Monthly Archives: July 2011

Is my Fridge “Made in the USA” or China?

Made in the USA

Outsourced. It’s a term you’ve heard used more and more often over the last few years. Many companies have relocated manufacturing and customer service positions overseas, presumably to cut down on labor costs. At a time when unemployment rates are high many Americans are finding it hard to get a job making a decent wage. In an effort to counter the trend of outsourcing consumers are voting with their wallets and buying American made goods instead of foreign products as often as possible. This Consumer Report goes into detail about which appliances are still made in the U.S. and which companies have moved manufacturing operations overseas.

I wanted to share this article with you because it brings up a very important point about manufacturing. With Americans choosing to buy American Made some crafty corporations have created a new label, “Assembled in the USA” for their products. The parts are manufactured overseas and shipped here to be assembled. This is a mixed bag of results because on the one hand some jobs are remaining here, but others are still being outsourced. In the world of appliances companies such as Whirlpool (who owns the brands Maytag/Amana, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air) manufacture their refrigerators, dishwashers, etc in the United States, but the replacement parts are made all over the world.

Why have so many manufacturing jobs been outsourced?

This means that when you buy a Whirlpool refrigerator you may see that it has been proudly “Made in the USA”, which is true. Many Whirlpool models are made in Ohio, but the replacement parts that you purchase for it may come from outside of the country. If you order a Whirlpool replacement water filter for your fridge you could get a part that was manufactured in Mexico or Taiwan. A Maytag refrigerator on the other hand could be made in the USA and have a water filter which is also made in the USA, like the UKF8001. Here is a list of the major brands and where their refrigerator filters are manufactured.

There is some good news on the horizon. While it will probably take some time to sort out the current unemployment issues and bring enough jobs back to the U.S. the process is already underway. According to this article from Area Development on reshoring, “American business executives are reconsidering their overseas operations and realizing that outsourcing may not be the best option.” The article discusses “reshoring”, which is the business equivalent of undoing the damage that outsourcing had on manufacturing jobs by bringing them back to Americans. CEO’s and business execs once thought of outsourcing as a cheaper way to compete with other companies, but now higher shipping and transportation costs combined with tax breaks and incentives are luring some manufacturers back to the U.S.

You’ve Got Mail

Thornton, CO

A resident of Thornton, Colorado, Chris works for Oracle America selling hardware and software. His work schedule allows him to work from home a couple days a week, but Chris tells me he very rarely drinks water directly from the tap. “The water is so bad coming from the city,” he explains, “it’s very hard water with lots of minerals in it”. Because of the poor water quality he relies on the filtered water dispenser on the fridge to get drinking water. He knows to replace his filter when the indicator light changes to red, but this time when the red light came on he had a decision to make.

Chris knew he needed to order some replacement filters for his refrigerator, but didn’t know how much longer his current fridge would hold up. He had ordered from before back in 2005 and wanted to order another case of 6 filters to get the bulk pricing and free shipping, but what if his fridge stopped working? So he sent an email to customer service and was “astounded that I got an email response in less than 5 minutes, literally. Two minutes later I had a response from a customer service manager” to explain returns and exchanges policy. Chris tells me he was amazed not only at how fast the response was, but also at how thorough the information was that he was provided, “it was almost over-explained” and the quick response “answered my question to a tee.” He was able to confidently place his order for 6 new water filters, knowing he could always return any filters he didn’t need if his current system stopped working.

You've Got Mail

When I asked him what brought him to our store he replies, “The website was great. I loved the side-by-side filter comparison chart that showed the best filter and the next step down.” When he first bought the fridge it came with the lower grade model from the manufacturer. After reading the filter comparison on the fridgefilters website he chose to go with the upgraded filter because it removed quite a few more contaminants. Now with his current refrigerator he only has to replace the filters about once a year. “You are one of the best companies out there selling online,” Chris jokes with me, “the only downside is only dealing with you once every 5 years”. I think that’s a problem we can all live with for now.

A huge thank you to Chris S. of Thornton, Colorado for taking the time from his busy day to speak with me.

The Seven Foot Knoll

I was visiting my sister in Baltimore over the weekend when I saw this really cool lighthouse known as the Seven Foot Knoll. Obviously, it is not in use anymore and has been moved to shore to preserve it as a historical sight, but it used to sit out in the water at the mouth of the Patapsco River. When the lighthouse was in use the light keeper and his family had to live inside of it for long periods of time because there wasn’t any easy access to land. They would take everything they needed out with them, including livestock and food supplies. For drinking water the lighthouse funneled rainwater from the roof into 2 large cisterns.

Seven foot knoll
Seven foot knoll cistern

The biggest problem with collecting the rainwater from the roof was the lead that was washed into the cistern with it. Salt spray from the ocean caused the lead roof of the lighthouse to corrode so when it rained the lead mixed with fresh rainwater and contaminated the cistern. Lead is highly toxic and is one of the contaminants that you really don’t want in your drinking water. To neutralize the lead they added powdered chalk to the collected water. Fortunately, modern filters are far more effective at reducing lead, but in 1902 it was a standard practice for the light keeper and his family to add chalk to the water.

Seven foot knoll cistern - sign