Patriotic Purchases

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On Craigslist, in the for sale / wanted / musical instruments section, someone posts the following plea:

Do not buy anything being made in China… Do not buy any equipment made in foreign countries. Support the country and only buy american. All of those amps made overseas are crap. Save your money and buy either american or england. Here is the list of 5 amps that you should get or save up for.

The writer recommends a handful of boutique and vintage electric guitar amps of apparent US / UK origin.

I appreciate the sentiment, but unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than that. Here’s an example. I can buy a Chinese-made Epiphone hollow-body electric guitar for around $350 (give or take), or the same genuine Gibson guitar for around $3500. The Chinese version looks gorgeous and plays reasonably well, plus for a few hundred dollars I can hot-rod it and still have a sub-$1000 guitar that rivals its Nashville-built counterpart.

That’s an obvious economic rationale for buying from China. But now on top of this, consider that in 2009, Gibson was voted by its own employees as the #1 worst employer in America. It takes a lot of questionable practices to achieve a result like this, and gives pause to which actually is more un-American – giving money to China or supporting a domestic company whose employees seem to deeply dislike.

I don’t have an answer to this, except to note that as fast as American companies race to the bottom in how they outsource, compensate and otherwise treat their staff, they are doubling down on why it’s so easy to buy imported products these days.

I will fiercely support any business that cares for its employees and customers; and offers full-time salaries, healthcare and opportunities for advancement. But when a domestic company behaves more like its overseas counterpart at ten times the price, my purchase decision becomes a bit blurry.

References

Gibson atop worst-places-to-work list (NashvillePost.com)

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