We really only have ourselves to blame
I’m not even talking about universities and colleges preying on unsuspecting parents and students who think a higher education is the be-all and end-all…
…..or that we watch TV and get sucked into advertisements and unrealistic lifestyles making $30,000 a year (*cough* Sex and the City *cough*)…
I am talking about the reason why most of our manufacturing has moved abroad, and why we are having problems trying to figure out how to get quality goods from Third World countries (China and India in particular), for dirt cheap prices.
IT JUST SIMPLY ISN’T POSSIBLE TO GET THE HIGHEST QUALITY FOR CHEAP
Guess what? The Emperor has NO CLOTHES!
It is NOT possible to obtain the same quality of goods that we have been used to, or the high quality of food safety, if we are not wiling to pay the price.
You can’t have the best quality and the lowest prices.
You can have average quality with average prices, or the highest quality with the highest prices, or the lowest quality with the lowest prices.
That’s how it works.
However whether or not the highest price always means it is of the highest quality, is a question up for debate.
(For the record: I don’t really believe that high prices equals high quality.)
This is why I am willing to pay $30 for a plain, Made-in-France Alpico plate, because I know it is of the best quality I can purchase and I am safe in knowing they didn’t try to cut corners in making something that I am heating my food upon, and using on a daily basis.
WHAT DO COMPANIES HAVE TO PAY FOR ON A DAILY BASIS?
Companies that make garments have to pay their workers (Labour), on top of things like:
- Building / Factory and all the materials that go into it
- Land for the building
- Machines to make said garments (if made in-house)
- Utilities to run said factory / building
- Equipment – Laptops, Cellphones, Cables
- Raw Goods – Fabric, Zippers, Thread, Dye, etc
- Furniture – Desks, Lamps, Chairs etc
- Annual registration fees (for a business) with the government
- Lawyers to draw up legal papers and agreements
- Buyers to source fabric or to deal with problems with their suppliers
- Executives who run the vision of the company
- Accountants to keep the books
- Research & Development to come up with new ideas for the seasons
- Design Department to create the fashions and ideas (the “fun” part I guess!)
- Marketing department to sell the goods and think of the selling points
- Public relations firms to handle their image
- Advertising department or firms to create advertisements
- IT — Not just for their website or computers, but for their system infrastructure
- …and the list goes on and on and on.
Not to mention MAKING A PROFIT off all of the above!
This is what goes into a corporation, or a company that has decent revenues selling a garment.
THEY NEED TO ALWAYS BE CUTTING COSTS SOMEWHERE
Companies are not in the business of selling services and goods, to make $0.
As a shareholder, that’s just ridiculous to imagine a successful company that makes $0. They still need to eat and live!
Much like how when we tell ourselves it is TIME TO CUT the budget, we go straight for the easy pickings like cutting back on Groceries, Gas, Cable TV or Telephone?
We don’t really want to do the harder cuts like finding a cheaper apartment, selling our house, selling our car, or anything that takes more than an hour to complete.
So is it any wonder that to cut on costs, companies move things to China?
When the cost of labour goes up even a penny, it is a change that ripples throughout the entire company, increasing overhead costs, which makes their margins even thinner.
Labour is pretty easy to chop.
Granted, the fashion industry is a bit more flexible in terms of margins because they can make a t-shirt that costs $5 in materials, and sell it for $100, but if we moved this to another industry that made plates, or cups, does it ever bother us that if a cup is made in China, it costs $1, but it’s $15 here?
It’s not just labour that they’re cutting on, it has to be on the materials and safety checks as well.
How can it be possible that something costs less than ONE DOLLAR to make, and they are STILL turning a profit?
Maybe it’s razor thin, 2% margins made up for by sheer volume, but even so, a CUP for $1?
I don’t think I can even buy the raw materials for $1 to make a cup, let alone factor in the cost of labour.
CASE IN POINT: BUYING A SIMPLE COTTON BAG IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK
I replaced all my plastic reusable bags recently with cotton ones.
I went into at least 8 stores to touch cotton bags and try them out (I like long handles, not short dinky ones), and to make sure the fabric is thick and can hold my groceries.
For a bag made in the U.S.A., of cotton (organic or not), and only PLAIN cotton bags, the retail price was $18 – $20.
For a bag made in China of cotton (never organic), and with a myriad of cool designs to choose from, the retail price was $5. All $5. No change in price. $5.
It was 1/4th the price of a plain cotton bag made in the U.S., or a $13 – $15 difference in price.
Is it any wonder that we scoff at the $20 price tag for “organic cotton”, and buy the cheap $5 one that looks way cuter?
Then I researched into buying material that is made as ethically as I can buy it, and the RAW COST of the materials is $60.
Never mind thread, zippers, labour, or any of that. $60 was the base price of the raw fabric in yards.
All of the above, gave me a headache recently, and strengthened my resolve to buy vintage clothing over just thrifted or used pieces.
WE ARE JUST GREEDY, PLAIN AND SIMPLE
We want it all. We’re greedy.
We want to pay $5 for something when the real price is $20 for fair labour.
We don’t want to think about what goes into what we’re buying, but in reality, it matters more than you think.
We’re voting with our dollars, and frankly, the vote is speaking loud and clear about what we care about: PRICE.
Not labour at fair wages.
Not anything we say and universally believe to be “bad”.
DO WE ACTUALLY NEED EVERYTHING THAT WE BUY?
But really, do we need everything that we’re buying? I could live without 90% of my things, technically speaking.
I don’t NEED another t-shirt. Or a cotton bag. Or a dress.
All I really need is basic shelter, basic clothing and food.
I think that’s the best way to sum it up — is for me to really ask: