Do I hate the American worker? Or is it just my wallet?

by pittcaleb Email    47143 views

I needed a new pair of shoes this past weekend, so off to Sears it was, where I know they carry my favorite shoe - New Balance. Not only do I find their shoes comfortable and well built, I also know they're the last American Manufacturer of sneakers and one of the very few shoe companies left in this country at all. The pair of New Balance 845's I currently wear are proudly "Made in the USA" even if showing a bit of wear.

When I got to my local Sears on Saturday, my eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of brand new New Balance 608's sporting a very cool Patriotic American Flag logo behind the "608" emblazoned on the tongue. The price was good, $80 on sale for $70 and the box proudly boasted "Support the American Worker." I tried them on, put them back in the box and it's on the next department for us.

On our way out however, I saw another pair of New Balance shoes for only $40. I didn't remember what the ones I had picked out cost me, so I double-checked. Ouch. What's the difference. Maybe I got a running shoe and this is a walking shoe or cross trainer. Hmmm, let's check the "model" number New Balance assigns to each shoe:

Hmmm, the model number is the same, 608. This one has a "v2" signifier, although normally, those extra numbers & letters mean something better, not worse. I mean it's a shoe, the 608 should fit like a 608, period. It should be the same stuff, top to bottom, otherwise it would have a different number, right? What on earth could make this shoe 45% cheaper than the All American one I already had under my arm?

Ahhhh... The American Shoe was going to cost me $33 more because it was NOT made by some 12 year old child in Indonesia rather, an American Worker. I get it now. Ouch... Now I am faced with a moral dilemma. Do I support the American Worker, and by extension America and American Superiority & the American Economy, or do I support my own family, saving money for college, putting healthy meals on the table and putting away for my retirement? Well, there's a third thing in play here - is New Balance producing an inferior product in Indonesia? Would they really put their big N logo on the side of a shoe that is of poor build quality? I don't think so.

Thus the question is merely where is this $33 difference going? 7% of that is tax, I'll admit I added that into the money, so Gov. Christie is taking $2.13 off the top. That leaves a $31 difference. Department stores mark their products up quite a bit, but this was already on sale, so let's say there's a 25% margin on the shoe, Sears takes $7.75 off the $31 leaving $23.25. Transportation has got to run a few bucks per shoe, let's call is $2.25, so we have $21.00 remaining. The corporate types have to cover their costs, R&D, sales, marketing and profit. Let's presume this is half the money going back to the company - $10.50 for New Balance and $10.50 for the workers.

Of that $10.50 that is earmarked for the workers, above and beyond what the poor kid in Indonesia made that is. If they were taxed on this money, they'd lose at least 25% between state & federal taxes, so the take home from the $10.50 would be $7.88. So I want to make a bold pledge right here. The first person who reads this blog post, who can prove to me that they work for New Balance Shoes as a Sneaker Assembly Person, I will gladly send you $7.88 as unseen wages for the pair of shoes I bought from Sears last weekend. And if someone does step forward, with proof of employment, I will send the remaining $25.12 to an Indonesian charity of your choice.

And my question to New Balance - What the hell? If you're trying to make a point, I think you've succeeded. The American Consumer says they want to support the American Worker, however when presented with the opportunity to save 45%, we'll screw 'em and buy cheap. Mission accomplished.

Am I a bad person for buying the cheap shoe? I guess that depends on if you're an executive or designer at New Balance or a line worker there. Or the person who makes the $33 widget I bought with my saved money... Could New Balance manufacture all their shoes in the states and the price be somewhere in the middle where everyone is happy? Could the "Average American" afford to "Buy American" these days or would they then be unable to put food on their table? All good questions, for which I have no good answers... Strange decision I was forced to make this weekend, one I won't soon forget...