We have always been a proponent of buying locally. It just seems to make sense: Support thy neighbor. We frequent the mom and pop hardware store, the family-owned restaurants in town, and the local farmers’ market. Don’t get us wrong, we realize that buying locally costs slightly more than buying from a chain, but the benefits are worth it. During a time when unemployment is the new black, it only seems natural to pinch every penny, but perhaps that’s exactly what’s keeping the nation from climbing out of its hole.
We don’t encourage spending money for spending’s sake. We have always thought that the idea of spending money on frivolous items was ludicrous; a poor consumption habit that should be curtailed. Don’t waste money purchasing things that you don’t need. However, if a purchase must be made, it would behoove consumers to be more aware of what their money supports.
When Buying Something New
When shoppers are in the market to buy something new, they often go for the cheapest option. The problem is that the cheapest option is often made somewhere overseas. The cheap cost of labor, the absence of laws that ensure safe (and more costly) working conditions, and low import tariffs will guarantee a cheap product for the consumer, but at what cost?
If a corporation sends work overseas, often paying laborers mere pennies per hour, they will obviously be able to provide a much cheaper product and make larger profits than if they were to keep the work in the U.S. The up-side is that the consumer is provided the option of a cheaper product. The downside is that there is less incentive to hire workers in the U.S. when the cost of labor is cheaper overseas. In this day and age, most jobs can be sent overseas for a fraction of the cost of what it takes to keep them here.
Recently, large law firms have even opted to send research work overseas, paying cheaper wages to lawyers abroad; young attorneys in the United States incur high debt from education expenses that make it difficult to compete. These businesses are able to make big profits by targeting the one thing the average consumer is most concerned with: a lower price.
Working Conditions in Foreign Countries
Corporations save big money sending work overseas since environmental impacts and working conditions are less of a concern. Sure, a foreign country’s product is more affordable than a product made in the United States, but what if we ensured that human rights and natural environments were also protected abroad? The costs to minimize pollution and provide appropriate working conditions would factor into the price of the product.
Most corporations put a lot of money into their marketing divisions, hoping to deter consumers from thinking beyond the immediate goal of buying a cheap product that will supposedly enhance the quality of life. If consumers began to ask why the products are so affordable, they may reconsider their initial decisions. An Australian acquaintance noted that this was the only country he had ever visited in which the price of a product is the most important consideration. Other countries concern themselves with the quality of the product instead.
Consumers Deserve Quality
So, yes, quality is important. It would be a shame if the government increased tariffs on imported goods, shielding local companies from having to compete with more sophisticated products. We deserve to have the choice of purchasing a cutting-edge product, we want our nation to be competitive, but we have to understand that this may cost more. Complaints are made about increasing tariffs on imported goods, but these complaints need to be coupled with informed choices.
Consumers need to take responsibility for their purchases, realizing that every purchase we make casts a vote. In this case, money truly speaks. Are we so concerned with the price that working conditions abroad are of no concern to us? Is a cheap product so important that we can ignore the jobs sent overseas to guarantee these prices? It’s time to ask questions, compare products, and forget prices. Consumers cannot continue to wait for someone else to save our economy; we must save us from ourselves.