posted by Matt W on January 23rd, 2013

So over the holidays, I ventured into stores and shopped over the internet. I am not a big shopper. I rarely go into stores or even surf the internet for products unless I’m trying to score points with my wife. The holidays are slightly different, but really only because my wife doesn’t buy ALL her own gifts for her birthday and Christmas. While I know in theory that there are a lot of products made in China, I never really paid that much attention to it in practice. I even knew we import over $400,000,000,000 (that’s 400 billions) a year (20% of our total imports) in products from China, but it never hit me as more than a number, I hadn’t really put it into perspective by reading the labels. I think every product I looked at this season was made in China.

First of all, I ordered a computer. I ended up getting a Lenovo, and one of the thoughts that actually went through my head was Lenovo used to be IBM; it must be partially made/assembled in the U.S. I didn’t check. So, I placed my order and I got the notice that it was shipping and that I would have it in a couple of days. I clicked on the UPS tracker to see where it was shipping from (I’m kind of a nerd and think manufacturing facilities are cool), and it had just left the factory… in Shanghai. For some reason, I didn’t expect that. I started to look at all the products in the stores.

Keen Shoes which I always thought were made in my beloved northwest and is the main reason I’m so loyal to them…China. I just never checked after the first pair.

Louisville Slugger bats… China. Really? Babe Ruth just rolled over in his freakin’ grave. In their defense, it was only the aluminum bats I looked at as I couldn’t bring myself to look to see where the wood ones that our national pastime is based on were manufactured; I thought my head would explode. Most baseball gloves I checked were also from China.

Globe Skateboards which was sold to me as a small, cool, skateboard company (incidentally headquartered in Australia and not that small)… China. I didn’t check until after I had paid for it. My wife forbid me from calling it the Half-way-around-the Globe Skateboard company to my son “It’s a gift, be nice.”

Joe A. suggested that I put a few companies that manufacture products in the U.S. in the blog to show they exist, like Levi’s or New Balance which ironically for the most part aren’t manufactured in the U.S. anymore. I looked for Levi’s in the store and they were manufactured in Mexico, which were indeed the only articles of clothing not made in Asia that I saw. New Balance proudly proclaims on their web-site that at least 25% of their products are at least 70% manufactured in the U.S. which is nice but not exactly the ringing endorsement for American manufacturing that I think Joe A. was suggesting.

Seemingly all clothes, some electronics, all small appliances, the list goes on forever… China. It is actually difficult to find any product manufactured in the U.S., I’d looked for weeks and hadn’t found one.

Now every person that I have personally met from China has been very nice. I’m sure that the over a billion people in China are all very thankful that we as Americans open our hearts and wallets to them on a daily basis. But wow. We’re in a financial crisis because we don’t have enough good jobs (manufacturing jobs) in the U.S.A., and yet all we do is buy more Chinese products? It seems like there is something we could do if we only put our minds to it.

My goal for 2013 is to buy products made in the U.S. or do without. As I said I don’t buy a lot, but looking at a few of the things I was thinking about purchasing, like golf clubs, a blue ray player, and pants I saw I have my work cut out for me. And then my garbage disposal disintegrated and Insinkerator was there for me. I went to the store to find a replacement assuming that I would have to settle for a non-US product and there it was an Insinkerator disposal with a beautiful “Made in the USA” logo. It is an excellent disposal that was very easy to install. Nice. So while I’m sure I will buy an item or two this year from outside the U.S., I am looking at every label and trying to pick the U.S. Brand. They are out there.

Remember to try to buy American products, your job might depend on it (and if yours doesn’t, your kids almost certainly will).

File Under Mr. Cool, Working Stiff