& Another Thing… Buy American – More complicated than it sounds


I have a few questions. Make believe there are two similar products you are interested in buying, both of the same quality and features. One was made in America, the other in China. Which would you buy? Does it matter? Now, let’s complicate the issue. The American product costs 10% more. Would you spend the extra money and buy it because it was made in America? Last question. What if both products were the same price but the Chinese product was slightly better. Would you buy the American product anyway?

This is the dilemma most of us have when shopping. As Americans, we want to be patriotic and buy goods made in America. However, as wise consumers, we look to get the most bang for our buck. To coin an old cliché, money doesn’t grow on trees.

As a child in the 1950s and a teen in the 1960s, goods manufactured in China and Japan were considered rather junky, but inexpensive. Back then, American goods ruled supreme. Made in America meant quality. Then, very slowly our opinions changed. Asian countries began producing higher quality goods and American companies seemed to be more interested in profit margins than making the best products. It took a while for us to catch on to this trend, but eventually, we did. For example, over the years the sale of American cars slowed and the sale of foreign cars increased. Today, American companies try hard to bring back customers and revive the positive image “made in America” represented. Over the years the downward trend in sales of American goods involved other products as well, especially in electronic and computer goods.

I must admit, I got tired of spending money on American cars that seemed to always need a trip to the dealership for tweaks, and later for time consuming and costly repairs. I turned my eyes towards Japanese car manufacturers like Toyota and Subaru. These companies met my financial needs by providing reliable and attractive cars at competitive prices compared to American cars. Though, I did feel a bit guilty for buying them. I sincerely wanted to buy American, but my desire to get the most bang for my hard earned dollars won out. Which brings us to today.

By all accounts American manufacturers, especially the automobile makers, are winning back skeptical consumers. And, in all fairness, they are making excellent progress. American brand vehicles are better built today, aesthetically attractive and are as reliable as their foreign competitors. Still, there is hesitation on my part to buy one. I suspect my basic instinct compels me to stick with what worked in the past. They say it is hard to win back customers once you lose them, for whatever reason.

Finally, here are some interesting points to ponder. Today foreign carmakers have manufacturing plants in America and employ American workers. Likewise, American manufacturers have plants in foreign countries and employ foreign workers. The German company Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) is a perfect example. BMW has its largest factory in the world in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it employs over 9000 people and manufactures over four hundred thousand vehicles a year. They also provide business to about 235 U.S suppliers. With these details in mind, if you buy a BMW, are you being patriotic to America? Lots of Americans make their livelihood from BMW and its South Carolina plant.

Here’s another scenario. If you buy an Apple iPhone instead of a Samsung Galaxy from Korea are you being patriotic? Even though Apple is an iconic American company, iPhone parts are made in plants around the world and the U.S., and iPhones are assembled in China. Likewise, Apple iMac computers are assembled in Ireland. The reality is, Apple and many other U.S. companies are multi-national, with income generating subsidiaries all over the world. In closing, I would love to have your thoughts on this topic and would like to write a follow-up column containing your feelings. Write to me at mmathosian@aol.com, and if I receive enough responses, I will do a follow-up article. That’s it until next month, hope you enjoyed And Another Thing…