It’s not easy to convince someone that doesn’t want to spend money why something that’s made in the U.S.A. is a best buy these days. That is, of course, unless you own a gas station somewhere off a highway exit between southeastern towns, where peer pressure leads locals into thinking you just have to have a t-shirt featuring wolves, eagles and Confederate flags all in one.
This is what you call a captive audience. There is, however, no captivity in online shopping. The physical freedom of sitting in your home and having the product you want at your doorstep in two days takes a lot of local cultural and economic consideration out of purchasing. Obviously this has the attractive benefit of convenience in the short term, but it can also have the unexpected consequence of making it easier to buy international, because, duh, it’s cheaper. And yes, that is a consequence.
There’s a great difference between something cheap and something inexpensive--”cheap” goes all the way to the roots, while “inexpensive” is relative. “Cheap” is a mindset that allows inferior craftsmen to have an even lesser regard for the consumer, since buying from places where cheap labor is king gets you lower cost and higher convenience. After all, you’re too cheap and lazy to find a better mousetrap, so why not look to the online rat race to have one built for you? “Inexpensive”, on the other hand, keeps the consumer in mind, but also fairly expresses the value in what is being sold. Simply put, something can be cheap and inexpensive at the same time, but just because something is inexpensive does not mean it is cheap.
This is where we consider the concept of quality. Quality is not cheap and never will be. Quality means the best possible parts, ingredients, components and so forth are used, so that the best possible product or service is provided. If you want quality, you should be willing to pay for it, knowing that paying for quality will save money in the long run.
Here’s how that relates back to the good ol’ U.S.A. If I consider myself to be a citizen of the planet before any continent, country, state or city, you can assume that I know where I live, and I might even be proud enough of my place of residence to know and care about who lives near me. Again, I don’t only care about my own quality of life; I also care about others, my neighbors, near and far. Quality as well as charity, however, begins at home.
No one can pretend that price is not a factor when making a purchase, or that money is not a major issue. Business is business, and cost has to be considered when dealing with profits and losses, but why not buy something that’s going to last? When you make an investment, you don’t look for the cheapest stock, unless you have a really terrible stockbroker advising you. The same goes for tangible things that you use in your everyday life.
What if you knew you had a neighbor or was a great blacksmith, carpenter, chef, bartender or writer? And, if someone pointed you to a website where you could get a service similar to the one your local professional offered, are you immediately going to rule out everyone that doesn’t offer a discount before looking into what type of quality you’re getting? Ramen noodles will feed you, but eventually they’re also likely to kill you sooner than healthier foods that may cost a little more money, but at least don’t contain two days worth of salt in one package.
Then you have to consider the wider effect of cheapness. If you’re paying the lowest amount possible, not only is the quality of your purchase going to suffer, but the worker who had to make what you bought is also suffering. He or she is probably working impossibly long and hard hours, and God forbid there are children relying upon that person’s work ethic. You’re now empowering a veritable slavedriver, or whatever nicer term you can think of that allows for a more pleasant sleep on that cheaply constructed cotton pillow from China. And no disrespect to China, since it’s beyond cliche’ to beat up on them, but it goes beyond Asia. When your money goes to any company, anywhere on Earth (yes, looking at you, Amazon/Alibaba/Walmart/Zappos), that’s willing to openly disregard workers who give more hours than they should just to make the daily/weekly/monthly nut, you should not support them. After all, do you think those workers care if there’s a factory defect in that angry bald eagle-fronted t-shirt you just bought from that locally owned Texaco? No. They probably hope it catches fire just by proximity when you light up your American Spirit cigarette.
You get what you pay for. Paying a little more for American-made goods and services doesn’t have to mean buying some hipster-priced item that you could have made yourself if you weren’t too lazy (although some would argue that’s about as ‘Merican as you can get). It does, however, mean taking a little bit more seriously the sustainability and improvement of your way of life, and of those that live nearby. If you take care of home and honor those close to you who care enough to invest time and energy into making the very best whatever they sell, you’ll always get their very best. That’s the kind of quality that lasts generations.
Mike Jordan is a writer living in East Point, Georgia, which is where OutKast, Goodie Mob and other great people made their uniquely American voices heard. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelBJordan.