Opperman: Made in AmericaWritten by Matt Opperman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve all seen the bumper stickers that say, “Out of a Job Yet? Keep Buying Foreign” with a patriotic American flag backdrop. It sure is a decent sentiment to encourage buying American-made products, but is it really possible?
A while back, my microwave stopped working and I decided to buy a new one. It was the perfect opportunity. I would buy a microwave made proudly right here in the good old USA. I did not need anything too fancy, just a regular microwave that was made by the greatest work force in the world. I had even decided that I would gladly pay a little more for my new American-made appliance, as it would most likely cost me a little more than its Chinese counterpart.
That evening I headed out to the store. I figured I would start at Menards. They usually have decent prices and often proudly advertise their “Made in America” sales. When I got there, they only had one brand, and it was made in China. I began to think that this might be a little harder than I anticipated.
My next stop was Best Buy. They had roughly six brands with various models to choose from, but each and every one of them was made in China. I should mention that it was not that easy to find out where the microwave was made. The display tags do not say, so you usually have to pull the box off the shelf and flip it over to see. In many cases, it only said “Hecho en China,” which my high school Spanish taught me means “Made in China.”
I wasn’t giving up. Now I was on a mission to find one single American-made microwave. I wondered if Target sold microwaves. They do — all of them made in China.
I left Target and decided to try again the next day, but then I saw Walmart. I did not hold out much hope since Walmart is notorious for selling Chinese-made products, but I stopped and went inside anyway. Before I even looked at prices, sizes, power levels and all of the other options available, I just started pulling boxes off of the shelf, flipping them over and hoping to find that precious “Made in America” stamp.
Then I found one! A microwave that was not made in China! Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was short-lived. It was made in Malaysia. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I left discouraged and thought about having a beer. At least Budweiser is still brewed here in Ohio.
That night I mentioned to a friend how much trouble I was having trying to find a microwave made in America. She said, “You should make your own. I’d buy it.” I thought about this for a minute, but then remembered something that I had recently seen on TV. A guy in England decided to make his own toaster from scratch. He even tried to smelt his own metal in his mother’s microwave, which was most likely made in China. As you can imagine, things did not turn out well with his toaster, so I decided against trying to make my own microwave.
The next day I started at Meijer. Once again, there were no microwaves that were not made in Asia. I was seriously starting to run out of stores in Toledo that sold microwaves. I decided to try Lowe’s, but ended up at Home Depot instead. I was again disappointed to find nothing made in the USA. However, they were having a good sale, and I did find by far the best deal I had seen on a microwave that fit my needs. I gave up. I bought a microwave that was made in China. I went home discouraged, but knowing that I had tried.
I still see those bumper stickers from time to time. I still appreciate the sentiment, but I have a little bit of a different viewpoint on the subject now. Who knows, maybe Sears had the American microwave I was looking for all along. I will stop and look sometime just for curiosity’s sake. I will also continue to try to be a conscientious consumer, but I will always know that it is a lot easier said than done.
Email columnist Matt Opperman at email@example.com.