Buy Local, Buy American

Last night I went into a Lowe’s for the first time. I needed to buy a cat door for the chicken coop I’m building (long story, I’ll save it for later!). I’d never been to Lowe’s before. It was fine. Big. It had that stinky chemical smell. I wouldn’t rush to go back for any reason. (If it’s hardware I need, I have two favorite stores that are locally owned, and so quirky and helpful I just love going to them.)

So while I was there, I thought I would pick up some knobs for a project in my garage. I found some really pretty stainless steel ones with leaves on them. I put 24 of them in my cart and went to the checkout counter.

At the register I put on my glasses (yes, I’m getting old). As the lady was ringing up my order I noticed the knobs were made in China. She finished ringing me up and I handed her my credit card.

But I stood there looking at those knobs, and in my head I could see the sweet face of the lady who owns a knob-selling store in downtown Emmaus, House Splendid—a store that even sells knobs made in Pennsylvania, including some made out of recycled materials. She is probably struggling through this recession and could use the business my 24 knobs would bring. What had I been thinking? I felt sick.

“You don’t have to get them,” the register lady said. “I can take them off your order right now.”

“Yes, please take them off.”

It’s going to cost me a little bit more, and I’ll have to make another stop (although it’s on the way to 10 other things I have to do today). And I might even have to wait a week or two until all the knobs come in…but every time I go into my garage and see those knobs, I’ll feel better about the world.

I’m not against China, or globalism. I love to travel and bring things back from all around the world. But right now, America needs all the money we can give it. And we need to reward the very few Americans who are still making things here.

If I knew a local source for a cat door, I would have gone there too.

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18 Responses to Buy Local, Buy American

  1. Terry Maguire June 22, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    So help me understand – why is the employment of an American more important than the employment of someone in China? Start off with each person being equal to the other and then explain it from there, please.

  2. Mary June 22, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Good point, Terry. And although I really would love to see more Made In America products on our shelves, and I do opt to buy them if available, we do have to thank Lowe’s, Home Depot and the like for hiring as many Americans as they do.

  3. Doug June 22, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Well-done commentary on the challenge of these times. There are many reasons why there is value in buying local and American. Transport costs and unfair labor practices among them. Change won’t come easily but it starts in your own neighborhood. It would apply equally well that it’d be best for everyone if the local person in China could be well-made doorknobs from his neighbor, too.

  4. Doug June 22, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    I meant “could buy well-made doorknobs from his neighbor, too.” of course.

  5. Tony June 22, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    @Terry If the subject of this post was cabbages or carrots that question wouldn’t even come up. Opting for locally purchased goods made out of recycled materials vs. goods that had to travel 15,000 miles to get to your door is clearly the right choice when we understand that not only are the Chinese and American person equal, but the person alive today and the person about to be born are equal too.

    Of course, I’m something of a hypocrite as my girlfriend insists on only having British knobs. 🙂

  6. cw June 22, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    By purchasing something from a personal retailer who manufacture their own product you stand the chance of not only supporting the person selling the item but the person from who she/he purchase materials and others whom she supports with her income. Local is good, though I find nothing wrong with Lowe’s and actually love the smell as the I smell the wood smell from the lumber.
    Is it wrong to support your own community? That is the difference in purchasing local vs China. Maybe if China wasn’t in a manufacturing landslide by supporting all the unnecessary spending we do in our very disposable lives their natural resources might not be in such dire straights. Desertfication and dropping water tables are causing major hardships on the land and its people.
    It is not only should we try to buy local, we should try not to buy so much stuff we really don’t need. All that disposable plastic stuff that we just put in our landfills. Those resources could be used for better things. I think as a whole, we have not been good stewards of this world.

  7. Laura June 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    Good luck with the chickens! I believe in raising as much of your own food as possible. Get the rest as locally as you can, too. Farmers markets are great for fresh food at at price that’s fair to the buyer and grower.
    Too many towns are full of empty storefronts that used to be our neighbors businesses. I like living close to people from lots of places and cultures but want to support the area I live in. Buying recycled stuff is great too. You’re doing the right thing.

  8. Claude June 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    I am a disabled teacher whose husband just lost his job in an aerospace manufacturing firm who is trying to compete in a global environment. Although the quality of the steel used in the barrings
    is a higher quality and the workmanship of the american tool and dye
    are superior it is a very cut throat environment out there.
    Given the choice I will buy American as I am sure that the Chinese
    will buy Chinese. May the best product win. In the meantime we will pinch pennies and eek by.

  9. Jane June 24, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    If China and U.S. had an equal trade policy, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from China. However, we continually ship our production overseas for cheaper labor and more Americans are out of work. Until I see more equality, I will continue to look for “Made in the USA”.

  10. Kent Butterfield June 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    Why don’t you take your head out of your ass and open your liberal eyes.

    Obviously, the outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing hasn’t helped the US all that much, as evidenced by the fact that “free trade” policies have been in effect for well over a decade now.

    So tell me, how is it that buying a piece of junk made in China is better than buying a US made product?

  11. CW June 25, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    currious though, cat door, chicken coop? ‘splain please.

  12. Mary June 25, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Face it folks, most of us say we’d love to buy American (and we really ALL would) …. yet most of us shop at Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Sears, etc., like it’s our job! And the last I looked, most of the crap in those stores is made anywhere but in the good ol’ US of A. I don’t know of anyone who purposely goes into a store looking to buy Chinese junk, it’s just that it’s force fed to us. And in the recession when every nickel counts for most families, cheap almost always wins out. Very sad situation that we’ve become accustomed to — cheap imported crap.

    I say check the goods in your homes and see where even the most mundane object that you have is made. More than likely overseas. We’re all guilty but, sadly, that’s the society we live in.

  13. SHEILA June 27, 2009 at 9:47 pm #


  14. TJ July 16, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    Comimg to the discussion late, but it leaves me a little confused. I have this discussion with my sister all the time. If buying american means that another neighbor manages to keep their job, support their family, spend their money to help other neighbors keep their jobs, that helps the local business make a profit and offer summer jobs to the yourh who may be trying to earn money to suppliment their college eductaion or just help out their families or keeps them away from the temptation of quick money and commiting crimes that may land them in jail thus reducing their ability to become gainfully employed and increasing the chances for repeated episodes in the penal system which the community needs to support. Or my neighbor keeps their job, can meet their mortgage payment or can purchase a home which keeps the community stable and increases the tax base to support municiple projects such as parks and libraries. I know this sounds like a far blown idea but the thing is that it’s all interelated. When a company outsources it’s jobs to another country, it’s not just the employees that are affected but you and me, and we do not have to live in that community for the effects to be felt. When American companies are given tax breaks( our money) to take their manufacturing plants overseas, lay off our neighbors who then need to rely on public or governmental assiatance (our money) and import the products back into this country to big box stores who demand tax concessions (more of our money) to open stores in areas and sell us goods at a reduced price the mom and pop community stores can not compete with, thus needing to lay off more of our neighbors….. How is this good for the economy. All I see in this exchange is the public paying for business to big business to profit. Sanity dictates that we can not afford this, especially not now.

  15. Donna in Delaware August 29, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    I agree with TJ, Mary, Maria and others who want to support America by Buying American. We don’t have to start getting nasty with each other or name-calling. The fact is, some people really don’t understand the situation. My husband is European and before he buys anything, small or large in any store, he always ask if it was “Made in America”, if it’s not on the label. Ususally, the answer is no. So needless to say, he spends a lot of time searching for American made products and sometimes he comes away emptied-handed. Unfortunately, some things we need and have to buy, no matter if it came from Uruguay or Paraguay. That’s how it is! One of the biggest problems for businesses in this country is overheads. As long as you give all these bonuses to people and large raises to CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s etc.,you’ll never see “business as usual” again in this country.

    We spent hours and days trying to buy furniture “Made in America” from furniture stores and it was almost impossible. We finally did at Ethan Allen. It cost us, but my husband insisted on it.

    Unfortunately, you can’t always do that anymore, and yes, one should buy locally whenever possible and like Mary says, it has been forced fed to us,(to a point) because it is much more affordable.
    Who doesn’t want affordable in these times? Understand, since the global economy has changed so drastically over the last ten years, we, meaning America and Europe, can’t compete anymore. Even the Japanese, who in the ’60’s through the early ’90’s were the top competitor globally, for manufacturing, buys Chinese made goods. It is unavoidable. We still want to be paid between $15.00 and $30.00/hr. to make something while people in China, India, Philippines,Vietnam etc., will take $.50-$3.00/hr. and live off of $60.00-$200.00 a month. How can you compete with that? Plus, they have the work force, with the amount of people that they have… It’s a big problem, and big companies don’t care because they are saving big money by outsourcing. It is a snowball effect. So, of course the little stores are going to take the brunt of it first, and then everything else follows.

    We are in a sad and dire situation. We have to start finding something to manufacture that the world needs, not just want. It is difficult, plus we have to start making things at home first, that people need and want to buy. I have heard many times from people that they can’t stand American made cars because they are chunky looking and they don’t have the style and beautiful design and lines to make you want to buy them that the Germans and Japanese have. So they buy foreign cars. If I was an American car designer, I would take that as a wake up call and run with it. There are warning bells, but we don’t hear them. The same with health care. If other countries can do it, why can’t we? Send a delegation over to these countries with universal health care and find out what they did and why it’s working for them and bring that knowledge back home and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Not all of it is “SOCIAL”for petes sake! It may not be perfect, (because nothing is) but it’s working for them.

    I did not mean to get of the subject, but we need to open our eyes when the warning signals are there and as a people, get things done to help ourselves. The foreigners do it all the time. Especially ther Chinese.

    Terry, your statement was a little bit off-the-wall. There is something deeper to this problem than that. Why take almost all of the jobs from the people in this country, and hand them over to foreign countries? Other countries can come up with ways to employ their citizens or find things to develop and manufacture. Do you really think that the Chinese care that American’s don’t have jobs? Albeit, some of it is our own fault. Do you really think that they loose sleep over hungry children, or families out on the street? There again, you could say that American’s didn’t save, they thought that the good times would go on forever,they don’t pay their bills on time, they buy too much, etc. You would be right, but we don’t know people’s situations. Not everyone is like that. Nonetheless, it is done, we have to live with it, unless we start taking drastic pay cuts and lower our cost of living and living standards to bring back jobs to this country or we become that country we once was and become innovators and less of a consumer. Excuse any mistakes.

  16. Anthony November 2, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    I love buying American and I know our stuff is usually better than cheap stuff from other countries.It is hard to find anything made here tho and even companies are run by college taught , profit no matter what,high paid bosses,instead of what used to be more family ran stores.I think the future is going to see other countries investing in America and we will be working for them.I love growing gardens working in my yard and just taking care of my home.I think our biggest problem is people have fallen away from God and let anything go if someone says its a religion and does things unamerican its ok if they say its their religion.I have friends allover the world and realize people are basically the same and want the same things, to live and raise family only the scary ones get on tv and try to force everyone else to be what they want.I pray for everyone and hope God has more mercy on us than we have for each other.

  17. Anonymous November 8, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Kent, why on earth are you calling Terry liberal and using crude words to “support” your conclusion? I would call myself liberal in many respects and conservative in others. I strongly support buying products made in the USA. I do so because of economic, environmental and humanitarian reasons. Much of what we buy that comes from China, Mexico, etc. were made in sweat shops where the workers toil endless hours in deplorable conditions for very little money. Also, I can trust the quality of U.S. products more. Just think of all the insulation made in China that have totally ruined thousands of new homes (including the wiring and plumbing) and the lead based toys from China that poison children.

  18. Kathy November 8, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    I didn’t mean to post my response to Kent as “Anonymous”

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