T and I were astonished last summer to notice a "made in China" label on a bottle of bubble solution.  This is a statement about how mindbogglingly cheap international shipping is, given that even in the US, it can’t cost more than pennies to make a plastic bottle, put a label on it, and fill it with water and soap.

Given that, how on earth is an American manufacturer supposed to compete?  I want to talk about the couch that we just bought, because it offers one answer to that question.

The couch is made by Carolina Chair.  This is a small, family-run company.  (Seriously, when I asked Cathy in customer service what something would cost, she said "let me ask my brother and get back to you.") They’re surviving in the era of globalization by:

  • making a high quality product
  • cutting out the middleman — they only sell direct to customers
  • cutting out inventory — every piece is custom made, and they don’t start making it until you place your order.
  • providing incredible customer service — truly friendly and helpful — they even emailed us a photo of our couch in their manufacturing plant. 

I found them via googling for a love seat/chaise combo because the ones we were looking at from Pottery Barn were really just a bit too big to fit in our living room.  When I emailed them, they were quite happy to make one just the right size for us, in the fabric of our choice.  (Ours is the 3rd one down on this page.  Yes, it’s very red.)  It made me a little nervous to order something like a couch online, but this Wall Street Journal article reassured me.  So we went ahead, feeling good about supporting an American company.

And we’re really happy with the couch.

4 Responses to “Globalization”

  1. Doug Says:

    Hey, the rather racy url for the couch had me wondering while it loaded if the page was NSFW, haha!

  2. alwen Says:

    Yeah, “sectionals ex” looks a little . . . different when you jam it all together.
    That’s why “Lost Arts” has a dash — otherwise it looks like Los Tarts, which is what, Spanglish for racy ladies?

  3. jen Says:

    To me, this is one of the biggest non-environmental reasons to implement carbon taxes as quickly as possible. (Call it an add-on benefit.) Would it drive up the cost of a tank of gas, or a heating bill? For sure. But it would also I believe inevitably bring some manufacturing back to the States. It would certainly make agriculture a little more sane again, where locally grown food could actually attain cost parity.
    BTW, in the IT world there is currently a lot of talk about how to bring help desk functions back to English-speaking locales, since there is such backlash against it. The issues are essentially what Elizabeth mentions: it must be very high-quality, and very targeted. This means lots lots lots of education and great skills on the part of the help desk folks. Which is hard to find!
    It all comes back to what the Gates Foundation already knows: the U.S. education system needs to be completely overhauled if it wants to produce this kind of worker.

  4. gerette Says:

    Great site! Finances dictate that we put off buying new family room furniture for a while, but I’m definitely bookmarking the site for the future.

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