Here's an interesting mental exercise for a rainy day. Put on your capitalist consumer cap and scan where some of your household's favorite or more important things are made or come from. For ours, here's a small breakdown:
Car: Volvo, a Swedish brand now owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding. Our model was actually made in Volvo's Belgian Ghent plant.
Refrigerator: Siemens, a German company. Unsure where ours was manufactured.
Washing machine & vacuum cleaners: Miele, a German company. Unsure where ours were manufactured.
Dryer: Whirlpool, an American company. Unsure where ours was manufactured.
Computers & monitors: HP so American but made in either Chongqing or Kunshan of China.
Cameras: Lumix/Panasonic and Sony so Japanese companies with manufacture in China, Thailand and Japan.
Favorite speakers: sound|kaos from Switzerland, DMAX from Slovakia.
Favorite amplifiers: Enleum from South Korea, Kinki Studio from China.
Favorite DACs: Sonnet from The Netherlands, Denafrips and iFi from China.
Television: Sony Bravia from Japan but for our market made in Slovakia.
Countertop reverse osmosis water filter: Osmio from the UK.
100% cotton rugby/polo shirts: Crew Co. of England but mine say made in Malaysia.
Favorite motorcycle jacket: Warson Motors of Switzerland made in Pakistan.
Favorite cowboy boots: Cuadra and Corral from Mexico, Sendra from Spain made in Mexico.
Favorite watches: Vostox Europe from Lithuania, Aragon from US made in China.
Himalayan salt lamps: from Pakistan's Khewra mine.
Woven leather shoes: made in India.
Leather poufs: made in Morocco, sold in The Netherlands.
Woven wool blankets: from County Donegal, Ireland. Yes, a local product!
Favorite spice mix: Chimichurri from Spain's Carmencita.
Favorite mixes for spicy Chai latté, Turmeric latté and Matcha latté: Arkadia from Australia.
Favorite cereal coffee of barley, rye and chicory: Barley Cup from Poland.
Favorite toothpaste (fluoride/mint-free): Bilkahomeopathy from Bulgaria.
The Internet and globalized shipping have transformed what average consumers can buy and where those goods come from. Outsourcing of parts, partial or full assembly means that where brands or companies are formally registered needn't equal actual country of origin. Does it matter? With appliances in particular, access to eventual service and repair are key to long-term ownership. If a local reseller guarantees those, all the rest of it subtracts from importance. Our household is keen on supporting the local economy. We do particularly with groceries to focus on Irish produce. We live rural and see how hard of a life farmers have. Citrus fruit simply aren't grown commercially due to our climate. Neither are a lot of other things made here. That requires sourcing from abroad even if it's just across the Irish Sea from the UK. But looking at the above, many of the goods in our household are from rather farther away. I did manage to keep the hosting of our sites local (Ivette has two of her own). Server farms are big Irish business. In fact a €1.2 billion data centre is currently planned for Ennis, a small town in our county just 35 minutes from our house.
Think globally act locally is a fine motto. All too often the latter isn't actually possible. Sometimes a local supply dries up. I had discovered Arkadia chai mixes when our regional TK Maxx still sold sealed food items. Since C-19 they no longer do. It took me months to find a UK wholesaler who actually replied to my inquiry. It took even longer to find one that would sell to a household not commercial enterprise. Starting with a 20kg opening order that took a good year to consume helped. So did connecting with just the right chipper order agent. Sales prevention is a real thing. Often we try to keep our business local only to be met by catatonic laziness. Say a store carries items from a certain wholesaler. On the latter's website we find an item our store doesn't carry. We understand why. There's no real audience for it. So we ask them to include it on their next order and offer to prepay in full. They can't bother.
Half the time one deals with a part-time sales clerk not owner. Does a regular salary kill motivation? The other half of the time, people no longer mean to work for a living. Effort is out. Eire presently deals with that epidemic. It's of a different kind but very real. Too many households have gotten used to Covid subsidies. They don't mean to return to work. They prefer living off the government so tax payers like us. The local pubs are filled with their kind. When we recently had a flat-packed greenhouse assembled—we were booked for a Saturday—the two workers showing up in an ancient Land Rover were from Gdansk in Poland and most agreeable fellas. They'd left their Irish digs at 4:00 in the morning to be at our place at 9:00 sharp. They worked straight through to 14:30 with good humor despite the aged boss' reduced mobility. They refused our offer to feed them and had their next gig booked for Sunday.
Our household too works for a living 'round the clock. Where and how we spend is deliberate. It rewards those who work hard and happy; and withholds business from the lazy, rude, uppity or otherwise ignorant about customer service. Why reward bad attitude? When the globe is our oyster, can you blame us for being selective? Many products are really interchangeable. At the end of the day, sales are between humans not machines even if ordering on the web feels more like the latter. Still, wherever the human factor is direct, service is key. That's true even for order confirmation of online sales, updates, post-sale followups and such. Someone either expresses concern for the buyer and solicits feedback about our satisfaction; or just takes our money then goes silent.
I've ordered basics like 5m USB cable from a local supplier because none of our regular shops had any. I waited 3 weeks on delivery. When I placed my order it said 'in inventory'. Inside Ireland, GLS and DPD offer guaranteed next-day delivery. Why tolerate lackadaisical behavior even in the face of automated order entries? We have one simple response. Don't go back. It's as basic as that. And those folks will never know that they just lost a long-term customer motivated to shop local.
No wonder Amazon have grown into a behemoth. Whatever negatives their multinational corporate size will have—is anything ever purely virtuous to lack any and all shadows?—they certainly have perfected the art of modern order fulfillment, automated email communications and prompt error sorting. That mom 'n' pop shops must operate different and charge more is clear as day. It just doesn't excuse poor communications, bad attitude or outright sales prevention. You might as well hang up a sign: Closed for all pleasant business. Now excuse me while I shall unpack our Amazon package of Bilka toothpaste. Our restock order added some tubes with mastiha, a medicinal gum harvested from Mastic trees on the Grecian island of Chios. I first tasted it at an Athens hifi show where Velissarios Georgiadis from TrueLife Audio introduced me to it via some potent liqueur. Our chatty post mistress just delivered the toothpaste variant. Happy gums coming up…
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