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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not Made in China...

I get a little e-newsletter thing from a company called Iconculture, which claims to be a source for cultural information about the various consumer generations in America. Apparently they make their money by keeping track of what the various generations are doing and buying and then sell that insightful information to companies. They actually divide up the U.S. population up into several generation categories and then further subdivide those categories and try to keep track of trends within each group. More on that in a future post.

In any event, the Iconoculture folks had a piece in this week’s newsletter about a couple (younger, Generation-Xers it was noted) in Utah throwing want they called a “China Free” birthday party; where everyone was advised to bring only presents that were not Made in China. This was due to the recent recalls and scare about lead-based paint in toys that were made in China.

Having already opined about the unsustainable behavior that I see every day (see my post of September 24), I found this to be mildly amusing. It seems to take some form of tragedy or threat of tragedy to mobilize the American people to recognize and maybe start to do something about things that are bad for us; whether that be lead in the paint on our toys or the fact that most of the manufacturing for our children’s’ toys is now in China – either and both should alarm us and both are basically wrong.

Maybe some good will come of all of this; if, because of parental concerns about the safety of their children’s toys, they stop buying Chinese made toys and actually start looking for U.S. made toys. That would be a very difficult search, given how long we’ve ignored the movement of our domestic manufacturing jobs to overseas locations. According to the Toy Industry Association, roughly 80% of the toys sold in the U.S. are made in China. I did find a Web site called that claims to show toys made exclusively in the U.S. The choices are fairly slim; but, that’s what we’ve done to our domestic toy industry, so maybe that's what we get.

Of course the big toy companies will extol the virtues of the cost savings that they achieve and pass on (a portion anyway) to U.S. consumers by pursuing their globalization strategy (read that Made in China). Lately, they’ll also be mouthing lots of words about taking more responsibility for the quality and safety of the products that they bring in from China and elsewhere; but you just wait and see if they actually do anything differently or just try to wait this thing out; in hopes that the whole thing blow over, so that they can get back to business as usual. If there’s one thing that they can count on, it’s that Americans seem to have an incredibly short attention span for things like this current toy crisis. But that’s fodder for another whole posting, too.

I suspect that it would actually be impossible – not just inconvenient, but impossible – to have a China-Free Day in America- a day where we protested by using nothing that is Made in China for 24 hours. I would have suggested a day where we protested anything manufactured outside the U.S., but I went through my clothes and realized that I’d have nothing to wear, if that was the case. In fact, going through my closet was like an exotic geography lesson – Honduras, Bangladesh, The Philippians, India, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico and more came up; but not one U.S. location. And, where is our domestic clothing industry today?

So, let’s see how the Gen-Xers do in their campaigns to protest the threats from China. The best protest that they could launch would be for a few of them to start some new, U.S.-based toy companies that hire U.S.-based workers and use U.S.-based raw materials. Wow, now there’s a thought!

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