Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can We Afford to Be This Cheap?
day 62

Wry Print by the Doom Girls. Buy Here at Etsy!
Recently, I went shopping for gift sweaters for my son and my father.  After visiting Lord and Taylor, and not finding the correct combinations of colors and sizes, I headed over to Filenes Basement. There, neon colored sale signs led me to discounted merchandise. They served like a steady path of  cookies crumbs left by Hansel and Gretel. 

As I stood  at the end of my destination, an aisle packed with mountainous piles of sweaters, I began to notice something. At first it was Calvin Klein. I picked up a stunning slate blue pullover. I shook it out to check for size and refolded it. It was then, upon looking at the care label, that I saw it: Made in China, Soon I was bee-hiving up and down the aisle, pulling out tucked tags from the sweaters of Ralph Lauren to LaCoste. Every single one was made  in China, Pakistan or Thailand. My slashed price sweater was coming to me courtesy of overseas, 40 cent per hour sweat shop labor.

In the midst of trying economic times, discounts do rule, but if you can afford to pay the extra few dollars to purchase a well made American item, shouldn't you? Moody's Analytics recently reported that if consumers just spent an extra 1% on U.S. goods, it would create 200,000 jobs. 

Button by the Carbon Crusader. 
Buy Here at Etsy!
But that begs mindfulness. The task most Herculean, however, is to  diminish the giddy rush to stores in search of the cheapest imported item on the shelf, followed by club warehouse outings to stockpile enough beef jerky and mayonnaise to feed a prison mess hall for a year.

Can we actually curb a mentality that says the lowest priced product is always the one to purchase? That the more food---literal and figurative --you pile on my plate for fewer dollars, the more I should smash my face in and gorge?

An escalating appetite for all things deeply discounted and lots and lots of it is problematic, be it for all you can eat waffles, bacon strips and free refills on the juice, or buy one, get one free dress shoes.  For what does  it portend for small American businesses, which typically produce over 60% of our nation's new jobs? Danger is all. A mom and pop diner will never be able to sustain "all you can eat," a shoemaker in California  will not be able to offer monthly two for one freebies, and those companies large enough to do so will continue to flee our shores for cheap labor.

As a writer, artisan and business owner  of more than a decade and a consumer of considerably greater time, something is becoming increasingly clear to me. Our citizens seem willing to give up everything for the lure of products nearly free.  In such a climate, the winners will always be those who mass produce and poorly pay their workers. That's not really a bargain, is it?

Good night,

Copyright Wanda Fleming, 2011


Fleur de Lis Quilts said...

Well said my dear!

Wanda Fleming of River Girls Soap said...

Thanks Mary. I think it's particularly germane to writers, artists and artisans!

Anonymous said...

Newest follower here (Found you on one of the Etsy blog teams) and I completely agree. It's sad because even the companies that I used to support BECAUSE they were based in America have now shipped everything over to China. It's increasingly difficult to find something that says MADE IN AMERICA right on it.


Painting it Personal said...

I spend a little more by shopping on Etsy, but it is so worth it! I purchase nearly all of my gifts from Etsy sellers now.

BluMoon said...

Wanda, this is so true not only of the USA but also of Britain we are suffering exactly the same fate as you from cheap labour imports. I much prefer to buy from the high street shops or handmade online if it is for gifts I often buy from Etsy or friends web sites. A lot of the things I have to buy from across the pond as they are just not available here anymore. So many closures as we can't compete with these incredibly low prices!

Puzzled1 said...

I totally agree with this article. This needs to be passed on to as many ppl as possible. America really needs to wake up and pay attention to what their buying habits are doing to this economy.

Wanda Fleming of River Girls Soap said...

Thanks everyone for commenting. I think it has become increasingly more difficult to purchase items that are not made overseas but I think we are incredibly slack on this kind of thing. The lure of cheap excess is very powerful--it's a societal narcotic. And we get into the habit of saying well I want a bargain with my money never asking is it really a bargain?

reveriefrance said...

What you said is true, although it's not just happening in America. This concept has been imported to Europe as well. As American and European factories have closed, China has seen an economic boom. China has begun to raise their prices, which has lead to corporations seeking to open factories elsewhere, such as Bangledesh, again creatig new sweatshops, as you said, with child labor. It's high time that America and Europe start taking pride in creating their own goods again.

Spanish Beader said...

Hi this is Spanish Beader,

I greatly agree with you. Too many of us will settle for a low price, just to get a sale. I don't remember who said this But I have it printed on posted in front of me to see everyday. "When you stand behind your art and support it, then your art will support you!
Come visit my website

The Pastry Tart said...


I found this phrase resonates very strongly with me:

"The lure of cheap excess is very powerful--it's a societal narcotic."

I became very aware of what I was mindlessly purchasing after finally deciding to try my hand at running my own business. I always sympathized with the plight of the small business owner run out by huge conglomerates with mass buying power (eg: Can you find a small family-run bookstore in your hometown?), but never fully appreciated how rough that road is until I began to travel down it myself.

I lived in Japan for a while, and it was not like that there--at least, it wasn't 10 years ago. :) There are more mom & pop shops (some operating for generations) than big department stores, and there is a cultural system of checks and balances in place to curb such massive imbalance in the market as you see here in the Western world. It's not all sunshine and roses--economic times are hard on everyone globally--but they seem to make it work better than we do.

It is sad to see the massive landslide decline of the proud home-made domestic crafter, and I would rather buy from Etsy, local suppliers, or make it myself than rely on something unreliable simply because it's cheaper by a few cents.

Wanda Fleming of River Girls Soap said...

It is sad but I think it reflects a complete lack of mindfulness. Sometimes I wish our leadership would spend less time jockeying and more time speaking plainly to citizens about how their behaviors affect communities and the common good. We are a very self centered group sometimes and love things fast, faster, faster--cheap, cheaper, cheapest!! We all need to step back and take a deep breath and pause.

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