Made In The USA

There is lint everywhere.

A few weeks ago I realized that my supply of everyday socks needed replenishing. As a new Prime member, not local I know, but locally my choices would be WalMart JC Penny, and the like, I did a quick search and ordered some Hanes socks. Why? Because I recognized the brand and connected it to quality.

They arrived, looked great, and I started wearing them. Some lint showed up the fist time they were washed. OK, it’s the first time. Well, it isn’t the first time anymore and they continue to pollute the apartment with lint.

I checked the tags when they arrived and, yes, they were “Made in China”.

For years, I have worn great outdoor clothing from Orvis, the fly fishing, wing shooting, and general outdoor activity company. I liked it because it was durable and stylish.

The last few years I have gotten clothing from them that was poorly sized, made from inferior fabric, was not durable, and, in one case, had buttons falling off the first time I put it on. I checked the tags; made in China.

Frustrated, I wrote a letter to the CEO. The letter did not complain, it only pointed out that their quality had slipped. I got a quick response saying that I could return for full value anything with which I was not satisfied. It did not even matter how long I had had the product.

I returned a number of items and, true to their word, they sent me a complete refund. A few days later a woman called to make sure that I was satisfied. I said sure. I was impressed with their policy. I pointed out to her that the point of my letter was completely missed, however, by telling her that they should not bother sending me any more catalogs.

Unfortunately, I could go on with more examples.

Made in the USA is the title of this piece. Does that represent some kind of patriotic leaning? Well, sure, but it really points out that by working the cost side of your business and chasing labor rates all over the world, you threaten your market share with collapsing quality. This is especially true for once strong brands like those mentioned above.

I am often accused of wanting to go back to the “good old days”, that I want things to be as they were, denying all of the wonderful progress of the past fifty years. I guess this is a natural occurrence with aging but this isn’t what is happening here, at least not completely.

As I look back over our country’s manufacturing glory days, I see companies that innovated and created wonderful products.

The inspiration to create great products was strongly inculcated by the owners of these companies. Proud employees created those high quality products.

Employees were truly seen as valuable assets and treated as such.

Right here in my home town, the Faulkner and Colony Mill would do such things as reduce hours worked rather than lay off valuable workers during a slow down. Owners would put in their own capital to retain employees during tough times.

Sure, we have to think about the economic and environmental costs of shipping our clothing, food, and everything else around the world as oil becomes more and more scarce. I think it’s just as important that we think about how to recreate these great companies that produced wonderful, well designed, and durable products.

There are tons of questions to think about. Can smaller companies run by owners compete with scale companies run by hired hand managers (who have learned how to empty the cookie jar apparently without upsetting the stockholders)? Why is there a need for unions? Have we too completely destroyed the infrastructure of manufacturing? Can we be local and still impact global markets with our expertise and great products? Will the urbanization of the world need to be reversed? The list goes on…

My Great Aunt Datie gave my Dad a Pendleton Shirt each Christmas for years. Dad loved them and wore them to a threadbare condition over many years. When he passed, a few were left and ended up in my closet. I loved to wear them because they were Dad’s. They also looked good and wore like iron.

I wonder where they are made today?

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