So, you know how supposedly everything made has to be made in some developing country now because—despite shipping costs—it’s so much cheaper to make things other places and ship them to the United States?
Maybe it is just me, but it seems like lately when I shop, I have a hard time finding what I consider to be a quality product. I often wind up buying whatever is available, if it is something I really need, or not buying anything, if it is something I can put off or do without.
When I do buy things, I’m no longer surprised when the fail a short time later, and I’m no longer surprised when I call customer service people and am basically told that the company isn’t going to do anything to support their product. “You bought it,” summarizes the response I typically get from corporate customer service. Yeah. So Expected Useful Life is now Until It Breaks. Which might be sooner than you thought.
Costing—in the Managerial Accounting sense—is a challenging task. Developing estimates of probabilistic costs, especially out year costs, like product support, is essentially a guessing game that relies on prior experience as a base and extrapolates a most likely down the road. Far from an exact science, especially if the manufacturer, key supplies, or the product itself is brand new.
I wonder how American companies are finding their long term success with offshore goods. My experience as a consumer is mixed. Moreover, I get a bit queasy at the stories of young children working in unhealthy conditions in India, workers dying in China, plowing down the rainforest in Central America.
Honestly, the bulk of my concern is selfish. I want to know when I buy something that it is going to have a reasonable lifetime. I expect the sole to stay on a shoe for more than a half dozen wearings. I expect a blouse or skirt to hold together at the seams for at least the same amount of time. I’d like to expect the buttons to last, but at this point I’m no longer surprised when buttons fall off after the first wash, or even in the dressing room at the store. (In the latter case, I typically don’t buy.) And, of course, the under 50 crowd is well familiarized with the “Free Cell Phone with A Two Year Contract!!!” and a One-Year warranty that goes antenna up after thirteen months . . . . Freedom Is Not Free, and I guess Free Is not Free, either.
I guess it is perhaps the homestate roots and the notion that there is nothing wrong with making something. Phrases “Is Good With Your Hands” or “Like to Work With Your Hands” have developed a negative connotation these days. I guess it is because if you’re a deskworker or corporate executive type, and doing things with your hands is mostly likely to lead to severed limbs, explosions or some smaller form of disaster, then you’re probably threatened by people who have the actual skills to make something–a car, a coffee table, a coffee cake, a bracelet, a skirt. I’ve done plenty of desk work in my life, and let’s face it White Collar crowd, the vast majority of desk work could be done by a trained monkey. We’re the next in line to be replaced by a computer, if we haven’t been already.
So a big shout out to anyone in America who actually makes something, in a factory, a specialty shop, or in your spare time at home. My guess is you already know that creation is its own reward.