In the past two decades, the quality of products I purchase online or in retail stores has greatly declined. Most of what I buy today are not even finished products—they require a bit of tinkering or modification to perform as advertised, regardless of how many “five star” reviews they’ve garnered. I’m coming to the realization that corporations see us as fools who will buy anything, and will keep unloading junk onto us because we’ll keep buying it.
A friend told me a curious fact. Weber barbecue grills that are sold in America are made in China, while the Weber grills sold in Germany are made in the United States. Why wouldn’t American-made grills be sold to Americans instead of being shipped halfway across the world? “Because Americans prefer cheaper prices over quality, so they buy the inferior grills made in China. Germans do not tolerate inferior quality, so they get the better-made grills that are produced here.”
Could it be that Americans prefer junk over quality? It’s not like we’re an impoverished country (not yet, anyway) whose citizens can’t afford to spend $10 more on a grill that lasts twice as long, if not forever. I can’t help but recall my most recent purchases and how they’re faring.
—I bought a bed frame and mattress from Ikea. Within a day, I noticed a loud creak whenever I moved. I looked on YouTube and—judging by the view counts—thousands of other people had the same problem. After trying a few remedies, the only one that worked was coating the inside of the frame with duct tape to minimize friction with key contact points.
—When I lived in Europe, I don’t remember ever having to replace a pillow, but in America, pillows quickly turn into flat rocks. It’s like they have a self-destruct mechanism built right in. Pillow manufacturers are obliterating the lifespan of a pillow by saving a few cents using inferior polyester filling.
—I bought a screwdriver set from Amazon that came with a dozen bits. On the very first time I used it to tighten a screw, one of the bits started stripping.
—My mom told me she needed a knife set, so I bought her one at a department store. I made sure not to buy the cheapest set because I wanted them to last my mother for the remainder of her life. It didn’t even last a year. The handles all became loose, and one of them detached completely from the blade.
—I bought a three-pack of Type C USB cables from Amazon with “heavy duty” coating. In three years, all of the cables have failed. I fondly remember how USB cables would last forever, and grew up not knowing that it was even possible for them to fail.
—During my long USA road trip, the weather was getting cool so I bought a pair of gloves from Walmart. There was a stiff tag on the inside that was stabbing my skin and turning it red. I had to use my Swiss Army Knife to surgically remove the tag, which was aggressively sewed into the fabric.
—One Asus laptop I bought was not completely level when placed flat on a desk. I fixed it through the use of velcro pads. Another laptop I bought had protruding keys that left marks on the screen. If a laptop unit is defective in any way, I’m guessing that they dump it to the Americans.
—I use a soft lighting box for my live streams. The light bulbs are meant to last for hundreds of hours, but one burned out after I used it for less than fifty.
—A fan I bought from Target made a clicking sound so loud that it disturbed my sleep. I had to stuff folded paper into the mechanism to silence it.
—When buying t-shirts from a store like H&M, I learned that they are all different even if they’re the same size. I must now try on multiple shirts of the exact same cut and size to find one that is not defective. This is difficult in the post-coronavirus world where you may not be able to try on clothing.
I could go on. Almost everything I buy is junk. One of the few items I have bought that is not junk is a Japanese-made hand coffee grinder. I’ve been using it for years and besides the fault of a slightly bent steel notch (from all the grinding), it works perfectly. In fact, when I think of my possessions that have lasted, the only real winner is my 1999 Toyota 4Runner, which was also made in Japan. Even my fancy Samsung Galaxy S9, a premium phone (made in China), has started to have camera focusing problems, and I’ve only had it for two years. In essence, all my possessions are junk. I own a little junkyard. I’m like Redd Foxx in the old television show Sandford and Son. Maybe I can combine my possessions with yours so we can have an even bigger junkyard.
I don’t know how to even begin solving this problem. Do I simply buy the most expensively priced item of whatever I’m looking for, only to find out that I’m still buying junk albeit with a fancier brand name? Or do I seek out craftsmen who are making items by hand? Or maybe I can buy the wires and plastics to make a USB cable myself. Until I create my own workshop, whenever I need something I go to Amazon, Target, or Walmart, and willingly and knowingly buy a piece of junk that I know will not last. It’s not a good feeling.
I want to punish those who are selling me junk by not buying their products, but the economy is so centralized around only a handful of producers that that would be impossible. If I need a fan, there are only a couple of options, and they’re probably all made by Kung Pao Trading Company. When globalization was sold to us as “cheaper prices,” they concealed the downside of inferior products. It’s no surprise that a people who tolerate junk are also seeing their country’s politics and culture turn into junk. I wonder if it’s all related.