Monday, May 12, 2008

The Made In America Update

We've been at this for four months now, trying to buy only American products. At first I would wander around a store, just looking, until I found something that I needed with a USA label. Now I aggressively ask clerks for help and they are happy to oblige. Then we get into long, protracted discussions about globalization. It's been very interesting. Friends and family all know about it now, and while no one else has said "Hey, I'm going to do that, too" many are taking second looks at their purchases. Even a relative who works at *Sam's*.

Ima turned five recently. I shopped for her birthday present at Kmart. Did you know that of 'baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet", at the very least in that list those baseballs are no longer made in America. A few baseball bats are still made here, but I could find no softball, tee ball or baseball manufactured anywhere but China. Maybe there's a factory that produces all those American flag pins, American flags and baseballs all at the same time.

I thought I was pretty good at reading packaging to determine where something is made. Some products that are made in America just put the company's address on the package. I bought Ima a soccer ball (red white and blue flag motif no less) that looked for all the world like it was manufactured in Oregon. When she took it out of the package I spied in 2pt type the itty bitty word CHINA along side the valve stem. Rats! Ben had bought her a piggy bank, pink plastic with electronics inside that make squealing noises when you drop in a coin. He bought it at Walgreen's before the start of the challenge so the rules didn't apply. We didn't even check: plastic, electronics, Walgreen's=China. But guess what? It was manufactured in Ohio. And I must confess to one glaring violation of the rules that I made. I bought a Disney Princess clock radio for Ima. In a lawyerly application of our agreement, I justified the purchase because I needed a radio to listen to while I worked on the house in Milwaukee last week. And the rules state the purchases needed for work don't count. I should have taken a picture of the pink Disney Castle radio sitting on top of my toolbox. Incongruous to say the least.

Greeting cards are a whole 'nother wonder, I've discussed them in the past, but I think I have gotten pretty good at standing at Hallmark and being able to pick out the Chinese cards from an endcap away. Cards with glitter may still be printed here, but cards with little goo gads attached or 3-D effects that take some intricate piecework to assemble are made in China.

Last month was my anniversary and of course yesterday was Mother's Day. For Mother's Day I received some beautiful hand-crafted objets produced quite close to home by little 5 and 7 year old hands. These child laborers were not even paid for their work, but rest assured were given a healthy snack time right after putting away the paint and the glue. The other thing that I got for Mother's Day was a saute pan made by All-Clad in Pennsylvania. Which followed the 12" pan I gave Ben last month for our anniversary. We know that there are still cookware companies in Wisconsin, but sometimes you just draw the line and say Wisconsin might be better than Pennsylvania in the buying hierarchy of needs, but Pennsylvania beats China any day. As an aside, I have perfected the omelet! But in the 12" pan it takes six eggs to make a good omelet.

Shoes are the next big hurdle. Ima is set for the summer, but I'm not quite sure what to do about Lotta. I have found that New Balance still makes some children's shoes here, but summer time sandals are going to take some searching. And I myself am just about crazy for some new shoes. If you see a woman openly weeping in the shoe department it's probably me. Kicky thongs? Cute slingbacks? Those little slipper sneakers? Sob.

Gotta go. Ima wants to play with all the Chinese crap she got for her birthday.


Sorghum Crow said...

In other news from the surprise origins department:

I recently overindulged in adult beverages, so the next day I visited my local general store in search of an effervescent stomach soother and headache reliever. Imagine my surprise when I found my Alka-Seltzer was made in Germany. (Alka-Seltzer Plus is made in Mexico, that's not so surprising)

dguzman said...

Well, I admire your gumption, Jess. I was going to suggest New Balance; my feet are small enough to buy the kid's sizes, so I have a pair made in USA. It's pretty tough when we go shoe-shopping, because we won't buy leather OR non-USA-made. Needless to say, we keep our shoes for a looooong time.

(ʘ)(ʘ) said...

This is really inspiring. It's obviously not easy, not even close, but it's a good lesson for us all.

Dr. Zaius said...

A Disney Princess clock radio? I want one, too! Arial, please!

Matty Boy said...

Even 20 years ago, the baseballs for major league were made in the Dominican Republic, if memory serves, so it is not that new a phenomenon. At least that part, anyway.

ed said...


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