It’s Time to Look at Product Labels

I have a confession to make. It won’t surprise anyone. For all of my life (especially for the last 25 years with The Dollar Stretcher) I’ve focused on getting value for my money. Often that meant finding the lowest price for an item.

Along the way I learned that price wasn’t the only thing to consider if you wanted value for your money. Depending on the item and how you planned on using it, sometimes quality and durability were equally if not more important than price. For instance a cheap washing machine that wouldn’t last isn’t a bargain. Especially if you have a large family and lots of laundry.

Recent events have caused me to add something new to my product comparison – where an item was made.

Last week I wrote about Just In Time (JIT) inventory management and how it was effecting shortages in the economy. JIT means that there’s rarely a large supply of anything sitting in a local warehouse. Only a small supply is waiting for immediate delivery.

This isn’t so critical if you’re talking about t-shirts made overseas. If there were a shortage in t-shirts we’d probably all survive without losing sleep.

But other items are more critical. For instance our food supplies, medical supplies and other essential items. We can’t afford to be without them for an extended period.

JIT inventory assumes that there’s a small supply that can be quickly delivered. That might not be true if the supply is coming from outside the country. That should be a concern for all of us. It’s reported that critical medical supplies are only available from overseas. That shouldn’t be.

What can you and I do about it? The easy answer is to demand that Congress pass a law. And, we should do that.

But we should also take steps as consumers to encourage businesses to buy domestically. We can do that with each purchase we make. Look at the label to see where something was made or processed. Ask the question. Even if you’re buying online you can contact the store. It only takes a minute. Choose domestic products wherever you can.

You can find the country of origin code right under the bar code. Made in USA are codes 100-139. Made in China codes are 690-699. (source:

It’ll take a little extra effort. And sometimes cost a little bit more. But I see two major benefits. First, you’ll be helping to keep a neighbor employed. Second, you’ll make it easier to avoid supply chain shortages like what we’re seeing in the meat isle today.

Can any one of us do it alone? No, we can’t. But if enough consumers begin to buy American and find out where our products are made smart stores will begin to get the idea and join the effort.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

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