Made in the China delusion

The fallout from my post defending Dollar store shopping showed me once again that people only read or hear what they want to hear. A post about allocation of funds was misread as a post about the comparitive pricing. I was also not very surprised at the responses that assumed I was advocating buying items ‘made in China’ ….< Insert hearty laugh> all posted using devices which were made in China.

Many years back I started to track where the objects I buy and use were manufactured, even when I buy them used. The conclusion is that as much as one would want to, one can’t survive on US made alone. Computers, phone, and car parts and many other things are not made in the US, period and never will be again. One has to swallow that bitter pill and get over the hypocracy that you are always avoiding ‘made in China’ merchandise in your purchases.

ANYTHING made in the United States has a higher price tag. It has to mathematically as labor and materials are more expensive here. The mere cost of manufacture will be higher, even when you factor in shipping from the other side of the planet. Very, very few of us have to disposable income to make a deliberate choice to BUY AMERICAN at every opportunity. It would be nice, but we don’t. The best any of us can do, is make the best choice we can with the dollars we have.

You should already know I am BIG on almost always buying used, that even extends to computers, cars and phones. I do realize that not everyone can do that simply because they don’t have the access to thrift stores or time to hunt. One has to really analyze each and every purchase before you make it, to see where this item comes from and what’s available to you.

As an example: When you need a can opener you need a can opener, it’s nearly impossible to get by without one of some sort. An American made can opener, from John Steuby & Co is about the same price online as the no longer made in America, the Swing Away, and can really only be bought online. [Steueby used to manufacture for Swing Away when it was still made in the US. and most folks consider the modern Swing A Way a failure.] Whereas you can walk into any store and but a made in China Oxo can opener for less money. How conscious are you of where these objects are made? do you think it makes a difference in the greater scheme of things? That Oxo Can Opener is already manufactured and just seductively hanging there on the J-hook in the store…..will YOU not buying this one of millions make a difference to the planet? or the economy? So the question is how long can you wait to open that can?

US made clothing is profoundly more expensive than clothing made elsewhere, nearly cost prohibitive in some cases. ALWAYS buying US made is a huge challenge. Putting aside the increase costs, there are few stores available to us, where we can walk in and BUY a pack of US made underwear off the shelf. Are you ready to spend $25 on a pair us US made boxer briefs? do they have to be organic? does that make a difference in underwear? or are you just going to buy a three pack made in India off the rack? Those options aren’t OPEN to all of us. One has to make a concerted effort to hunt down a US made alternative that is within your means. And you’re gonna wear some underwear while you wait, and when it arrives, it’s not like you are going to throw out the NON US made ones you are wearing.

For myself I like to find a happy medium. Nearly all my clothes had a previous owner, and for the most part limited mileage. I cringe when I see Clean Sweep-esque shows on television, Americans sure do own a shit ton of clothing. I found I need to own very little, and when I need to buy something it’s usually a replacement for something I have destroyed or outgrown. I do make a point of avoiding ‘fast fashion’, I’m tough in clothes and need things that will last awhile, perhaps a decade. If I need to source it from eBay, I will set up a search for something like ‘large Navy Polo shirt’ and then choose a brand and price that I can live with. And it will hardly ever be a made in the US brand, only if I am lucky. But since it was already manufactured I consider it a guilt free purchase.

Anyone who has ‘BUY AMERICA’ embossed in their brain, should spend a few weeks reading all the labels and markings on everything they own. Where did your dishes and flatware come from? your sheets? your towels? how about your trash bags? the food in your fridge?

I don’t condemn anyone for their conscious choices, only the thoughtless ones. If you buy a plastic or metal colander made in China, it’s because you need a way to strain your spaghetti. When that colander gets broken or stained and you are sick of it, PUT IT IN THE RECYCLING, and hopefully it will get turned into something else. I hear Jacob Bromwell makes a stainless steel one in the US which costs a whopping $100 (not a typo.)

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