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AndrewKuker
01-08-2016, 12:46 AM
I recently watched an interesting documentary called The True Cost (www.truecostmovie.com (http://www.truecostmovie.com)). It deals with the clothing industry where the current trends are driving big corporations to outsource their products to the factory that can make them at the lowest cost. The movie raises the question of who really pays the impact when ultra low cost manufacturing often requires very poor working conditions, poverty-level wages, and environmental impacts that harm entire regions and affect their generations to come.

Manufacturers should be responsible for the factories that make their products. Most, however, do not assume this responsibility and are generally not held accountable. Many consumers are driven by low prices and not really aware of the actual impact of their purchase.

Relating to our industry, this got me thinking about the “True Cost” of the ultra cheap ukes on the market. Look, we all like getting a great deal. And I love that there are so many affordable ukes available to help grow our community. So ultra cheap ukes are fine but let's make sure it works out well for everyone. If something costs less at retail than what you can acquire the raw materials for, then as a consumer (or supplier), we should question the system that makes that possible. Is it ethical?*

Maybe it is. Maybe in some cases, it isn’t. Whether or not you personally care, I think being aware is a good thing. Our collective choices are what make the world the way it is.
I want to be sure that the items we offer you are from openly ethical manufacturing facilities. My New Years resolution is to learn more about and evaluate who we support as a business in that regard.
Check out the movie, The True Cost, if you get a chance, I highly recommend it.

mkatz
01-08-2016, 12:53 AM
Very well said Andrew and I agree with you 100%.

Mitch

natchez
01-08-2016, 03:24 AM
Great post! It is gratifying to hear an American businessman point out such a good commentary on a particular industry. It is interested to note that historically the garment industries' abuses led to many of the early labor reforms in the US.

I teach business at the University of Nevada, Reno and emphasize to my students that socially responsible and environmentally sustainable strategies lead to greater, not lesser, profits over the long term. When I went to business school in the 1970s, the mantra taught was profits are the main thing that matters; today we teach a quite modified version of that mantra. Profits still matter, but how you get there also matters.

Personally, I buy my jeans from Diamond Gusset, an all American grown cotton, processed, and made brand. It is harder to find some other clothing items at reasonable prices made in the US, but I do look.

Thanks, Richard

Rllink
01-08-2016, 03:27 AM
My wife and I are retired, and we live off of a pension and our investments that we built over our adult life time. We have a financial advisor that helps us with our investing, and he helps us review our investments with a social conscious. I like that. We do not invest in companies that do not meet the mark that we have set socially. There are companies that do not meet our standards, and investing in them might realize a little better return on our money. But we always pass on those. I mean, it isn't about making money at any cost, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not missing any lattes, because I won't invest in some sweatshop.

Ukulele Eddie
01-08-2016, 03:39 AM
What a great New Year's Resolution, Andrew. I'll definitely watch the documentary and appreciate your sharing about it.

whistleman123
01-08-2016, 03:45 AM
I also agree! It's one of the reasons I didn't buy an oxk.

The entry level foreign made Martins also showcase another pet peeve of mine. This is very prevelant in my trade/craft of repairing musical instruments (brass & woodwind). That is - USA flagged companies that out-source production overseas. Then they bring an inferior product back onto the country and sell it for a high price. Many consumers make purchases based on brand loyalty or percieved quality based on reputation. What they get is an inferior instrument the plays hard if it plays at all.

I don't have personal experience with Martins. They may be great. Their videos sing the praises of their Mexi-martins. But no matter how they present it, the botton line is they sent production out of the country. I'm sure it cost American jobs. I'd like to know what their profit magin is on their foriegn made instruments verses their American made instruments!

In all honesty I fell into the cheap trap myself. I truly regret buying my Aiersi soprano. The uke is fine, but soon after I bought it the news was fullf reports about the terrible smog around their industrial/manufacturing centers due to irresponsible manufacturing practices.

In the future I am commited to either American made ukes or vintage ukes.

DownUpDave
01-08-2016, 04:06 AM
Human nature is a funny thing.......we want to have our cake and eat it too. How many people complained about Walmart taking over small town USA but at the same time always demand the LOWEST price. People flock to the lowest price, they surf the internet endlessly to save a dollar or two.

Fortunately there is information out there, like Andrew presented, that show there are consequences to all our decisions and actions.

Doc_J
01-08-2016, 04:21 AM
I'm no economist. But, would these developing countries be worse off if there was no foreign investment in manufacturing? My guess is no.
Is a crappy job better than no job? I think so.
People will leave when better opportunities arise.
Although, any job should not take away the safety, humanity and dignity of the individual workers.

BTW the deplorable conditions shown in the movie trailer are not too far from working conditions in America (and other countries) in the late 1800's and early 20th century. Laws, unions, public outrage, human tragedy, government regulations, and economic growth have changed much of that. It would be best if a sad history didn't have to be repeated elsewhere on the globe for a developing country to climb up to current first world working conditions.

I agree, one should try to buy ukes and other goods from companies, places, and people that reflect your values.
Use your $ to promote your values.

Ukulele Eddie
01-08-2016, 04:25 AM
On a related note of global awareness, Bob Taylor did this excellent video ebony, where he explains a decision he made in September of 2011 that affected the entire guitar industry and why he made it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anCGvfsBoFY

janeray1940
01-08-2016, 05:07 AM
Relating to our industry, this got me thinking about the “True Cost” of the ultra cheap ukes on the market. Look, we all like getting a great deal. And I love that there are so many affordable ukes available to help grow our community. So ultra cheap ukes are fine but let's make sure it works out well for everyone. If something costs less at retail than what you can acquire the raw materials for, then as a consumer (or supplier), we should question the system that makes that possible. Is it ethical?*

Maybe it is. Maybe in some cases, it isn’t. Whether or not you personally care, I think being aware is a good thing. Our collective choices are what make the world the way it is.
I want to be sure that the items we offer you are from openly ethical manufacturing facilities. My New Years resolution is to learn more about and evaluate who we support as a business in that regard.
Check out the movie, The True Cost, if you get a chance, I highly recommend it.

Similar to the film, there's a book called Overdressed (http://www.amazon.com/Overdressed-Shockingly-High-Cheap-Fashion/dp/1591846544) that addresses the whole "fast-fashion" issue. Both are eye-opening.

The issue of goods made overseas under conditions I consider unethical is one I've been aware of for a long time. Years ago I vowed to avoid supporting corporations whose ethical practices were at odds with my own beliefs. It's a challenge, to say the least, and there are times when the only option is "go without" - and there are times when that's not an option, such as the computer that I'm writing this on that I also use to make a living. I know full well it was made in that horrible factory that was profiled in the news few years back. I also know that it's impossible to buy a computer that doesn't at least have *some* components made there.

So, you pick your battles. At least with ukuleles, for those of us who can afford it, we have options. Although I'm pretty much locked in to Kamaka ukes, I'd be really curious to learn of high-quality, less costly brands that are ethically produced, so that I know what to recommend to those who say "But I can't afford a K-brand..."

Looking forward to reading more on this topic!

hollisdwyer
01-08-2016, 05:10 AM
Great post Andrew. Yes, every stick has two ends. Unfortunately too many of us don't bother to consider the sustainability of our behaviour in the marketplace.

spookelele
01-08-2016, 05:20 AM
But, would these developing countries be worse off if there was no foreign investment in manufacturing?

Do not confuse a small number of individuals making large profit, with the welfare of a whole country.
That caution is true for developing countries, as well as large countries.

strumsilly
01-08-2016, 06:52 AM
reminds me of styrofoam cups , plates, take home containers, peanuts. cheap to produce, excellent insulating properties, costly/toxic to get rid of. the true cost is paid only further down the line. It can be recycled in bigger cities, but not everywhere [yet].

seneystretch
01-08-2016, 09:29 AM
[QUOTE=janeray1940;1797336]-Shockingly-High-Cheap-Fashion/dp/1591846544"]

The preference for black ebony never occurred to me. I picked up an unadorned koa concert with a medium brown fingerboard that had light brown and black streaks. I thought the mottling contrasted nicely with the uniformly medium koa. Who knew?

Country of origin mattered a lot more to me; I was writing letters about NAFTA/GATT long before it was cool or anybody even heard of these acronyms. My uke came out of Florida.

Country of origin is a fascinating read of history. Textile production, starting in the British Isles, was smuggled to New England under pain of death (Jacquard looms and Edward Lud). When New England became too expensive, textiles were then produced in low cost North Carolina. Italy was the next low-cost country (Versacci and Gucci, anybody). Now you see Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia; who knows where textiles will go when these countries become "too expensive."

Musical intrument manufacture has followed this path. It's nice to see Bob Taylor do this, with his own money.

mds725
01-08-2016, 10:28 AM
I want to be sure that the items we offer you are from openly ethical manufacturing facilities. My New Years resolution is to learn more about and evaluate who we support as a business in that regard.


Thanks you so much for bringing up this subject and for wanting to avoid businesses that exploit overseas labor in your own business dealings with manufacturers as a retailer. As Janeray points out, it's probably difficult for American consumers to completely avoid benefiting from the misery of others, but the best, and perhaps the only, way to tell corporations that we don't like their exploitation of overseas labor is to refuse to buy their products.

ScooterD35
01-08-2016, 02:10 PM
I like to feel good about my instruments and, as much as possible, I like to feel good about who I give my money to.

My guitars are all Martins. Their track record, reputation and consistency of quality are, IMO, unparalleled in the industry. I first visited the Martin Factory in 1985, and since then I've been back and taken the tour 42 times.

Along the way I've gotten to know many of the people that work there and have even had several conversations with Chris Martin himself. I've found him to be a genuine, intelligent, compassionate person that takes his family heritage very seriously and that cares deeply about the people that work with him. He never refers to anyone as his "employees". He considers everyone to be colleagues and co-workers and treats every single one of them with great respect.

I've always felt good about buying their instruments, because I respect the company, the owner, their industry-leading environmental policies, and of course, the extremely high quality, great sounding guitars and Ukuleles.

As far as their Mexico facility is concerned, my understanding is that there is a waiting list for employment there because the pay scale and working conditions are so much better than most other places down there. Chris once told a group of us, quite candidly, that there simply would be no entry level, affordable Martins were it not for that facility.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaFfyHPKupo

Interestingly, the only Martin Uke I own is a vintage Style 1. I hope to get a C1K some day, and the IZ tenor is a dream of mine, but recently the money just isn't there.

My three main Ukes are a Fluke, a Flea, and a Firefly.

All made in the USA by some of the nicest folks in the Ukiverse. I love the funky, fun vibe the Magic Fluke Co instruments command and the quality, tone, and durability are right up there at the top of the pile, IMO. I feel really good about giving them my money, because I know who built them and they just feel right to me.

All that being said, I'm not inclined to disparage Asian made Ukes such as Mainlands, Kalas, Ponos, etc... Most of them are well made, great sounding instruments that make people very happy. I doubt Mainland Mike is selling Ukes made in horrible conditions by slave labor. In fact, the next Uke on my list (once we get out of our current financial lag) will definitely be a Mainland. I would certainly feel glad giving Mike my money.

Until someone posts video to the contrary, I'm going to assume that the larger, higher quality brands are made fairly responsibly.

The cheap, poorly built crap is another story altogether. I wouldn't buy that stuff under any circumstances.


Peace,

Scooter


P.S. The unfortunate irony of all this is that we are pretty much all posting these thoughts on computers, tablets, phones, etc... that were built under the exact same despicable conditions that we're lamenting. Sadly, we don't really have any choice in that matter

ScooterD35
01-08-2016, 03:57 PM
BTW, I checked and the film that started this thread is available to stream it n Netflix. I added it to my list for this weekend.


Scooter

AndrewKuker
01-08-2016, 04:41 PM
Yeah Scooter, Been there in Nazareth a number of times and spent some time with the repair department when we were doing their warranty work years ago. Good people. Good products.
As far as cheap instruments, I happened to just see this video today, blew me away. I happen to have a sax mouthpiece, and maybe even a carrot!!


https://youtu.be/6vXsEOIRAU4
https://youtu.be/6vXsEOIRAU4

ScooterD35
01-08-2016, 05:39 PM
Brilliant! I'll add carrots to the grocery list!


Scooter

Rakelele
01-08-2016, 07:44 PM
Andrew, I'm glad to hear that you're applying this awareness to your business. Just like it says in your signature: You will change the world.

chuck in ny
01-09-2016, 03:15 AM
the trouble is that you can't generalize about country of manufacture. there's a lot of crud, and bad business practice, coming out of china. on the other hand there are a lot of great people and outfits seeking to sell their excellent stuff on the world market. guess what these folks are just like you and me and don't deserve to be shunned.
with some recommendation and reading reviews i will buy specific things from china. i do try to buy domestic when possible.

strumsilly
01-09-2016, 06:13 AM
On a related note of global awareness, Bob Taylor did this excellent video ebony, where he explains a decision he made in September of 2011 that affected the entire guitar industry and why he made it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anCGvfsBoFYjust watched this, thanks to you [and Mr. Taylor] I also have added the other one to my list to watch later.

pritch
01-09-2016, 09:41 AM
Andrew

You're right of course. There are also the people committing suicide at the factories in China that make Apple products, and that causes me a twinge of guilt as I type this on my Macbook.

The working conditions in the Amazon warehouses are diabolical. Amazon says they don't employ the staff, contractors do, but It's their contracts that create the problem.

Recently I read of a British sports clothing retailer modelled somewhat crudely on Amazon. Most of the employees are new immigrants from Eastern Europe to the extent that factory signage is in both English and Polish.

We still celebrate Labour Day in this country but for many people the conditions that day celebrates are long gone. Maybe we should be celebrating something else?

Luke El U
01-09-2016, 02:05 PM
We still celebrate Labour Day in this country but for many people the conditions that day celebrates are long gone. Maybe we should be celebrating something else?

We could have a show of solidarity with workers around the world by honoring Labor Day on May 1st like all of Central and South America and most of Africa, Europe and Asia do. We could also vote for representatives and leaders who have proven track records of helping the working class in our own countries and who are against exploiting foreign workers especially those in countries where people cannot vote.

Snargle
01-09-2016, 03:41 PM
On a related note of global awareness, Bob Taylor did this excellent video ebony, where he explains a decision he made in September of 2011 that affected the entire guitar industry and why he made it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anCGvfsBoFYAlthough I no longer play guitar, my last one was a Taylor 712 and it was magnificent. It makes me feel good that there are responsible, ethical manufacturers out there that are not just concerned about the quarterly bottom line, but care about the future. We need more Bob Taylors.

70sSanO
01-10-2016, 04:55 AM
So, you pick your battles. At least with ukuleles, for those of us who can afford it, we have options. Although I'm pretty much locked in to Kamaka ukes, I'd be really curious to learn of high-quality, less costly brands that are ethically produced, so that I know what to recommend to those who say "But I can't afford a K-brand..."


For all the opinions in this thread, one area that has not been addressed is exactly how does someone know the working conditions of the people making the instrument that he/she is buying?

Obviously, the brands on HMS are a good start, but what about the other brands? Are most "major" brands produced ethically? Are we really only talking about the Amazon/eBay off brands that no one has heard of and there is no company?

John

janeray1940
01-10-2016, 07:03 AM
For all the opinions in this thread, one area that has not been addressed is exactly how does someone know the working conditions of the people making the instrument that he/she is buying?

Obviously, the brands on HMS are a good start, but what about the other brands? Are most "major" brands produced ethically? Are we really only talking about the Amazon/eBay off brands that no one has heard of and there is no company?

John

Good question. When it comes to clothing and electronics, these areas have been pretty well covered by the major news outlets in the United States, so - if you think you can believe them - there's that. There's a lot of negative evidence against pretty much all of the major mass market players in both industries, yet there are few alternatives, and even fewer when one is on a limited income. You might think DIY is the way to go, but that's not the answer either. Some years back I committed to sewing a certain percentage of my own clothing (after that factory disaster in Bangladesh that killed so many because of lack of safety precautions), only to learn that most fabric is manufactured overseas in pretty deplorable conditions, and that which isn't is far out of my budget.

Since ukulele manufacture is such a small niche compared to those two industries, I doubt the factories will ever get the kind of scrutiny that the clothing and electronics factories have. I've opted to only buy from factories in Hawaii that I've toured, and I realize the fact that I can is a huge luxury compared to many (but then I've only got 3 ukes with no plans to accumulate more, so there's that). But even that's no guarantee that there is nobody being mistreated anywhere along the supply chain.

And I also realize that mistreatment is relative. Someone else alluded to this upstream and it's definitely a point worth considering. From my first-world perspective as a person with an advanced degree and the ability to fairly easily find safe and somewhat secure employment, it's easy for me to judge, isn't it... working long hours in those live-in factories where people crowd together with no building code safety sounds pretty hellish. But if the alternative is starvation, well... I just don't have the answer.

Sigh. It's complicated. But the fact that we are addressing it here and that this discussion has gone on for several days certainly gives me hope for positive change.

70sSanO
01-10-2016, 12:38 PM
I will add that the abuses with ukuleles are probably small in comparison to industries where knock-offs are prevelant.

John