Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Value For Your Dollar

I spend a fair bit of time thinking about where my money goes.  In a consumer driven society, the people who spend money have the ultimate control, as I've mentioned before.  If we support good working conditions we have the option of patronizing establishments that have them.  If we want to see more local grown organic food we can spend our money on it and increase the market.  If we want to bring manufacturing back to the US, we can by domestic goods.  People often gloss often the power their dollar has when they spend it and instead just look for the cheapest of a given thing.

Recently I was trying to find a new pair of cargo pants.  My every day pants were starting to get worn, and one of the pairs has a rather obvious repair where I ripped them.  My wife doesn't hold me to many standards, but not looking like a homeless person when I'm out with her is one of them.  It's a reasonable restriction.  So I went looking for a pair of American made cargo pants or BDUs.  This ended up being more challenging than I thought.

Almost all clothing is made overseas.  Levi's doesn't make any jeans in the US anymore, having moved their last domestic factory a half dozen years ago to Mexico.  Even well known American boot makers have been outsourcing their products, half of the boots Danner and Red Wing offer are now made in Asia.  They still cost as much as they used to, so it doesn't seem like it's offering as good as a value.  But I ended up finding a pair of American made tactical pants for $60.  That's way more than clothes at Walmart, but I buy a pair of pants every couple years because quality clothes last.  Those $20 Walmart pants just don't hold up as well, so in the end the money is a wash.

As well, I wanted to pick up a durable button up shirt.  Shirts like that work great for concealed carry without looking tactical.  They also hold up well when subjected to 60 (100?) mph winds when I'm on a motorcycle.  So I first went to a store that carried Carhartt.  Back in my days when I worked outdoors, Carhartt was known as a quality brand that would hold up well over time.

Carhartt offers a few styles of button up shirt ranging from $30 to $50.  And all of them I check the tags on were made in Bangladesh or India.  Mostly Bangladesh.  Bangladesh is well known to have deplorable working conditions, and right now the basic wage for workers is $38 a month.  You may have seen a few months back that a factory collapsed killing scores of people.  I'm not paying $50 for a sweatshop shirt.  That shirt costs the company $6 to make in Bangladesh, $2 to transport it to the US and the executives are making 400% profit on it.  My dollar goes to benefit the guys in charge of the company who decided to outsource American jobs.  And I have other options- Dickies offers a similar shirt which is Made in Mexico for $15.  That's a more reasonable profit for the company and a business model I'm more willing to support.

Executives offer very little value in my mind and take the lion's share of the profits in big companies.  I don't want my money to go to support that.  And all the big brands that advertise a lot operate that way- Nike, Under Armor, Levi's- they all import all of their goods and make fat profits on them.  I'd much rather support a company that pays more of the purchase price to the worker and less to the executive.

Those $60 pants I bought?  They were sold by a company that's in my state.  By keeping those people employed it keeps my money local.  Someone employed in my state is more likely to use the goods and services I offer than someone in Bangladesh, or the executive in NYC that makes money off the clothing made in Bangladesh.  And since I'm the consumer, I have all the power to decide how that money is spent.  If we all think about how we spend our money, we can change the world for the better.


  1. The money you spend that goes to the executives also tends to get moved into offshore accounts for taxation reasons, where it sits idle and is essentially removed from benefitting our economy. The money you spend locally continues to circulate in our economy, benefitting us all.

  2. If you don't mind me asking, where did you end up going through? I've recently been converted to the buy once-cry once theory of clothing, especially since I don't really need that large of a wardrobe. Assuming there isn't too much of a premium for American-made, I'm willing to go that route.

  3. I ended up getting the pants SKD sells. They only come in tan and camo, but cost the same as many places charge for 5.11 and other imported pants. They have 10% off sales from time to time as well.