Tag Archives: lighting

Prepping for the Great Purge and one funny short story

As you all know, my New Year’s resolution is to attempt the seemingly impossible: live without Chinese-made goods for one year. The task involves not only boycotting things made in China, but also cleansing my belongings of all Chinese-made possessions (save for Apple products, because honestly, who can live without them?). I have received a few comments from folks who want to know a bit more about the “Great Purge” as I have come to call it. To appease my readers, I am writing this post to clear up any confusion about what the fateful cleanse will entail.

I have decided that the Great Purge will happen over the course of March. Soon enough that it will keep true to my resolution (and keep you entertained), but far enough away to allow for significant preparation—you know, buy the essentials before I trash everything.

You may be asking, “Well, why the preparation?” The long and short of it being to prevent the sudden realization that I am out of clothing, or in need of bed linens, or a toothbrush, to name only a few.

Why not rid yourself of everything at once? Why not do it in one post? Mostly, this is because of the large amount of work it requires and the little time I have to do it on the weekends (when I do much of my writing and researching). In addition, my job requires long hours of grading and lesson planning that spills over into, and greatly occupies, the weekend. But, I am also planning to do this over four or five posts in order to focus on one room, or area of my life, every week. This strategy will allow for a more in depth study of what I need to get rid of, and, consequently, what I will have to re-buy or live without.

Because I am not rich, nor a masochist, there will be a few exceptions. So I might as well be upfront with you and list them:

  • I will get rid of all of the made in China items in my apartment that are mine. I will not discard my roommate’s belongings that are in the common areas, because, well, I am assuming he would be pretty unhappy if he walked in the front room one day to place himself on the couch, only to find it missing (just checked: made in China).
  • I will not get rid of the large appliances that came with the apartment. Luckily, I won’t have to (just checked: all appliances are by Frigidaire, which are “designed, assembled, and engineered in the U.S.A.”).
  • I will not discard any of my work material that the school requires me to have.  This is because I want to keep my job (just checked, my coach’s hat: made in China).
  • I will not get rid of any of Apple products. I am not sure I really need to explain why.
  • I will not toss anything that is of significant sentimental value. The only thing that I can think of off the top of my head is my first mandolin. It was $50 from musicicansfriend.com, and was, of course, made in China.
  • I will not get rid of any gifts whose getting-rid-of will offend the gift-giver.  Why? Because relationships are worth so much more than stuff.

OK, that just about wraps up the “Great Purge,” now on to a funny story. The other day, the light bulb in my closet burned out. No big deal. I went to the cupboard and pulled out a replacement bulb, which was prominently marked with its country of origin. I’ll let you guess… China. Dang! I had to dress in the dark for a few days until I went to the store and found a bulb that was made in the USA. I only buttoned my shirt incorrectly once.

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Made in Germany OR China

A few weeks ago, one of my car’s headlights went out. Rather than the typical reaction saved for automobile malfunctions, I was touched by excitement. While staring at the one-eyed buggy that was my car, I remembered this blog! I would now be able to track down the origin of car light bulbs! This is probably the only time in my life when I will be happy that I need to replace anything on my car.

AutoZone is the only place I shop for car parts. Besides being fairly common in California, their employees have always been helpful, making it easy to “Get in the Zone.” Anyway, I waltzed on up to the counter and asked for a light bulb.  Watching the computer as the attendant typed away, I could see that I would have a fairly wide selection of light bulbs, which is great news for a guy that can’t buy anything made in China.

Per my request, the AutoZone guy brought out the cheapest bulb.  Immediately, I flipped to the back and searched for where it was made.  The package read: “Made in Germany or China.”  Made in Germany OR China, eh?  Well, which one? 

I could have easily asked for another bulb, but this perplexed and intrigued me.  Up to that point, I had always assumed that every product would indicate exactly where it was made, and again, I assumed that there was some law dictating that.  But “Made in Germany or China” had a particular non-exactness about it.  I decided to investigate.

After poking around the ole interwebs, I discovered that marking a product with the country of origin was originally codified in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.  Yes, the same Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that Ben Stein droned on and on about in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  As Ben Stein says, the Tariff Act of 1930 was passed to “alleviate the effects of the… anyone, anyone… the Great Depression.”  Essentially, it raised tariffs on a number of imports in hopes of raising revenues for the cash strapped federal government.  (You can read the Tariff Act of 1930, and its many amendments, in its entirety here, but be forewarned, it is an arduous and boring read.)

The Act also required imports to be marked with the country of origin whenever possible, assumedly to discourage people from buying foreign-made products.  Section 1304 of the Act delineates the basic rules of marking country of origin: it must be plainly stated, in English, in a conspicuous place on the item or its packaging.

But can two different countries be listed?  What about “Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China?”  The authors seem to have foreseen possible complications with wording.  To this end, section 1304 also dictates that the Secretary of the Treasury (who oversees the collection of duties on imports) has the power to “determine the character of words… which shall be acceptable as indicating the country of origin.”  Essentially, Representatives Smoot and Hawley did not define specific wording, but left that open for future modification.  Which was a really good idea.

We are living in a highly globalized world.  That is to say, the products and services we consume come from all corners of the globe.  Let’s say I buy a computer.  That computer may have been “Designed by Apple in California,” made out of components from Japan, from minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that were finally assembled in China.  And when I have problems with my computer, I call a guy in India for tech support. 

So, where was this computer made?  Good question!  A lot of places, I suppose.

Let’s get back to today’s question: What are the current rules for indicating the country of origin in our highly globalized world?  To find the answer, I headed over to the US Customs and Border Protection (henceforth CBP) website and looked up the rules for marking the country of origin on US imports (link is a download).

Cognizant of the fact that many of the products that we consume are made in a multitude of countries, the CBP’s rules are fairly loose.  For example, if a product goes through different levels of production in different countries, the only country it must be marked with is the last country where the product went though “substantial transformation.”  This is why most things we buy only have one country listed, though the components, and the raw materials those components are made of, are seldom listed.

More importantly, the use of the words “assembled in” are totally fine, as well as the “from components of” phrase that usually follows.  But neither are required.  In fact, you don’t even have to include “made in” in most cases—one just needs to name the country!  Because there is very little else prescribed by the CBP, producers are allowed considerable play with what they write.

Unfortunately, neither of these points adequately answer whether or not listing two countries with “or” in between them is legal (i.e. “Made in Germany or China”).  It seems to be in contention with the Tariff Act’s original language that the country of origin must be clearly stated.  Perhaps I will write the CBP and ask…

Full Disclosure:  I decided to write Sylvania instead, as I am assuming that a private business will get back to me a little quicker than the gubment.  Here is what I wrote: “Dear Sirs, I recently purchased an H7 standard performance light bulb for my car.  I am very conscious of where the products I buy are made.  You indicate on the packaging of this bulb that it was “Made in German or China.”  Well, which one?  I am concerned that this is misleading to consumers, as well as in violation of 19 U.S.C. 1304 which stipulates that the country of origin must be clearly and exactly marked.  “Made in German or China” has a certain non-exactness about it.  Thank you for your time, Josiah”

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