The United Nations in My Closet.

by on January 15, 2014 · 41 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Labor, Life Events, Ocean Beach, World News

john filthy flagcloths

People don’t often look at where their clothes come from. We don’t often think about who made them. Our closets are full of garments made by people making less than a dollar an hour. Don’t let the price of those Nike sneakers throw you. They weren’t expensive to make. They are expensive because you will pay. The profits do not go to better working conditions. Just ask the workers who survived the Savar garment-factory collapse in Bangladesh. The factory that manufactured clothes for Walmart, among others, killed 1,129 people and injured 2,515 when it collapsed on April 24, 2013.

I’m one of those hippy-clone-activist-types. I actually care where my clothes come from and read labels. I’m also a cheapskate and like to wear clothes that look like rags to some. Blame Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain. I didn’t invent the fashion. I must look homeless at times because people are always trying to gift me clothes. My better half is always trying to get me to throw clothes out. She is astounded that I can remember where I got each piece of clothing and how old some of them are.

My Nirvana t-shirt from back when there still was Nirvana. My backpack from when I was a kid. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife or she’ll chuck them. New clothes stress me out. Worrying about staining them. Worrying about offending the people who bought them for me… “I just bought you that sweater and you changed your oil in it?!?” My old clothes fit, unlike many that are bought for me. With an 18 ½ neck and a 38 sleeve I can forget about buying off the rack in most stores. My shoe size is 12 ½ but they stopped making those when I was a kid. It’s more profitable to make fewer sizes. So I wear 13s. Pants fit, but I hate wearing pants. Don’t we all?

So as a human being with half a conscience how does my closet break down? I wanted to know, and I’m sure OB Rag readers are clamoring to know as well. So here it is. My wardrobe is 80% third-world manufactured. Still that 20% made in the first world put me miles ahead of most people who can’t find a single ‘Made in the USA’ garment in their collection. Although that label is often meaningless as the Marshall Islands are allowed to use it. A ‘presidential republic in free association with the US’ but without the labor laws. Sigh.

john fiflthy canawoolMy closet contains close to 150 items of clothing from 25 countries. The #1 country? Yup you guessed it, Bangladesh. Twenty two items of my wardrobe were made in Bangladesh (15%). China , Mexico and Vietnam are right up there at 14%, 12% and 9%. India, Cambodia and Indonesia at 4% each. Honduras, Haiti and Pakistan at 3%. I have two pieces each from Thailand, Hong Kong, Egypt, and El Salvador. One each from Korea, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Nepal, Malaysia, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The last one I bought while I was in Costa Rica so that doesn’t count, nor does my traditional Nepalese shirt. That was hard to find, not many XXL Nepalese I guess.

That leaves 25 garments made in the USA and Canada. The majority are clothes made by Hempy’s. Hempy’s is a local company run by a former OBeeshun. A company 15 miles from Mexico that chooses to sew their garments here. My other ‘OB clothes’ are not made in the USA. My Seedless hoodies are from Mexico. My University of Ocean Beach t-shirts are from Honduras. My shell store t-shirt is from China. I have one Made in the USA garment each from LL Bean, American Apparel and Army Surplus. The rest are items handmade from wool.

Are the US/Canadian made the cheapest? No.

Are they worth the extra price? Surprisingly yes.

I was under the impression that I was just buying piece of mind. But when I looked at the US, Canadian, and Korean items I was looking at all my best-looking longest lasting clothes. Clothes that I would have worn out and replaced once or twice already if they were Chinese or Bangladeshi made. In the long run quality really is cheaper, even in clothing. Who knew?

My last Hempy’s wallet lasted me ten years. My Canadian made custom dress shirt is 15 years old, it still fits great, and looks good enough to get me jobs when I interview in it. Show me a shirt form China that can do that. My twenty year old Canadian made wool sweater looks as good as it did when I bought it. Nobody mistakes me for a bum when I wear those. Unlike my torn Pakistani hoodies and holy Bangladeshi gitch.

Gitch Canadian slang for underwear.




{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

John January 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

For over a decade absolutely every piece of clothing I have acquired came from a thrift store.
The quality of clothes I wear has risen, particularly the shoes.
I just have to remember that you’re wasting your time looking for something in particular, you find things. Or maybe they find you.
I did have a friend, a girl who enjoys simply buying things for friends, buy me a couple of new pairs of shoes from Marshall’s. They were both made in Vietnam, were name brands, one was Adidas.
They are far and away the crummiest pairs of shoes I’ve had since childhood when my parents used to thrust upon me these plastic soled copies of PF Flyers procured from a dept store called WT Grant’s. They were 2 dollars a pair and when you ran in the school hallways chasing friends and went to go around a corner, they turned in their rich kid sneakers and I just kept sliding on the hard plastic soles until I slammed into a row of lockers.
I think I secretly wished I’d break some bones so my overly thrifty parents could see the error of their ways and pay for an emergency room visit.
These Vietnamese shoes have no padding and the inner linings are made from this rough, thin canvas. Truly third world, I wonder if the Adidas name is a fraud? Do they put their name on such bottom tier garbage?
Funny I had about 3-4 pairs of a particular pair of Adidas about 6-7 years ago called the “Adi Racer” with goodyear soles. Now discontinued but ratings on Amazon agreed with my observations, at $80 they were a steal, incredibly durable and sized dead on.
(here, see what I mean: )
Now you can’t buy them?
As for my friend her reward for gifting her friends seems to be soliciting comments of gratitude and her good taste.
Is it wrong for me to weakly pretend I liked her selections?


Derek January 16, 2014 at 6:37 am

Great discussion to start John! I too am constantly looking at labels… I will admit my closet is a bit better than yours and while my everyday wardrobe does not look tattered, it does look the same everyday! Let me start by admitting I strive to find Union Made in the USA clothing. Let’s be frank here… even USA Manufacturers have sweatshops here in L.A. and New York. This has been frequently documented. When you find Union Made in the USA clothes it ensures that at least the workers have a voice/vote on their contract and working conditions. Of course I am not naïve enough to think there are not sweatshop conditions for some Union employees as well… not all Unions are strong in their support of workers but they certainly stand a better chance.

So my preferences are thus,
1) Union Made in the USA
2) Made in the USA
3) Fair Trade Certified… what is this? I do buy some clothes from Nepal as I like the retro look and they are often Fair Trade Certified. What does this mean? They claim that workers are paid above standard wages and work in good working conditions as certified by a third party group. OK, maybe???

The trouble as I previously stated is wardrobe choices… As I stated my wardrobe is very similar day to day as the choices of Made in USA are terribly slim. I can ALWAYS find, blue jeans, t-shirts, long sleeve tees, sweatshirts, underwear, socks, jackets, shoes, hats, gloves, dress shirts, suits, and flannels shirts. (Yes, I too get the clothes for Christmas by folks that want to dress me up in sweaters from third world sweatshops… they usually end up at Salvation Army!)

It does put a smile on my face and make me proud to say when having this discussion face to face with people, “everything I am have on was Made in the USA!” Folks do just need to try a little harder.


Derek January 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

There is more available if you care to look… the big question is are you willing to be part of the solution rather than the problem? Obviously doing the right thing can be a bit pricier but not always. We need to learn to help ourselves and one way is through supporting each other with our purchases. This certainly shouldn’t stop with clothing! Vehicles, tires, home products, are all huge purchases for many of us and should not be separated from the Made in USA discussion. We get better in this country when we help each other and buying Made in USA is a great start.
Is a great starting place for many items both Union Made and USA Made and is the most complete link for a good variety form Underwear, socks, pants both denim and dress, dress shirts, sweats, tees, and jackets.


John January 16, 2014 at 7:04 pm

The “buy American” philosophy might be more successful if significant solidarity could be expected but in the end what you’re really asking to do is for people to hurt themselves in the good faith it might trickle back to them. (not arguing against the concept but being a realist)
Back in the early 80’s as Japanese automobiles matured in their quality there were people advocating purchasing American cars like Chrysler’s K cars which were obviously inferior merely because this would keep America’s auto industry afloat.
Some did but most thought it was absurd and went ahead and bought Toyotas and Hondas anyway.
Perhaps an analogy which hits home with me might be the avoidance of Walmart. Many people tell me that since Walmart’s business practices are bad, they don’t shop there. I point out that nearly anything you buy, compared to other retailers- if you didn’t buy it at Walmart you paid more- often much more. Yes that’s quite true. So they can make their point for themselves and pay $115 for goods I pay $100 for- yet Walmart will exist anyway and they only hurt themselves.
The American way- capitalism, the good things in life, well hand in glove with that has always been being a smart shopper. If the meme here is I’m supposed to pay significantly more for something just to save the job of an American somewhere in the good faith it will trickle back- or that I trust he’s doing the same for me- that’s a tax that I am not convinced is sound or logical.
However if it comes down to Chevy vs. Honda and the values are more or less equal yeah I’m picking the bow tie. Not if it breaks 3x as often. That’s shooting myself in the foot for patriotism and if we really can’t do better maybe we deserve to fail.


DaJohn January 17, 2014 at 8:28 am

All or nothing huh? Giving up is the best option?

We bought Honda’s not for price but for quality. Consumers forced American car companies to be more competitive and thus increasing their quality. Don’t forget GM is the second biggest auto maker in the world today, well above Honda.

If you argument is that you are hurting only yourself by buying some cheap junk from target for 115$ over walmart for 100, then you are correct. Cheap junk is a waste no matter which crap enabling chain you buy it from. Without some respect for quality imbedded into consumerism, we will be doomed to the economic Darwinism that you seem to be in favor of. This is not to say there aren’t quality products from say, china, because there are. However in the end you get what you pay for. Try working a month of construction in a pair of boots you bought at Walmart, You’ll be at the red wing store with cash in hand.


John January 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Make sure you do your homework on those boots, friend.

Red Wing now outsources many of their products. Those are made in China.


da john January 19, 2014 at 10:52 am

“Red Wings shoes still make shoes here in the USA. They make high quality motorcycle and work shoes for men and have limited offerings for women.”

Sorry John, I didn’t know red wing had such a small choice of, as this blogger put it, “high quality” footwear for women.

150$ is on the low end for any quality work boot that you would plan on wearing 5 days a week for 2 years. Most of the people I worked with when I worked construction spent substantially more, knowing a quality boot wouldn’t leak like a sieve on the first rain storm.

If people wanted the high quality stuff and let these junk Chinese ones sit on the shelf, maybe red wing would have an incentive switch back to more high quality, maybe even American made, boots for women. The problem is people like the instant gratification of picking up cheap crap at bargain prices, even if it won’t stand up to the test of time.

What’s the answer? Vote with our wallet, just like this blogger did, return the junk, write an email, and continue on the quest for something that is worth the money.


Derek January 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

daJohn, your analogy about Red Wings is exactly what is currently happening with Carhartt. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Carhartt clothes as they used to be the standard for the construction industry, however now (just like the evolution of pick up trucks) they have caught on with the mainstream and are more widely worn. Anyway, Carhartt used to be exclusively Union Made in the USA and the Unionized construction industry supported them with our income whole heartedly. I’d say about ten years ago they started to send manufactureing to Mexico and then worse, in an effort to (their words not mine) “compete with Wrangler and other work clothes companies. we in the construction industry were never leaving them regardless of other brands becuase of their commitment to American workers, but they headed south despite our commitments. Initially we had a massive email campaign to botcott their products to which they tried to meet half way by saying they would always produce one style in each clothing category here and label them with an American made hang tag to identitfy such products. Well that was a meager effort at best and the boycott began.

In an effort to fill the gap, American clothing manufacturers started duplicating their clothing line except making it here in the USA with an unionized workforce. Today I have been getting wind that Carhartt is looking to bring more manufactureing back to the USA to try and regain marketshare they lost.

The unfortunate side of the story for them is now they do have REAL competetion in their line of clothing of which they never had before! The same could happen with RedvWing if they are not careful… Weinbrenner offers superb work boots that are Union Made in the USA.

This was a case where the Unionized construction industry di use their buying power to effect the decisions of a manufacturer. Whether the general public can ever achieve the unity to do the same remains to be seen?


John January 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Red Wing’s imported products go across the gender line, I know a few women in the construction industry and they can outwork most of the men on the jobsite so I don’t know where you’re going with that.
The point was blind loyalty to a brand might not be a wise thing . According to a Red Wing employee commenting in this forum thread:
In 2011 60% of their product was of US origin but it gets a little confusing from there. Some were “US made from imported materials” and he disclosed that they ship substantial amounts of their US tanned hides to China for assembly there. So whats a better boot, the one assembled in China from US leather or the US assembled product of leather from who knows where?
A big issue here is that as companies outsource, they don’t like to put their names on absolute junk, so they inevitably hand their Chinese partners their manufacturing know how to improve the product. Often secrets that used to be called industrial espionage to disclose. The Chinese will take what they taught them and while supplying their brand will also use that knowledge to ship something out the back door to the rest of the world or when their contract expires, directly compete with that brand in America.
I theorize this is the root of most of America’s economic problems- the decimation of the manufacturing sector of employment and it’s because during the 90’s we taught the Chinese how to make everything we used to. When the quality of Chinese goods rose the value lines become blurred and there becomes less reason for us here in the states or the rest of the world to care where it’s made.
The worst of it is that manufacturing know how is not something you can take back.
On the economic side of it, as factories closed their doors in the 90’s those jobs were replaced with service sector jobs at lesser wages. People refinanced their homes to stay afloat but that bubble burst. Wall street, lacking the traditional investment vehicle of people with patented ideas connecting with capital for manufacturing start ups , had to create new investment ideas- such as junk mortgage bonds. Which are not sustainable nor tangent economic growth.
The mortgage debacle nor wall street scandals were not the cause of the bad economy as widely believed, they were symptoms or results of it. What caused it was our consumer greed for cheap products and corporate greed for short term profits. Selling off the brick and mortar factory assets led to capital gains and corporate stock dividends that shareholders paid taxes on which is why Clinton nearly balanced the federal budget by 2000.


da john January 21, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I’m not reflexively backing red wings just because, they make a higher quality product weather it be the made in china boots, or their all weather work boots that I once wore, made right here in America. The fact that they are more expensive, means I have less money at the end of the day to spend on some junk crap. If you go to wal mart and buy a pair of brahamas, you will have plenty left over from that red wind budget to get a bunch of $5 dvds. Your choice.

The Chinese are taking what we taught them, and transferring that knowledge to a rising consumer class in china. The cracks in their economy are already visible, mass production has caused an environmental nightmare. All the cheap government loans that industry relied on to expand have become so problematic that the central bank is trying to increase interest rates. The first stress tests on banks have been so scary that some government run banks have technically defaulted. In essence, what they have found is now the more they pump money into the consumer economy, the smaller the rate of return. China is learning what we already know too well. Cheap credit, and a huge amount of consumer spending on throw away goods isn’t sustainable.

Greed is the name of the game in capitalism, if you think the greedy people at the top don’t see the trends of our spending and react then you are being naive. if you can get a pair of brahamas at wally world for 100, or at target for 115, but you choose a pair of red wings for 250 they know that, and will try to adjust their business model to get your money next time.

I think we have common views of the problem. However you are complaining about the past, mass exodus of manufacturing. It’s a done deal, start thinking about how to change it.

“The worst of it is that manufacturing know how is not something you can take back.”

You might not be able to take the know how back, but in the age of the internet, there aren’t any secrets left. It is Interesting to note that apple is building a net zero plant to build the next generation Mac tower right here in the USA. It isn’t because it’s more profitable to do so, it’s because they are getting sick of people asking why they don’t build more in America. People pressured, they bent to keep people happy. If people keep pressuring them, maybe the IPhone 10 will be built here.


John January 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Well Apple is a rather unique example, IIRC they had enough excess cash on hand about a year ago they could purchase Boeing and a handful of other Dow Jones corporations and have reserves to spare.
They have to deflect criticism as they have no excuse for not reinvesting such huge profits.
(I’ve long been an Apple hater anyway, for rational and irrational reasons) While their hardware is undeniably industry leading I always hated the way they get their hooks in all the content. Many apps that are free in Google Play are pay apps in Apple store. I have far more flexibility over MY music with Zune than I could have with itunes. (they’re still supporting Zune through Windows phone)


Derek January 22, 2014 at 7:22 am

Ironic that you start getting into electronics… I have just walked into the 21st Century by buying my first “smart” phone, the Moto X by Motorola, Made in the USA! …the only one that can say that…

And Red Wings do make many nice styles in the USA and Weinbrenner makes all their boots in the USA. Double H is pretty good for USA made western type boots or motorcycle boots vs work boots.


tennyson January 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

I found it sadly amusing when an OB contributor stated she’d not patronize the new Ralphs on Rosecrans citing the self-serve checkouts eliminated union jobs as she most likely trotted home, self-righteous in her clothes made in Bangladesh to watch her TV made in China, in her maybe Korean car. Learning that that the Salvation Army did not dispute a corporate statement advocating parents of gays should be shot I stopped contributing/shopping there, hit instead the Goodwill on Rosecrans and the new one in Hillcrest. For those times when donning the fancy is necessary the consignment shops abound/produce! Many consignment shop duds were pricey in their first lives and are much more likely to come with “made in USA” labels than anything I could afford (or even want) retail


DaJohn January 16, 2014 at 8:38 am

Everything from a thrift store was once new. People were employed in the design manufacturing, shipment and sales (or lack thereof.) While it’s an interesting idea to think we could all just buy used, our economy and standard of living depend on a consumption, if we had to all live on the wages goodwill payed we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We would be waiting for that Raplh’s to open up.

I applaud that girl for taking a stand against Ralph robotizing their workforce. You on the other hand “most likely” need some foreign produced means of conveyance to get around, don’t be so naive in your judgment.


tennyson January 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

My point, not well stated, is that far too often we fail to perceive all the intervening variables when taking a “stand” thereby rendering our positions politically meaningless/irrelevant taken only to in self-righteous satisfaction. Of course half the parts in my “made in America” Chevrolet were made probably in China as were those in my computer, my TV as well as the machine parts used to make “made in the USA” clothing. As you so succinctly state, we need to carefully examine all the economic shades of gray before we point our arrogant fingers at the “wrongs” if we are ever to resolve the issues that have created this fractured global economy.


John January 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm

From what I’ve seen all stores with customer check lines also always have a full service checkout line available too. With a line to wait usually.
Since all grocery chains are implementing this her posturing is rather pointless.
I didn’t like it at first but I’m getting used to it, I noticed Walmarts are using them too. The other day I was kind of proud of myself I was able to go through a 20+ item purchase in their self checkout line with nary a snag. It was difficult to fit it all on the platform though.
(self check relies on the weight of items you place in the bagging area. you have to place them there and leave them on the scale until the whole order is scanned)

As for the topical issues there are several here which may even be argued to be mutually exclusive or contradictory.

One being the “Global Socialism” philosophy inherent to criticism of overseas sweatshops. Anyone with a conscience who is aware of the living conditions of any real third world population naturally would like to see them have some of our creature comforts- even basic living standards. However we’ve already seen a degradation of America’s fortunes in the last few decades, how much more are we willing to give? Most often the people I see who feel the strongest about Global Socialism issues perhaps coincidentally do not have careers which are immediately threatened. At risk of stereotyping these would be people in academia, journalism, government social services, health care, etc. We’ve all lived in luxury here for quite some time, but when it’s you yourself in the soup line all of a sudden the idea of taking a dollar from America and giving it to someone abroad isn’t so appealing.

A second issue is quality of goods/value for price. I think we all acknowledge that the US union made brand labels are the top of the heap and even if it costs twice as much that’s okay if it lasts 3-4 times as long. Still I cant afford $100 shirts and $200 shoes. I want the best for what I can afford and if I can buy a $30 shirt made from nearly as good materials but the main cost difference is sweatshop labor well a lot of us still sleep well at night buying it because the $100 shirt was out of our league- and if you raised the living standard for that sweatshop worker that money comes directly out of my pocket or I’m going to get ripped off with a shirt that falls apart because something has to give.

So you can see it helps to know what the real issue is.

Funny enough it used to be an easy choice, the US product was always better and always more money. In the last two decades as American factories closed and the engineers were sent to China to teach them how to make better products so their companies could sell them under the same brand names the quality improved. American products try to stay competitive.

Now if I’m looking at an American product next to a Chinese product and their prices are similar, I’m actually scrutinizing the American product a little harder. Since the labor and environmental costs of the Chinese product are much lower what is the American product doing to compete? Are they that much smarter about manufacturing or is it really that they’re using inferior materials?


Derek January 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Anyone who wants a good list of links to Made in USA clothing can email me at I tried to post it but apparently it didn’t pass the test for appropriate content.



Derek January 17, 2014 at 5:19 am

Tennyson, I knew this issue would come up with Automobiles… your statement was, “Of course half the parts in my “made in America” Chevrolet were made probably in China “… Here is the BIG difference when it comes to Automobiles.

1) Fact, ALL autos use a considerable amount of foreign made electronic componants, however. Autos assmebled in the USA employ THOUSANDS of workers making living wages and benefits that contirbute to our communties and to YOUR community by spending their disposable income vacationing in your town as well.
2) Fact, autos from GM, Ford, and Chrysler in addition to some being assembled here, they are aslo DESIGNED here by Americans in high dollar engineering jobs. Those folks aslo contribute to our communties and YOURS.

The wide ranging touch of dollars paid to workers in the American auto industry go so much farther than the immediate jobs on the assembly line. These are good paying manufactureing and engineering jobs that touch ALL of us in their spending. Good paying meaning they have some disposable income through which they support those of us in the entertainment industry, travel industry, retail industry, local diners, the list goes on covering a vastly broad area of our society.

This is not exclusive to the auto industry, but it does present the best example as people say all the time, “my Honda was made here, or my GM was made in Mexico so what does it matter?”

The Honda was designed by engineers spending their income in another country and by a corporation spending profits in another country. The foreign made GM car was assembled by folks spending their income in another country. Best case scenario is assembled in USA by one of the three American auto companies. Second best is assembled elsewhere by one of the three American auto companies. Third are the cars assembled here from foreign auto companies as there is more money being put back into society by the Aemrican auto makers than the foreign ones.


Derek January 17, 2014 at 5:29 am

John, you confuse me… Your first post blasts the quality of foreign made goods and you tout the American made clothes you buy at the Thrift Store, then you post that if you find American Made goods as cheap as foreign made goods you scrutinize them before you buy the American made brand? HUH?

You continue to say that not patronizing the self check-out is pointless because all stores have them? I completely disagree. I have verbally refused to use self-checkouts at stores before when told there is no waiting there and had other customers hear me and feel empowered to do the same. If we all took the “everyone’s doing it, so I might as well attitude” change would never be initiated. And then you go on to talk about shopping at WalMart who has the greatest amount of recorded employee rights violations in the retail industry. It would seem to me that you have no concern for the working conditions and wages of your fellow citizens? I don’t know what your line of work is, but almost all of us are connected to each other in terms of our jobs being linked to the income of those around us. Even if you are retired, a well paid society will be less likely to cut taxes that will effect the community that you live in.


John January 17, 2014 at 7:52 am

I think you got all the points right. Sorry if they confused you.
Keeping it short and sweet, whether the cause is made in the us or self check, there is a point where if I’m shooting myself in the foot for the cause the goal should be clear and tangible if the sacrifice is significant.
So Walmart is evil. Is my $100 going to put them out of business or change anything? Are they really worse than Target et. al? Why should I pay that extra $15 if the benefit is almost exclusively to pat myself on the back or moral indignation over others as you seem to be practicing here in judging me?
It’s not like Walmart is on the brink of bankruptcy due to all the boycotts. So if it’s futile to pay more elsewhere why would I?


John Filthy January 17, 2014 at 10:08 am

Yes your $100 makes a difference. Just because it is a small difference doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. Walmart only has to have the lowest price when there is competition. Once they’ve eliminated the competition they can charge whatever they want.

Where you spend your money makes more difference than how you vote. Every dollar spent at Walmart is like voting for China. Not that Walmart is alone in that obviously.

Paying more to keep a smaller place in business doesn’t have to be about moral indignation or patting yourself on the back. It’s about keeping your options open and promoting quality.

Old time hardware stores (and there are a few left) are places you can go and get advice worth way more than a slightly higher price. An honest garage is another example. You can get a tool cheaper at Walmart, but good luck finding anyone to give you any advice. How many clueless zombies are there at Home Depot? Some of them can’t even tell you what shelf a product is on, let alone how to fix something.

The garage I go to charges more than Walmart Auto Service. They also tell me when I can fix something myself and where to get the part. What is that worth. With labor rates near $100/hour a lot.

Walmart creates low prices in part by hiring part-time instead of fulltime, union busting, and abusing tax breaks. When your taxes go up to pay for social assistance for Walmart employees who can’t afford to live and eat on their salary, how are you saving?

Futile for you maybe, but I’ll stick to my Walmart boycott anyway.


Debra January 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I agree with you 100%. Current TV has an excellent documentary, called “The High Price of WalMart.” VERY informative. (Whether we shop there or not, as a taxpayer, we are ALL subsidizing their profits).


John January 19, 2014 at 12:11 am

Interesting. What is the basis for believing a small hardware store employee could give you better advice than a Home Depot employee? Possibly tenure of employment? Logical fallacy, the longer he’s worked at that store, the less likely it his he’s done anything which could give him experience with the products he sells.
Just because you sell a product does not mean you have a lick of experience using it.
Which brings us to the next issue, if you’re on a mission to buy something at a store, don’t you already know how to use it?
Your philosophy is one some people share, which goes out the window every time I go into OB Hardware. Nice enough people, but asking them for advice is like asking your grandmother how to set the clock on the VCR. They do know what aisle each product is on, and that’s good enough for me.
The whole “small place VS big place” thing often comes down to this: The bigger one got that way because they were doing it smarter, more efficiently, with a better product at a better price. Now that they are big it’s easy to point at them as evil- but it’s doubtful its direct competitors (such as Target AKA Dayton Hudson corp.) conduct themselves differently.


John Filthy January 20, 2014 at 8:01 am

Not a belief, just a fact. Here’s a recent example: I went to Home Depot with an empty box of staples for a staple gun. I asked two Home Depot employees where I could buy more. One had no idea, the other sent me to the wrong section, I gave up and left. I went to a local outfit instead found them myself and bought them. (Home Depot sold them they just didn’t have anyone who could tell me where they were)
Another time I needed a piece of hardware to repair a tool. I didn’t even know the right name of the part. I went to Home Depot the guy suggested I buy the tool new again. Again I left without buying anything. Went to my local place and they told me the name of it, how to fix it, went and got the part for me. Just because I didn’t know the name of it doesn’t mean I couldn’t fix it.

Home Depot got big by buying in massive quantities (often low quality not better), paying minimum wage and hiring anyone who will walk in the door.


John January 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Well the last time I went to Home Depot I had knowledgable, friendly help-and the last time I went to OB hardware I asked for a bump proof entry lockset and they’d never heard of lock bumping. The time before that I paid to have 4 car keys made, and when I left and tried them in the car NONE of them worked. (they did make new ones)
Obviously the anecdotal experiences of you and I don’t mean much, all retailers have good and bad employees. Thus I asked what the basis of your determination was. I know for a fact Home Depot pays a lot more than minimum wage, I have no idea what OB hardware or similar stores pay but it’s a fallacy to just assume they pay more.
When I said “basis” I mean there’s no reason a guy who spends his whole day in ANY sized hardware store would know how to to contractor type stuff. It comes down to being a sharp individual- a person who retains information and knows a little about a lot of subjects. You might posit that a small hardware store, being inherently a dead end job, might not get as many of said individuals as a Home Depot where you could theoretically advance as high as you like in the corporate world.
Funny story about those staples. You must not have needed them badly. IIRC they’re like the Arrow T50’s they’re in the hardware aisle (across from the drawered hardware, next to nails and bulk wallboard screws) unless you want narrow crown, those are in the carpet installation parts aisle which is to the right rear of the major appliance section.


John Filthy January 21, 2014 at 5:40 am

Home Depot hires people at less than $1.50 over minimum wage. Your ‘facts’ are mistaken and it is easily verifiable. For every good experience someone has with an HD employer than are ten bad ones. Which is also easily verifiable.


John Filthy January 21, 2014 at 6:01 am

Here minimum wage is $10.25. Home Depot pays cashiers $11.00 and workers $12.00. A department supervisor $15, an assistant store manager $18. The shifts are all over the map too. Starting at 6am one day, late shift the next. Look on the web at all the Home Depot complaint sites and how many people complain about HD employees running away when people try to get help. I don’t blame them. I made more landscaping than Home Depot employees make. If you don’t believe me check or a similar site. I have friends who have worked there and they were all treated like crap and left for better jobs.


John January 21, 2014 at 6:39 am

California min wage is $8 an hour, you concede they pay $11, $12 and $15 an hour. Easily defined as “a lot more than min wage” so your claim that “my facts are mistaken” is a bald faced lie.
Your series of tirades might begin to have merit if you also cited statistics of mom and pop hardware stores.
Funny you were a landscaper. My friend used to own his own landscaping business and worked at home depot for a couple of years in the plumbing dept. making $15 an hour, and that was about 6-7 years ago when min wage was less. That was the basis of my knowledge about what they paid.
Let’s leave it at this. Some of us who don’t need our hands held and guided right to a product, know our way around a retail store and are sharp enough to not need a tutorial for a nut and a bolt we’re buying, would rather have the lower prices and larger selection of a Home Depot.
Seriously. You couldn’t find the staples at Home Depot and left without them. Your experience could never happen to me so I have a hard time relating to it.
I’ve shopped at the Sports Arena store several hundred times, literally, the only really bad experience was buying a really crappy jigsaw with pivoting head that didn’t lock right and was actually dangerous to use. I took it back and in the 2 months since I bought it they got new computers and changed the SKUs and the saw didn’t come up. (I’d lost the receipt but the saw was as new in the box) They refused to exchange it for credit on a better more expensive saw. I went home and sent corporate the kind of customer email that gets action. “I don’t know what happened this time, I usually get such great service here. All I wanted was a saw that wouldn’t hurt me when I tried to use it and employees were non responsive to my concerns.” (hello punitive damages!)
By 3 o’clock the following monday the store manager had left 3 messages on my answering machine pleading with me to bring the saw in right away. Funny when I got to the store the same girl who refused to take it back the last visit almost started to tell the manager she couldn’t take it back. The look he shot her was priceless.
(FWIW it was a chinese Skil brand saw, I traded up to a Dewalt US made jigsaw. $99 vs $34)


John Filthy January 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I’m talking about average wages in Ontario Canada where minimum wage is $10.25. The wages in California are lower.

Home Depot under-pays, over-charges and has less selection.

Here’s another example for you. Our community group is selling 100 gallon rain barrels for $55. You can get 50 gallon ones at the local garden store for $99. Canadian Tire retails a 50 gallon barrel for $119, and Home Depot sells the exact same one for… wait for it… $139!

I think you should wear orange when you go to Home Depot so you can help the likes of me. Maybe you have time to roam aisles and deal with management, I don’t have the patience for clueless employees, or the energy to threaten lawsuits.

When I went to buy staples I only went to Home Depot because I was shopping at a store nearby and I could walk over. I immediately asked a clerk where the staples where and showed him the box. First guy had no idea, after the second try I was directed to a section with all Arrow T50s and such. I needed Paslode flooring staples.

In the end it paid to walk out, because Home Depot only sold them in boxes of 10,000. I only needed 2,000. I went to Rona and bought them and they had a much better selection including boxes of 1,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 10,000.

I’m happy for your friend making $15/hour in the plumbing department. Anything less than that is not a living wage. So how far above the ridiculous CA minimum wage they pay isn’t important unless it gets over $15.

My friend just got offered a job at the Depot for $12/hour. The hours included shifts starting as early as 5am and as late as 3am. He passed on the job as it was barely worth the commute and not enough to support his kid.


John Filthy January 20, 2014 at 8:15 am

Home Depot also got big by selling everything under the sun. Take their garden sections for example. Why would I go to a hardware store to buy plants? The quality of their plants is lower than every actual garden store, and is lower than many other chain stores. Can I get cinder blocks a bit cheaper than some other places? Yes. If I get the wrong ones I better have an hour to waste waiting in the return line. This is a deliberate tactic, they understaff the returns desk on purpose to try and discourage you from bringing things back. I never had that problem returning something to OB Hardware. They are a uniquely small store though and don’t really compete with Home Depot or local Ace stores.


Debra January 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

AND, OB Hardware actually cuts glass for the panes of the old-fashioned windows, that I have in my 1941 house. Home Depot doesn’t. They sold me a piece of glass and a cutter (which I ended up breaking and cutting myself=waste of money). So I went to OB Hardware and they cut the piece I needed to fit, no problem.


John January 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Indeed I couldn’t find glass cutting service on their website but some information on the internet suggests they might. (maybe not at all stores)
Did OB hardware cut it in front of you on the spot? Or did you have to give them measurements and come back and pick it up? If it’s the latter perhaps it was outsourced.
Anyway Home Depot has free wi-fi.
I can’t sit outside OB Hardware and surf the net for free porn and troll on message boards. Sad.


Debra January 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm

They very politely cut the glass for me in the back of the store, wrapped it in paper and tape, then handed it to me–in less time that I spent hunting down a Home Depot employee, only to inform me they didn’t provide such a service. I also went to OB Hardware a few years back, to track down a nut that I needed for a bolt on a cheapy Chinese exercise bike, that I found immediately. I can’t tell you how many times I went to HD looking for the same thing and had to buy a whole package of nuts only to bring them home and find out they didn’t fit. Again, wasted money.


John January 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Yeah I don’t like Home Depot’s one price bagged hardware setup. Inevitably over priced (not as bad as autozone or oreilly’s) and shoddy quality.
With the loss of most of San Diego’s aerospace industries, there’s rarely any reason to buy hardware anyplace besides one of the surplus dealers in town. Surplus Depot (formerly industrial liquidators), Murphy’s (in El Cajon) and K-surplus in Nasty City all sell new surplus Mil-spec and NAS (national aircraft standard) for pennies on the dollar, usually by the pound. Much or most is stainless steel. (they have some metric too)


Derek January 20, 2014 at 8:46 am

Making Change at Walmart

The federal government just charged Walmart with illegally firing and
disciplining workers like me who stood up and went on strike. Can you
help me spread the word about this win?

Last summer, I went on a legally protected strike with many of my
Walmart coworkers from around the country. Instead of listening to our
concerns, Walmart fired me and disciplined or fired around 60 others.

Even though Walmart tried to intimidate us into silence, we didn’t back

We brought our case to the National Labor Relations Board. After months
of waiting, I’m so glad to hear that the government is no longer going
to tolerate Walmart’s illegal attempts at silencing its workers. While
this is just the first step toward getting those of us who were fired
for going on strike back to work, it also sends a big message to
Walmart. Walmart is not above the law.

It’s important that my coworkers and the world know that we have the
legal right to stand up for change, even to Walmart. Please share this
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Let’s send a loud and clear message that Walmart cannot break the law
without consequence. We know that real positive change can happen.
Walmart can’t stand in our way.

In Solidarity,


Colby Harris
OUR Walmart Member & Former Walmart Associate


Cape Maynard January 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I blame Bill Clinton. He signed NAFTA you know. Co-president Hillary was actually on the board of Wal Mart. Probably as a patronage job due to Bill being the governor of Arkansas – home of the most evil company on earf. But what difference does it make! She’s ready for 2016. And whatever happened to Obama renegotiating NAFTA? Campaign promises don’t matter once you’re elected. Kinda like all those shovel ready jobs and protecting civil liberties.


Derek January 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Cape, you can play the blame game all you want. There is enough to go around. Let’s organize for the future and to make positive change in this country. Apparently you don’t like the trade agreement NAFTA? Have you read about the TPP trade agreement that has been negotiated in secret without even Congress hearing the details and is about to be shoved down this countries throat? If so have you written your Congressman and Senators about it and expressed your disagreement?

Your lashing out at Democrats like Bill Clinton would lead one to believe that you vote Republican? If so do you really think they have been any better towards trade?


John January 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm

In this case there is due cause to scrutinize Clinton’s China friendly policies in the 90’s, the well known campaign finance scandal of 1996 where they were caught accepting contributions from Chinese nationals Clinton had long known from Little Rock can’t be ignored. He did alter a number of commerce dept. policies making it easier for companies to migrate, allowed technology transfers to China’s aerospace industries, (see Loral and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing) and organized trade junkets to China, with Ron Brown giving corporate heads airplane seats in exchange for campaign contributions.
However it would be disingenuous to believe George H.W. Bush would have done anything differently, because he also campaigned in 1992 promoting NAFTA.
Let’s face it, the blame can be cast everywhere and it’s counterproductive. While it helps to know how we got here I’m more concerned with who might have a way to get us out of the current decline.


Cape Maynard January 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

“Cape, you can play the blame game all you want.”
I think it’s important to point out the hypocrisy of the left. Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. He also renewed China’s Most Favored Nation Status after saying he wouldn’t. As a corporate shill of his home states biggest client (Walmart) how could he not? You know… the same evil company that had Hillary! on its board of directors for six lonnng yearrrrs. Funny how she never mentions that in her speeches. Also funny how when she ran as the carpet bagging senator of New York she promised to create 200,000 upstate NY manufacturing jobs while almost that many were lost during her term as senator. But hey, she’s READY for 2016. Put your fingers in your ears and say lalalalalalalala. You know last year she gave two paid speeches to the fine employees of Goldman Sachs for $200,000 each? Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. Talk about income inequality! And I thought that was only the domain for the likes of the 1% like Mitt Romney. Oh and one other thing. Did you know John “Did you know I served in Vietman” Kerry is a billionaire? He married up – twice actually. When he ran in 2004 I don’t remember the left talking about his wealth and all that. Mitt Romney is only worth $250,000,000 compared to Kerry’s $1,000,000,000 +. Crazy how that works. Now he’s the Secretary of State. But hey, what difference does it make. He’s a democrat. It’s OK, he gets a pass.

“Apparently you don’t like the trade agreement NAFTA?”
Exactly. I’m old enough to remember Ross Perot in 1992 sayin enacting NAFTA would result in a “giant sucking sound” of US jobs going out of the county. And he was right. Even been to north east ohio? I have. Lot of big empty factories that only employ security guards because the jobs that used to be there are now in Mexico. I’m for real free trade, not these rigged agreements where it’s pretty much a one way street.

“Have you read about the TPP trade agreement that has been negotiated in secret without even Congress hearing the details and is about to be shoved down this countries throat? If so have you written your Congressman and Senators about it and expressed your disagreement?”
Actually, I haven’t but will read up on it. So where does DiFi, Boxer and Peters stand on this?

“Your lashing out at Democrats like Bill Clinton would lead one to believe that you vote Republican? If so do you really think they have been any better towards trade?”
I do, but not blindly. I think so. Just look at all the foreign car companies that make their cars in right to work red states. Meanwhile GM (we lost $10,500,000,000 of taxpayer $ bailing them ouit) is making many of their cars in Canada and Mexico – China too. You know, Ah-mur-ican cars.


Derek January 20, 2014 at 8:24 am

Cape, there is obviously not much sense in a fruitful discussion with you as you have drank the conservative KoolAid of the Rush Limbagh’s of the world.

GM paid back every single tax payer dollar, as did Chrysler. The GOP is beholden to their corporate masters as many Democrats also turn out to be. I am not for Hillary or do I blindly think Bill did everything right. But contrary to you, I can admit when folks I voted for did not do as they said or follow a progressive agenda. In turn though, folks on the right never come around to admit that George Bush the deuce was the worst President ever and that he lied to the nation in order to start a war that cost us BILLIONS of dollars that unlike GM’s loan, will never be paid back.

But here too, that is dwelling in the past. I strive to look forward to what we can do to improve the country for ALL citizens. I am currently working in the entertainment industry. I can see directly that our jobs rely on disposable income. Frankly just about all jobs have a correlation to others peoples income and spending power. We rely on each other to get along and so we need to support each other. If stores see no one using their self serve check outs they will convert back. If companies (like Carhartt) see decrease in spending when they off shore production they will revert back. Because I make a decent wage I can afford insurance and support those in the insurance industry. Likewise I can support those in the restaurant industry from time to time rather than prepare all my own food. My income allows me to take my family on vacations and give tourism dollars to other economies like yours that so drastically depend on it. I can also afford reliable American cars that in turn allow those workers to add to the economy in the same ways I have just listed.

Here in the Midwest a typical vacation trip takes families to Florida in the wintertime for a break from the cold. It is very plain to see when traveling down there which states have higher income levels and can afford those vacations. Overwhelmingly the license plates are from the northern Midwest, east, and Canada. It is no coincidence that these areas have higher wages and therefore the workers can afford this break from the rat race. The non-unionized southern factories building foreign cars have capitalized on the fact that the south had no jobs due to the loss of textile and other industries and thrive on paying low wages and benefits to these workers.

If you want to discuss moving the country forward let’s do it… If you want to lament the sins of Bill Clinton, Hillary, Kerry, or even George Bush, it is a waste of my time and yours.



Cape Maynard January 21, 2014 at 7:52 am

“Cape, there is obviously not much sense in a fruitful discussion with you as you have drank the conservative KoolAid of the Rush Limbagh’s of the world.”
Oh… so just dismiss my points by casting me as a disciple of Rush? That’s just lazy. At least you didn’t mention Fox News. Kudos for that.

“GM paid back every single tax payer dollar, as did Chrysler.”
Really?!? NBC and CNN must be drinkin the same flavor Kool-Aid while listening to Rush (with the Pretender’s My City Was Gone playing in the background)…

U.S. exits GM stake, taxpayers lose $10.5 billion

U.S. loses $1.3 billion in exiting Chrysler

…and did you know Chrysler is now an I-talian car company? (cue stereotypical italian music)

Does Ron Burgundy Know That Chrysler’s Now an Italian Car Company?

“If you want to discuss moving the country forward let’s do it… If you want to lament the sins of Bill Clinton, Hillary, Kerry, or even George Bush, it is a waste of my time and yours.”
Before you can look forward you must look backward. The left doesn’t have a boogieman on NAFTA which is why they want to ignore the past. Their guy is married to the 2016 frontrunner. Forward!


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