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Monday, May 16, 2016

buying quality crap 1 of 3


BUYING QUALITY CRAP

At one time many years ago, in a different publication far, far away, I used sarcasm to describe-or at least attempted to-my writing contents and style.  My first snail mail newsletter was “for the armchair survivalist”.  My first blog was by “the gadfly  of the survivalist movement” which showed that “the last one in the stewpot wins“.  Both which I was pretty proud of although somehow I got a sneaking suspicion that my razor sharp wit was not universally celebrated.  Anyway, my hope was always that while we were talking about a serious subject, we could also laugh at ourselves, or at least me, and the humor would help cement the lessons learned in ones mind.  Which is why I have no problem with others telling me I am full of crap on something.  Believe me, in a world full of dumb asses, I lead by example.  And I have been getting a lot of crap about recommending low quality tools ( because of low price ).  I of course disagree with this assessment, but I also blame myself for lack of clarity.  When you pay a writer the big bucks, concise and clear information is an assumed product.  So here goes, again, but this time with hopefully better delivery, the subject of buying inexpensive quality.

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Ten days ago, give or take, when I went to visit my parental unit down south, I was exposed to the big-ish city and its retail environs ( big enough to contain several Wal-Marts, several Dollar Trees and even an In-An-Out Burger which used to be an exquisite near orgasmic experience but which is now just a “better than the other idiots” dining practice ).  All three lunches occurred in different corporate eateries, and all three were understaffed around lunch.  An Arbies was even shuttered in a dining cluster right off the Interstate.  Also, after over a dozen trips down and back, I can state without hyperbole that there are almost zero semi-trucks on the road.  Compared to past slowdowns, this one was remarkable.  Which might explain how diesel, the same fuel that skyrocketed in price due to retarded environmental mandates dictating a cleaner burn, is how a dime UNDER regular unleaded.  When I relayed all of the above to the receiving clerk at one of my pick-up stores, I was told a relative who works for the Reno area railroads is reporting a lot of lay-offs.

[ update: the day after I wrote this, there was further reports of nearly five miles of linked locomotives, all from just one company, sitting idle down in Arizona ]

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This is nothing new.  We talked about the noticeable retail slowdown during the Christmas season, then all the troubling economic indicators at the beginning of the year.  What it is, is another very solid indicator that the 70% of the economy ( or is it 80%?  Sorry, going by memory ) that is retail is in very big trouble.  If that sector does indeed see a dramatic dump, you ain’t seen real unemployment yet.  So, everything we are going to talk about could very well be quickly changing.  More products could be “going Maytag” ( a hundred years of top quality products, their quality differentiating them from others, and in one CEO cycle in a quest for short term profit, it was all thrown away ), which is fine IF you are not the first duped consumers to buy expecting old quality but get the New Normal crap.  That is the whole problem with buying cheap or cheaper if not cheapest.  You can’t really judge 100% reliably all the time, even with web site customer reviews.  You are playing consumer roulette.

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For instance, I didn’t suddenly stop buying everything from Wal-Mart all at once.  I didn’t realize except through trial and error that slowly but surely all the foods were working towards being MORE expensive than anywhere else ( the days of The Low Price Leader are long gone ).  And it didn’t dawn on me until late in the game that EVERYTHING, regardless of name brand, was lower quality in the non-food section.  For so long, Wally had sold middlin’ quality.  It didn’t break too soon, and it gave you a good return on your money.  All the time people were squawking that Wal-Mart sucked, they were bemoaning the death of factories and Unions that happened BEFORE Wal-Mart got huge.  I discounted their voices as sour grapes, protestors seeking an easy target that was inaccurate.  People that didn’t want to believe the US hit Peak Oil in 1972 ( which caused the factories to move overseas ) or believe that the central bankers have been looting Store USA since then, conveniently blame Wal-Mart on all our woes, when all they did was profit off the situation better than anyone else.  They didn’t cause it. 

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So, at first, those same folks that trash-talked Wally quality were less than accurate and had an agenda-they were incorrect when compared to my personal experience.  When they continued in the same vein, I ignored them ( the same “reporters” and “experts” that keep blaming retails problems on online stores-as if Amazon can ever compete selling heavy items such as liquid laundry soap or thirty pound sacks of dog food ).  When they finally were correct, like that proverbial stopped clock twice a day ( don’t get me started on that gay ass military time which I disliked then and despise with a purple passion now, just like that retarded metric system which might be fine and dandy for pea brain scientists but which does NOT work for everyday folk who like to dive miles rather than kilometers and prefer half a gallon of soda to a 2 liter ), I of course had no reason to believe them and had to find out for myself the ongoing transformation of a large segment of the retail sector.

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Why, yes, much more next article.

END

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26 comments:

  1. There is much truth in what you are stating about currently manufactured goods.
    For example, the Kershaw knife that I sent you is the same supposed model that I own two more of. Only mine were purchased twenty years ago at $60 each. Yours is close to the same, but not quite. Mine were made in Oregon with Japanese steel good shit ! Yours...even tho still good Kershaw brand probably has Chinese steel....
    Much of everything made now days is cheap junk, when compared to yesteryears stuff.
    One can still purchase quality, but buyer beware ! Price does not dictate quality !
    There are many good outlets for inexpensive stuff, Harbor freight being one of them. But not power anything !
    At the rate things are going, pretty soon we won't have choice in the matter. It will all be expensive junk....

    By the way. Remember me saying that I might apply for disability ? Well my pride and age got in the way and I just took the normal 62 and out pension. Believing that tho still effed up I can work doing something. Like I said my pride got in the way...
    Well guess what. I start a job this Thursday driving a delivery truck for a fish wholeseller ! Gonna make much more the I could have on disability and my stubborn pride is still intact. Life is good...then ya get run over by a car.
    Then still come out smelling like a fish lol.

    Bad juju acoming soon my friend. Keep the good words coming.
    I'm ready, you're ready...many are not !

    Rob

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    1. On rare days I get optimistic, I tell myself to keep going-only 10.5 years to go until retirement. I know it simply won't happen, but sometimes the delusion feels good. Or, I just won't live to 62.

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    2. "...as if Amazon can ever compete selling heavy items such as liquid laundry soap or thirty pound sacks of dog food."

      Actually, Amazon sells and ships the dry dog food I buy for my English Mastiff much cheaper than I can find it at the only store around here that carries it, Petco. Granted, it's specialty food since she has food allergies with the common stuff (and she's the only family I have so I don't feel bad spending that kind of money on her), but a 26 lb sack that's $75 (with tax) at Petco is $53 with free shipping from Amazon. Each bag comes in its own cardboard box and is delivered to my door. (And, yes, of course I buy through your link - what kind of loyal minion would do otherwise?)

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    3. oh,ye of the follicles,you have seen the light!Wally world is not the great savior it once was,it just undersold the others in volume,with a slightly less profit margin...that is,on chinese crap.So,how to make up for it? Well,overpriced produce in its grocery!My wife loves walmart,yet every sale ad on tuesday shows the local grocery6 is half price already!An example..wally has green bell peppers for 1.00 each.The local has them 2 for a buck.The 99 cent store has them 6 for a buck.Where the F**k do you think I'm buying my peppers at? And to be honest,my 99 cent store has a better assortment of fresh veggies the my local does!Granted,it takes 2 or 3 trips to hit all the good deals,and I won't drive 20 miles to save a dime,but all 3 stores are within a mile of me,give or take.The 99 cent store has the same chinese crap as walmart,so why the price difference? Heck,the 99 cent store is better than goodwill,at least its new!

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    4. Wally potatoes are $1.99, Kroger $1.69. Wally can take their 15% markup and shove it up its ass. I won't even buy coffee there anymore-and that was the coveted metal can.

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    5. 621-I think my point would still stand for generic products, but I haven't actually thought to shop for those items at this point. I'll check it out, but my point is that on low profit items, semi transport is much cheaper than UPS.

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    6. "I think my point would still stand for generic products..."

      I agree, that was why I cited the "specialty" aspect. They can still make a profit over brick-and-mortar stores on the products with high mark ups, but not the generics. Selling a heavy $75 item at $50 is one thing, but selling a heavy $15 item for $10 is quite different - there's nowhere to trim the profit to make up for the shipping costs.

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    7. Not to mention, individual shipping in general has a shorter shelf life given our oil situation.

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  2. (People that didn’t want to believe the US hit Peak Oil in 1972 ( which caused the factories to move overseas )
    )

    WRONG, Peak oil is peak oil regardless of your location.

    Manufacturing moved out of the USA for 3 reasons.

    Government taxes keep going up taking away profit.

    Government regulations making it harder and more expensive to make things in the USA

    And finally wages (mostly union) going up, again cutting into profit.

    And James Wally-World NEVER EVER sold high quality stuff. At best it was OK. But even then not so much. Wally-World clothes are and always were JUNK.

    There is still some quality items out there, but you have to really spend money to get it. My Milwaukee tools, are good. The old Milwaukee seems a bit better, but the new ones are still very good. But a Milwaukee 18-volt drill is close to $400.00, the 12-volt one is $150.00. But they can run any other tool into the ground.

    Katadyn water filters are another example of good stuff, but again their Pocket filter is $300.00, but it’s a lifetime investment, it filters 13,000 gallons, that’s a gallon a day, every day for over 35-years. Yea the Sawyer filter filters more, but it feels low quality and I’m not sure I trust it or it’s hokey back-flush thing. I have 2 Sawyer for backup filters, but they don’t come close to the quality of my Katadyn filters.

    I do a lot of buying of used items to get better quality and at the same time not spend too much. But for power tools the new (better quality like Milwaukee) is hard to beat.

    Chuck Findlay

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    1. The three reasons you state for manufacturing moving were not fundamentally different in 1970 as they were in the early 50's. It took 20 years for companies to decide they didn't like it here? Also, I never said Wally had high quality stuff, just decent stuff that gave you your money's worth. Their socks used to last two or three years-now about one. I never bought most of their other clothes back then-I bought thrift store.

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    2. “Manufacturing moved out of the USA for 3 reasons.

      Government taxes keep going up taking away profit.

      Government regulations making it harder and more expensive to make things in the USA

      And finally wages (mostly union) going up, again cutting into profit.”

      I actually agree with Chuck on this, and feel that this had a lot to do with the massive overseas moves, or at the very least, it certainly didn't help.

      However on Jim's peak oil comment leading to the relocation overseas, I took that to mean that reduced petroleum inputs led to more manual slave labor, which would make sense.

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    3. (It took 20 years for companies to decide they didn't like it here?)

      Pretty much, they would like to stay, but the government has declared war on them and any profit they want to make. You can only put up with abuse so long.

      So while they would like to stay, survival mode kicks in and they move out of the good-old USA.

      Chuck Findlay

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    4. I'm in complete disagreement. Governments and corporations and bankers are an incestuous family, not mortal enemies. Big business, of course, benefiting from mercantilism, not a true free market small business.

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    5. Gov't does as it pleases and is accountable to no one.

      Businesses must follow gov't rules and are accountable to their stockholders and customers.

      This is severely out of balance so the businesses try to escape by going overseas.

      Just because businesses pay ransom to the gov't like everybody else doesn't change the fact. Further, the gov't owned MSM has turned the citizenry against the businesses. Rock and a hard place. Flee!

      This is self explanatory and obvious.

      Understanding this dynamic is mandatory for all business owners, and fleeting for all that are limited to the employee mindset.

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    6. Government is accountable to the bankers, I would stipulate. Also, you are just repeating the excuses businesses use to profit off of overseas slave labor. They willingly take money from American consumers yet refuse to provide jobs or pay taxes for the infrastructure here. Boo-hoo for them!

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  3. Spud glad things are getting better. Yea, retirement with SS? Good luck James. It may be something but inflated away in value. I figure on todays dollars in 8 years I can live on $800 a month and thats keeping a vehicle. To far out of town to not have one. Thats tax, insurance, limited fuel, electric, and some groceries and a phone. Probably left something out.

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    1. Prior to paying rent again, I kept wondering why it cost me $300 to live when I had no bills other than food and propane and bike parts. I know there are dozens of misc. items I buy without thinking about. No big deal, as long as I spend under what I make, I don't micromanage it anymore ( too long penny pinching in the past ). Still, makes you wonder what we think we need to buy.

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  4. QC has certainly taken a nosedive as of late James. It really stood out to me in my purchase of my GE Super Radio a few years back. This was a long range AM radio that was known for it's superb ability to pull in distant AM stations. Well, long story short, they replaced the traditional tuner with a crap tuner, and now it drifts like a gypsy on crack. I was also surprised to learn that my Grundig shortwave radio, German engineered and made, was actually Chinese.

    I think that a move towards simple and durable is the best compromise at this point. I recall that your experience with the Walmart camp stoves was less than satisfactory. I purchased a Chinese alcohol burning stove made from durable aluminum. It has no moving parts, and is pretty much indestructible. When the sun isn't shining, I'll use this stove instead of a solar cooker. Other examples include the old style hand cranked drills, hand saws, scythes, old style push mowers, the Jim washing machine (For those that don't recall, it's a 5 gallon bucket on a rocking chair) and a can opener of the extremely durable variety such as the ones that are found on a Swiss army knife, multi-tool, hobo tool, camp tool, etc.

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    1. Thanks for the shout out on the Jim Washer-my legacy must be assured! When I moved to the Sportsmans Guide camp stove, it took the gas regulator off the stove to the gas line-bought separately. The regulator was what kept breaking on the Wally unit. Chinese crap is all we are allowed to slave and become indebted for. So, yes, buy Chinese crap that isn't as likely to break. Look at the bright side, soon homemade crafts will be competitive.

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    2. (Look at the bright side, soon homemade crafts will be competitive.)


      If only, I make a lot of homemade craft things, The last year I've been making reclaimed wood desks and tables. I get the wood for free (actually get paid to take it out of the home) and build the furniture in my spare time. If it wasn't for getting the wood for free I could not make any money from the furniture. People would rather buy junk from China-Mart.

      If it does hit the rotating air circulator (sp?) I don't know that even then if craft things will sell. People will have no money to spend on things like crafts. But with my work (I fix just about everything) I think I will do OK. The craft stuff I make is more for a bit of random extra money as you just don't know when the right person with money to spend will come along. I also enjoy doing the work, so that helps.

      Chuck Findlay

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    3. If overseas trade suffers ( petrodollar demise ), handcrafted will be it, mostly. When there is a cheaper ( price trumps quality ) alternate than of course crafts suffer. It is the same buying a cheap car because the monthly payments are lower-that becomes the only criteria out of necessity.

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  5. In my experience each time I cheaped-out on tools I had to buy them twice. Now I don't risk it anymore, I just buy quality or don't buy if it's too expensive.

    Metric is fine, YMMV ;-)

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    1. Why is my supposed Made In America bike all in metric? Actually, I don't mind terribly the metric tools there, other than needing to buy the duel sets of wrenches-although it still chaps my ass slightly.

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  6. Your wally world ia a LOT cheaper than mine then! A 5 lb bag of taters is 5.99,watermelon is 59 cents a pound...The only prices even comparable to a local chain is on soup,frozen stuff.Almost all the meat prices have gone insane,so I shop at a mexican discount chain,but they have a poor selection.
    Wal mart has a reason for cheap chinese stuff...They have a marketing plan,"if you make it in the US for the same price,we'll sell it".Well,we can't,period,put a fork in it.Not the union,not peak oil,not EPA.An american won't work for slave wage's,period

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    1. I hope we are talking about an exotic type of potato. I'm comparing Russets. And I live in a high cost area. Of course, we are surrounded by potato growers. Not that that should matter overly much, beef prices aren't any cheaper.

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  7. I was told by some former customers I'm the plastic molding business that our epa and nafta ran them out of the us.

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