After my first 30 days of trying to buy only American made products and services, I’ve learned a few things I‘d like to share:
- There are no artist paint brushes made in America.
- Wal-Mart and Target carry no jeans, t-shirts, or polo shirts made in America. Here’s how I found this out.
After many years of remodeling my house, I’m down to doing minor touch up painting in the front half of the house (yeah!). Just a spot here and a spot there. I decided to buy a set of artist brushes and I would just walk around and touch up all the various places and colors at the same time, just like Picasso. I’m excited because in about a week I’m going to be able to dust my house and then not have to dust it again the next day. (Okay, maybe that’s not true… I didn’t really dust it the first time cause remodeling is such a mess, so why bother?) Wal-Mart should have what I need, so off I go. I started in the school supply aisle, but the only ones they had were cheap plastic ones… plus they were made in China. I think I’ve already established I ain’t going there anymore. I went to the paint department and found something close, but not exactly what I wanted, but once again… made in China. So I go back a couple of acres to the hobby section and asked the lady working there to point me in the right direction. Cha Ching! There they are… just what I want. High-end brushes, long handles, 15 brushes to the set… oops. Made in China. Other than that, they were perfect.
I went and found the lady again and asked her if there were any more. She took me right where I had already been and pointed at them like I was blind and couldn’t see the 15-20 choices they had. I informed her that they were all made in China and I would only buy brushes made in America. She actually asked me: “Why?”
In my previous column I wrote how I thought it was going to take about 547 people to ask that question at a store before it started making any real impact. I’m now certain that I was her first. I hope she remembers me because we all know you never forget your first.
“I’m just not gonna buy them unless they are made in America,” I informed her. She just shrugged and we had nothing further to say to one another, so we went our separate ways. But, since I was already there I may as well grab some things I needed anyway, right? Normally, the things I needed would have taken me about 10 minutes to throw in a basket. That day it took me over an hour. I realize now that most companies bury the made in America label. We need to change that!
For the first time in my adult life I was not selecting products based on the price. I was making my selection based upon the country in which it was manufactured. And if it wasn’t manufactured in America, I didn’t want it.
By most accounts, Americans are creatures of habit and we buy the same products and the same brands over and over again. Once you’ve read the labels and know which items are made in America you can just grab it off the shelf and be done. By the second or third time of reading labels, shopping will be back to normal again. It’s just the first couple of times that you really have to read the labels.
After I got home I made a note of what I purchased so when I go back I won’t have to spend an hour scanning the fine print on the products. By the way, Febreeze is made in America. My store smells soooo good right now.
On this particular trip, I feel certain that a new world record was set. I left Wal-Mart with 18 items, all Made in America. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either, but I did it. And you know what? You can do it too. A little bit of your time is all it takes to begin to stimulate our struggling economy. But I still don’t have those darned paint brushes I need.
I went to the Lowes next door and found out they only carried a made in China option. Stopped at the Target… same thing. Stopped at the local hardware store… finally… nope… made in PRC (Peoples Republic of China). Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against China. It’s just right now we’ve got to put our own oxygen mask on first and get our factories and our workers working again.
After about a week of diligently trying to find a set of artist brushes made in America, I realized I was now only helping the Saudis with all the gas I was burning on my quest. I finally gave in and went back to Wal-Mart and bought the ones I saw a week ago. They’re just what I wanted, and I’m glad I bought them. I’m also glad I at least put forth an effort to try and help an American company, I just couldn’t find one. Which brings me to the next phase of my quest.
As Captain Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) said to Deets (Danny Glover) in Lonesome Dove: “Deets ain’t one to give up on a garment just cause it’s got a little age on it.”
He could just as easily have been talking about me. I almost look homeless when I wear jeans and a polo shirt to work these days with as many times as I’ve burned them or spilled acid on them. I had to go to the store and buy some new work clothes, so I headed over to Target to get some new duds.
While there I learned a great trick I’d like to pass on. I hid my glasses in my jacket pocket and grabbed a sales lady to help me. I pretended I forgot my reading glasses and asked her if she could help me. Hah! I made her look for the made in America options instead of me. She knows the inventory better than me and could do it faster anyway. After my Wal-Mart trip I know how long it can take. We (okay not we… she) looked at a lot of tags on a lot of clothes because I really wanted to just buy the clothes and be done with it for another three years. After about 30 minutes, she’d gone through every option available and did not find one single garment that had been made in America. I thanked her and left without making a purchase, but I accomplished a couple of things. One, she’s now a convert to my cause. She was very nice and understood what I was doing and why. Secondly, she was going to inform her manager about the lost sale and the reason.
So now, when the next 546 of you walk in that Target, and get the same sales lady and ask her the same question, she’s gonna tell you there are no made in America options at the moment because she already looked and doesn’t have to go through the inventory again.
Somewhere down the line though, the manager of that department is going to have a conversation with the store manager, who’s gonna have a conversation with the garment buyer, who’s gonna say she’s been hearing that from a lot of stores lately.
The garment buyer will tell all the store managers that she has found a few factories in America that manufacture garments and she just placed a large order, but it’s going to be a couple of months before they can deliver because they have to hire 300 workers in order to fill the order. Damn. All of that because I made the sales lady look at tags for me.
I’m telling you, it’s gonna work, but I can’t do it alone. When you go into any store to make a purchase, make the store personnel help you find a made in America option because then you can recruit them to our cause and ask them to always recommend that option to their customers in the future.
If you’re on board with me in my quest, please write and tell me your story. Hopefully it will encourage others to follow suit. And remember, in these troubled times, it is the patriotic thing to do.
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. You can contact him at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.