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Friday, September 16, 2011

Living In the American Age of Cheap

I bought a pair of sneakers a month or so ago. A nice pair of black Nike Air-whatever's to wear to work. I currently work a job that requires sneakers, jeans and flannels (weather permitting), so in an attempt to at least look a little bit like an adult I decided on black.

My new, Made in China sneakers squeak. Loudly. Well not both, just the right one. It's sort of like wearing a pair of corduroy pants with one leg cut off. I announce every trip I make to the bathroom or kitchen with a loud approaching squeak. The people in my office sit at their desks and hear the approaching squeak and then know I have passed them when the squeak grows quieter.

This brings to mind a new curb that was installed recently in the building next to ours. Now, before I continue, you have to promise you will be intelligent enough to read what you are about to read before you go off screaming that I am a xenophobe or racist. The contractors the building owner used were a couple of guys in a pick-up truck with what looked like a forty year-old portable cement mixer. Looking at them, my experience told me they did not learn their masonary skills from some Italian master mason and that well, here's the sticky part, they were probably from south of our border somewhere. Their origins do not bother me. The fact that the fifty feet of curb they installed looks like the Road to Burma does. If you stand astride this curb it is obvious the installers do not appreciate the value of snapping a chalk line. The workmanship was so shoddy these "masons" did not even install expansion joints. Do I fault the workers who installed the curb? Well, other than they have no business installing curbs, no. I fault the building owner who simply wanted cheap.

We live in the American Age of Cheap. We want to make lots of money and we expect lots of entitlements, but we don't want to shell out anything above bare minimum to get what we want.
  • We want our music cheap and we have no regard for the artists who make it for us
  • We want our knick-knacks and tchotkes cheap and we don't care how many Chinese kids make them for us
  • We want our clothes cheap and we don't care how many under-aged girls in Thailand work the fourteen to eighteen hours a day it takes to keep them cheap
  • We want our cars cheap...well, on this one I agree. American cars are too expensive for the crappy fit and finish you get for the money. Thanks UAW.
Have I made my point? Wal-Mart thrives while your neighbor's little clothing store goes belly-up. Olive Garden spreads like some Appenine virus while the mom and pop sandwich shop sits empty. Curbs get made by people with no business making curbs while masons who were trained for years to do quality work sit at home and wonder what happened.

You can complain about the government all you want, and trust me, 99% of that complaining is warranted. But, the market will supply what the market demands, and that holds true for all of you anti-establishment unemployed kids out there who think captialism is bad. You buy cheap crap too so therefore you help the Obama Administration support 9.1% unemployment. How's that "I hate the business owners" mentality working for you now? I thought so.

You can't buy things made in America today, but you can start demanding them, and you can certainly show the market that you are willing to support your local neighbors over our global neighbors when given the choice to purchase American products, (assuming we're talking about a product that is superior to its foreign counterpart which pretty much eliminates anything made by GM).

We live cheaply. We act cheaply. We forego quality over saving a dollar or two, yet we continue to whine about the sorry state of our economy.

Like the sign on the firehouse marquee said many years ago: Do not complain about that which you allow.

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