I'm so sick of having to buy products made overseas. There's not even any choice about it. You can buy the most expensive appliances available (we bought a high end, used to be made in Germany, brand), and it doesn't matter. They are still made in some cheap labor country by 10 year old children, with inferior parts, and they are going to fall apart.

Not only is this stuff complete junk compared to what we used to make here in the USA and Europe, but the whole supply chain, from here to Asia, is an environmental, national security, economic, safety, and human rights disaster. And our inept government condones, allows and encourages it. 

First off, it's terrible for the environment: In the developed world, there are fairly strict environmental rules. In the developing world, there are basically none. A great example is the anti-pollution rules the Europeans adopted for steel mills. What did that accomplish for Europe, besides a bunch of people losing their high paying jobs? All the steel mills moved to Brazil, which pollutes as much as anyone on the planet, has lax, unenforced environmental rules, is cutting down the rainforest, and is displacing indigenous people. It's government is shakily democratic (sort of like here). The overall result is far more major environmental damage to ‘spaceship earth’. And of course the cheaper steel isn’t nearly as good as what the West used to make.

And how does all the future garbage get here? On giant container boats, chugging their way slowly across the ocean, burning tons and tons of fossil fuel while dumping waste along the way. From there, it's into port and onto big trucks to drive the containers all over the place, or as it is now, onto idling trucks that sit in line, engines running, waiting to pick up their loads. 

And, if that's not enough trashing of the environment, where does this stuff end up after falling apart? In the landfills or in the oceans. About three years ago we bought a set of high end German brand appliances. It wasn't made in Germany though, and the microwave recently starting shorting out, blowing out all the lights in the kitchen. Turns out it's cheaper to toss it than pay to fix it. Just f***ing wonderful.

Worse, it's not even less expensive than if this stuff were still made here in the USA. It costs more because The initial cost isn't the real cost.

Think about inflation: Two huge factors are completely missing in our inflation calculations-- “time” and “times”. How many times you have to buy something in a period of time. If you buy a washing machine, for instance, no matter what the brand, it’s being built overseas, and it’s put together from about six parts, usually made in different cheap labor countries. When I was a kid my parents never had to buy a washing machine because the one they had was still running. It lasted forever. They were like family heirlooms, passed along from parents to kids. Today, buy a nice, snazzy looking one with a lot of fancy electronics, and you’ll be lucky if it lasts four years before you have to pay someone to lug it out of your house so you can fit in the new one you have to buy, which will also stop working in about four years. Our measures of inflation don’t reflect the fact we’re buying the same junk products over and over and over again because they quickly fall apart. This includes expensive products like ovens, dishwashers, couches, and other items that used to last forever. So although we might save a few hundred bucks now buying a washer/dryer, we lose thousands having to replace the washer/dryer multiple times, which takes us back to the environment.....

What happens to this broken down junk? A rare bit might be recycled, but most of it ends up in a landfill or in the oceans. That sofa you bought that looked so nice new, but a year later the springs broke, is now floating in the ocean off the coast of Bali.

Safety: Who checks the stuff coming in on these massive, gigantic container ships, to make sure it’s made to our standards? The answer is “nobody”. Remember that drywall from China that was making people sick because it had formaldehyde in it? It took years to be discovered. If this stuff was made in the USA, it would have been inspected, but there isn’t a chance customs can check even 1/1000th of what’s coming in. 

And don’t forget the jobs: Those high paying, union jobs aren’t around much anymore, thanks to our dumb ass government allowing this system to exist. We’re trading our planet and our jobs and our health and our independence and our security for trash. Whose idea was this anyway?

 However, here are a few hints to make your life easier with these crummy appliances:

First off, be aware of the concept that the government is putting all sorts of regulations on things like dishwashers to save water, or on cars to save on fuel (meet EPA standards), but these rules make the products not work as well. Basically, the appliance or car has to meet environmental standards, in the condition it's in when it leaves the factory. As a professor of marketing told me in grad school, "It's easy to make organic laundry soap, but it's much harder to make organic laundry soap that actually gets your clothes clean". Or how about those 'low flush' toilets? Sure it uses less water when flushed, but if you have to flush it twice or three times, it's actually using more water.

Two examples and how to fix it:

1. A high end German brand dishwasher: About every other time we ran it, we got an error, E-107 or something similar. Fixing it often involved taking the drain apart and clearing out a few grains of rice or something equally miniscule. This was such a problem it was almost easier to wash dishes in the sink. Then we figured out that the problem is easily fixed by simply using the 'speed' cycle. This cycle, which exists on many appliances for this exact reason, is simply the 'old' way they used to have worked--plenty of water is used. We now absolutely never get an error and it's way faster. And, since we're on a well/septic, the water goes right back to the water table anyway. This also applies to washing machines, although they don't error as much. They just take forever. Use the speed setting. It doesn't recycle the water over and over, so your clothes get just as clean or more so, and it takes less than half the time.

2. A high end German car: If you just turn it on and drive, the car has very little power.....they are meeting the emissions and fuel standards, but it drives like an emaciated turtle. All you have to do is put it in 'sport mode', and you've got a car that drives exactly the way it was designed to drive. 


A view of Tanzania from the International Space Station (photo courtesy of NASA)

Tanzania from the Space Station