Columnists Chuck Koehler Why buy American?

Why buy American?

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About 3 o'clock the other afternoon I was hungry and wanted a snack. Turns out the only thing I could scrounge up was a package of those cheese and peanut butter crackers. Man, I love those things... except now they'll kill you. I put them back in the cupboard and went to the mini mart for something non-lethal, but it got me to thinking.


 

With the recent peanut butter/salmonella scare nationwide I realized how seldom that happens in America. The reason being, as a society, we demand safer products, safer food, and safer transportation. The USDA didn't just materialize out of thin air. It came about because the American people demanded a safe food supply chain. The FDA wasn't founded by a bored politician who thought he'd invent a new government bureaucracy. It was in response to the demands of the American people to put safeguards into place to protect us and our way of life, our freedoms, and our liberties.

The EPA, USDA, FAA, FCC, FDA, ATF, SEC, FTA, NRC, EEOC... all of these governmental bodies are in place to protect the citizens of the United States (of course the SEC's got some 'splaining to do, but that's another story for another time). Every industry in America that produces a product, the jewelry industry included, has to adhere to the guidelines of these regulatory bodies. Yes, it makes our products more expensive, but safer for the consumer and the American worker. For the last couple of decades though it turns out the American people obviously don't give a damn because we're buying all of our crap from unregulated countries. So... how's that working out for us?

Tainted milk killed thousands of children in China because they don't have a food and drug agency. A bunch of that milk was powdered and shipped to the USA and consumed by Americans that have said we don't want tainted milk. Drink up America.

Bad pet food caused the deaths of thousands of families' pets... the same families who said they want controls placed on the products they buy. Well guess what? Those controls are in place - in America!

In 1978, lead based paint was determined to be so dangerous that anyone buying a house built prior to 1978 has to sign a lead based paint waiver. So where did all that lead paint go? To a foreign country, who in turn used it on the toys our children are putting in their mouths today. And the list goes on. So where do we go from here?

With the current economic crisis that the country is facing... layoffs... factories closing... banks failing... and the whole world seemingly melting in front of our eyes, it's time we do something about it, and here's what we're going to do: Buy American made goods and services.

For the better part of my life as a consumer, the ‘Made in America' sticker could just as easily have said "New and Improved", "Fortified with more Calcium", or "As seen on TV". I'll be the first to admit that when I saw those three little words they just went in one eye and out the other without so much as even getting close to a brain cell. Now I'm seeing things very differently. Let's take black velvet jewelry boxes for example.

While speaking to another jeweler about this topic, we discovered that we both did the same thing. Before putting a ring we just sold in the box, we peeled off the little gold "Made in China" sticker because we thought it cheapened our customer's purchase somehow. This is where I had my epiphany. Do you know why I only buy boxes that are made in another country? Because I've never really been given a choice. I didn't care where it was made, only ‘how much does it cost?'

As Americans we would never allow young children to work in factories, but we'll damn sure buy cheap jewelry boxes from a country that will. Well you know what, I'm done with that. I'm on a new mission now.

For most of my life I, like so many of you reading this, bought goods made in third world countries without giving it a second thought. They were able to sell me the product cheaper because it was made in a country that doesn't regulate it's work force or their wages. If I had been given an option on having it made in America or made overseas with both options priced accordingly, I would have probably picked the American made product at least half the time to keep an American company in business. But, I was never given that option. That's about to change and this is where you come in.

I've been in touch with a lot of the suppliers in our industry and have given them a heads up about what everyone of you are about to embark on. When placing your orders, be it watch batteries, gemstones, mountings, tools, and even black velvet jewelry boxes, I want you to ask your suppliers if there is a ‘Made in America' option available for any of your purchases. EverReady watch batteries are ‘Made in America' as a prime example. The next time you go into a department store to buy a pair of jeans, I want you to ask which jeans are made in America, and buy those. If they don't have that option, let someone know that you're not making a purchase for that very reason. Here's how this is going to work.

Many years ago, a well known record producer came in my store with a sack full of new CD's from the music store up the street. I asked him why he was buying CD's when he could get them for free because of who he was. His answer has been stuck in my head all these years and now it's my turn to pass it on. He said you never know when your one purchase is going to cause a store to make a re-order, which in turn could cause the wholesale supplier to place a re-order, which in turn could cause the record label to place a new order with the CD pressing plant, and so on. He said, "It only takes ‘one more', I hope it's mine."

What if the local manager of the Wal-Mart, Target, Zales, or any company, says to himself: "If one more person asks to look only at made in America products I'm going to have to call my boss and tell him something's up." Maybe his boss is thinking: "If one more store manager calls me with this crazy Made in America thing, I'm going to have to go straight to the top and tell the guys in the suits we've got to jump on this ‘Made in America' bandwagon before someone else does."

If you're the first or second person to ask, it's not going to make a dent. The dent is probably somewhere around 547 times. But the only way to be the 547th person is for 546 people to have done the same thing before you, and another 547 people after you. I can see the head of the company now... "Quick, call our ad agency, tell them to stop the presses and hire more people, we have a new slogan: ‘Wal-Mart, Always Low Prices, Always Made in America'. Start hiring people to get out in the field and find us American products to fill our shelves."

What if this new trend forces factories to start hiring to keep up with the demand? Remember, it only takes ‘one more' person to cause it to happen. Will that person be you?

So, back to my original question - Why buy American? Because that's how you stimulate an economy. And in these troubled times it's 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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

 
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