Getting what we pay for

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Americans are used to having the best, whether it be food, cars, electronic gadgets and even toys. We spend money when we have it (and even when we don't) on all things material and expect to get the best for our hard earned money.

In the cutthroat realities of retail marketing, price more often than not wins out over service, selection and value. We want the best, and we expect it to be cheap. In the global marketplace, this has translated to companies constantly moving jobs to the nation where they could, like the consumers they are hoping to sell, get the most for their money. In many, many industries this has led companies to China for the manufacturing of their products.

Unless you pay very close attention to the packaging on many products, you are probably unaware of how many items you buy that are manufactured in China. That was until this past month, when a rash of product recalls ranging from pet food to toothpaste to the latest, toys.

Mattel Inc. is recalling about nine million toys made in China. The toys either contain magnets or have lead paint. Nearly 80 percent of toys are now made in China. Fisher-Price, also owned by Mattel, two weeks ago issued a recall for 1.5 million Chinese-made preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo. About 967,000 of those toys were sold in the United States between May and August.

Until this month, Mattel and Fisher Price had never before recalled toys because they contained lead paint.

The danger caused by these products can be minimal, as long as children are properly supervised and don't eat magnets or put the lead painted toys in their mouth. On the other hand, what parent would have ever dreamed that they would need to worry about Fisher-Price toys?

It does matter where things are made, and price shouldn't be the be all and end all that drives our economy. Perhaps these recent scares will make consumers think twice about where the products they buy are made and make their purchases accordingly.