Consumer’s hypocrisy

If asked, we all say we buy on values.

When not asked, we buy on price ( never mind all the time searching for the bottom price).

Trade pacts and trade policies. We shifted manufacturing jobs South of the border, only to ship them across the pond. Then what happened? China grows its industrial muscles, and figures, they too can apply the same lesson: shipping the jobs further South to Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. These countries, which have already taken a page from the Filipinos play book, shipped workers to Eastern Europe and Middle East for years. Until now, when jobs are finally coming their way.

Jack Ma of Alibaba even goes on the offensive by recruiting bi-lingual 2nd year US MBA students to rotate in different departments. Mr Tien, another Chinese billionaire, treated his 6,000 workers to France and Macau. In short, Chinese labour market is now overheated, competing for high-valued talent.

Consumers said they wanted more for less.

So it goes. Machine replacing human, cheaper labour replacing more expensive one etc…

In the middle of 19th century, bicycles from France were highly sought after in the US.

(my pre-conception was based on my familiarity with the US Highway system, another copy of German autobahn). No wonder in one fell swoop, Henry Ford built both the automobile and the US highway system (boasted being door-to-door).

Not to mention his pitch  “you can choose – model T – in any color as long as it’s black” and policy to pay workers enough to buy the cars. In today’s environment, both the bikes and the automobiles (or most of them) would be made in China.

Back to our labour lamenting and consumer’s hypocrisy. At the heart of the debate on trade and labour is competitiveness. The US is ranked 5th on road condition (its D.C. and Philie Amtrak line has just killed 8). Someone is paying the price for the value rendered.

So from Portland, Oregon (where Nike is) to Portland, Maine (near where L.L. Bean is), we bought sweatshirts and shoes made from overseas (where factories, workers and environmental effects are expendable). As long as the status quo continues with Black Friday rush and Dads and Grads gifting (which BTW, no one really makes practical use out of those flowery shirts. And where is Mrs Marcos now with her 3,000+ out-of-style pairs of shoes?).

For this Father’s Day, think sustainably and globally. Examine your conscience and question your hypocrisy as a consumer. Am I truly shopping for values or on price. And at what price to the many who helped make those products.

Long ago (during the Clinton years), I read about the proliferation along the Texas border. Then, for a while, the jumping of Apple workers from the Foxconn’s dormitory in China. Now, it’s the Chinese turn to start reading about their Vietnamese sub-contacts getting drunk on cheap vodka and DUI’s at the city’s outskirts. Some day, Nike will learn from Henry Ford to make those shoes affordable even to its workers. Now, that will not be hypocrisy.


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