I think that it is the converse: “We buy what they sell.” Wal-Mart works extremely hard to create the false equation of

    cheap=value=family=America=Wal-Mart

    and you’re silly if you pay one penny more than the cheapest possible price for anything. Forget quality or expertise! Cheap is all that matters!

    Because of that rationale, people no longer seem to care, as long as they can get it cheap. Anyone who argues otherwise is an elitist snob. I have fought this battle on my Facebook pages after writing some editorials criticizing Wal-Mart. It really is amazing how offended people get when I say something negative about Wal-Mart. http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=63040835711

    • Great point, Matt. It just illustrates, to me anyway, how tricky the whole situation is. Do we buy what they sell, or do they sell what we buy? Which came first, us chickens or their eggs? I suppose we enabled them initially buy voting with our dollars. They must’ve noticed that we like cheap, and so they took that knowledge and ran. Then the power shifted. You’re probably right: we shop at Wal Mart because we know the prices are unbeatable. We have made “cheap” the highest priority. Heck, I see it in my business every day. People don’t hire me because they can get an intern to do it for cheap/free. I can’t argue with the cost-savings strategy, but can they honestly assume it’s just as good? If they value cost over quality, so be it. Ditto for Wal Mart vs. other options.

      Everyone else who may happen to read this, go read the Facebook post Matt referenced in his comment. It’s great. It says, among other things, “Knowledge has value. Knowledge comes from experience and study. That is worth something. To imply that stores who charge a bit more for the value they add undermines the notion that learning anything is worthwhile. Every time Wal-Mart comes on the TV, they say Cheap=Value. And I remind you of this gentle reader….you get what you pay for.”

      It brings up the point, too, that Wal Mart has INCREDIBLE weight and influence. That goes to Matt’s point about we buy what they sell–i.e. we’re taking what we’re given, and we’d take it just the same if they valued quality instead of cheap. But we can’t be let completely off the hook for this. As long as we aren’t voting with our dollars elsewhere–i.e. as long as we’re not telling Wal Mart that the most important thing they can do for us is provide us with cheap stuff–we’re going to keep being fed the “junk food” quality merchandise they’re selling. I suppose that’s how Target is challenging them: We can’t beat them on price, but for everyone who wants something a little nicer, maybe with a bit of style, we can compete. Maybe.

      Back to Wal Mart’s influence, it used to be that manufacturers had the power, and retailers took what they were given. Wal Mart changed the game, though, and has gone to many manufacturers and said, essentially, “Look, if you want to sell in our stores, then you need to meet X price point. If that means you have to make a crappier product, so be it.” Consequently, us consumers are seeing brands we’re aware of–Toro lawn mowers, Sony TVs, GE microwaves, etc–on the shelves at Wal Mart. But that doesn’t mean they are the same quality products those brands have worked so hard to build up over the years. In fact, in many cases, the only thing they share is a paint scheme and a logo.

      The point is, the whole thing is topsy turvy. We are force fed crap, so we buy crap. But the reason they force it down our throats is that we’re happy gluttons. We’re begging them for more. And each of us is happy to oblige the other.

      The only thing, it seems to me, for a conscientious consumer to do is to check out of the whole equation. Wash your hands of it. Or try to, anyway.

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