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The Uggggggggg effect
I was in North Carolina in early December. I met with a GOTS certified dye house and completely "clicked" with the owners. Ya know when you meet someone and it's like you are simply on the same frequency? It was like that. We both believe strongly in doing the right thing for our customers, our environment, our communities. Neither of us believe in cutting corners or doing shady things like adding dye to get the weight of a fabric to appear heavier than it is. YES, companies do that! Eeeww.
I bring this up because when I was in the Carolinas I had a lot of time to myself in the car. I started thinking about the way things are manufactured these days. How cost has become such a driving factor. It seems to be valued over quality much of the time.
When I lecture I often recommend that people not buy cheap crap. The cost to people and planet are way more expensive (and hard to solve) than the just avoiding the items in the first place. The more I thought about it though, people aren't just selling things cheaply, they are selling CRAP and when it is cheap for some reason we let them get away with selling us crap. That's the problem. We accept crap.
Example: My mother-in-law loved her Ugg boots and wanted me to have a pair. She bought me a pair and within a couple of months the sheepskin interior was worn out and my ankle was rubbing against plastic. Ouch. Well, as I am sure you know, Uggs are NOT cheap. We called the company and were told, "No, they should not wear out that quickly. Send them back and we will send you a new pair." Done and done. Three months later, same thing happens. We call them yet again. We discover this time in talking with the customer service person that the new Uggs aren't made in Australia, they are made in . . . you guessed it . . . CHINA! I am sure they did this to save $$ but they definitely lost quality. At this point, we asked if there were ANY still made in Australia? Yes, different style and color. So I ordered those. That was over 3 years ago and I still am enjoying them and the sheepskin is still intact.
I went through the hassle of returning 2 pairs because I expected more for the money that was spent. I wondered though, would I have bothered with a pair of $20 knock off Uggs from Walmart? Probably not. In my opinion, there lies the problem with cheap crap. We don't expect it to be worth much and therefore we get what we pay for. Unfortunately, it isn't just ourselves that end up being hurt in the process; it's the factory workers that are paid poorly, the planet that is exploited, the landfills that grow enormous, the Gyres that spread. It's the vicious and unfortunate state of things.
We like to play victim. Blame mutli-national corporations but they are rich and powerful because we buy their crap and we don't hold them to any standards of quality. So I have reframed my statement. Cheap isn't the enemy, crap is. We've allowed it. 99 cent stores are all about this. Whose going to complain about something that only cost 99 cents? We should, or we shouldn't buy it. But to do both is to only exacerbate the problem.
Do you want to join my crusade to AVOID CRAP? Ok, I'll hop off my soapbox.
3/6/2012 10:54:45 am
I had a long conversation with my son about this the other day. We had to go to Walmart to buy Velcro (if there was anywhere else in my town that sold Velcro, I would go there). I HATE Walmart. I have an aversion to it that manifests itself as potty mouth. I spew forth all the things I hate about it: the crap on the shelves that people know is crap but buy anyway because we have become a society of disposable EVERYTHING and have forgotten how to (or chosen not to) take care of the things that we own; the value system that we have lost over time (remember when Sam Walton was proud to stand on his "Made in America" motto?) because it is cheaper to overlook those values than to pay for high-quality items; the "more is more" competition everyone seems to be entered in, but no one seems to be winning; and the constant need to be instantly gratified rather than waiting to purchase something worth purchasing. I always tell my son that he needs to take care of his things because we spent a lot of money on it and WILL NOT be replacing it if he breaks it. And guess what? He takes care of his things. He does it because we have explained to him the cost to us, the cost to the people who make the items for little to no pay, the cost to the planet when "old" things are dumped to make way for "new" things. In essence, he understands the value of it. If he understands this at age 9, why can't all those people trashing the aisles of Walmart to find their size understand it and make better choices about where to spend their hard-earned dollar and what to spend it on? Frustrating as all get-out! I am now going to get of Harmony's soapbox and let someone else get on.
Very, very good point, Harmony. Another way of calling ourselves the "throwaway" society is to say that we buy crap. And put up with it. Why should companies make quality goods if we're happy with crap? Cara, good for you for explaining this to your son. One person at a time. . .
3/13/2012 01:52:36 am
I spent some time this morning reading your insightful posts and the thoughtful energy of the replies on subjects such as: "the opportunity cost of crap", "the beauty of a Black & White Graceland design", "the value and practice of accounting for gratitude" - to which I add the name, "Harmony"!
3/14/2012 07:58:51 am
I am sooooo with you Harmony and even my little gals have learnt this lesson early through their own experiences
7/7/2012 10:44:05 pm
I agree wholeheartedly your blog, but I take exception to the implication that 'Made in China' is the reason your ugh boots fell apart. Dig deeper and you will find the brand is squeezing their China factory on price and settling for something less to maintain their margins. Squeeze any manufacturer in any country, not just China, ignore quality control and you will get crap.
Laurie, I completely agree with you! China is NOT the problem. Crap is the problem. Unfortunately, China, and Bangladesh, and Cambodia and many other countries offer cheaper labor options and companies have rushed there to cut their cost (squeeze their manufacturing) and the result has been cheap crap that WE as buying consumers have come to accept there by continuing the downward cycle.
7/18/2012 10:43:57 am
If you ever need more sheepskin products, there is a GREAT company in the good ole USA--they still hand make every slipper/muff, etc. I have a pair of sheepskin slippers and husband has a pair too. Mom has a pair and we all have earmuffs.
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Founder of Harmony Art organic design.