It was a simple task, or so I thought. One of the temples on my favorite pair of eyeglasses — the pair with the Transitions® lenses that are perfect for reading outdoors — broke. I really like the original frames that were less than two-years-old — an inexpensive, yet stylish design from the John Lennon Love collection — and set out with the intention of having my optical shop pop out the lenses and put them in an identical frame. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for — something I’ve heard over and over and now have experienced first-hand.
Courtney from the optical shop told me that it might be difficult to find the same frame, as designers change styles every few years. And if she couldn't, I would have to have new lenses cut, because each frame is unique and requires specially cut lenses. Not wanting to pay for new lenses also, I kept my fingers crossed while she contacted the frame vendor. As luck would have it, the vendor still carried my original frame and would ship it to the shop. I left with a claim receipt and the process of a call a week later to let me know the glasses were ready. So far, so good.
"A week later" came and went without a call. Needing my glasses for some outdoor reading, and thinking I may have misunderstood Courtney, I called the shop. After answering questions and being placed on hold on three separate occasions while the technician searched and searched for my order, I received the bad news. The new frames had come in, and the lenses didn't fit. Same frames, same part number, same vendor – slightly different size.
The shop now is waiting on new lenses and expecting them any day.
What happened? My husband knew right away when I related my conversation to him: "It's because the frames were made in China."
I called the shop today under the guise of making sure that the new lenses would be the same as the originals. I happened to get the person on the phone who had actually tried to put the lenses in the new frames and asked her where the frames were made. She didn't miss a beat: "China. When I talked to the vendor about the lenses not fitting, she said they could send another frame, but it probably would not be the right size either. Every batch they receive from China is different."
My particular situation really is a relatively minor inconvenience, yet the inconsistency it brought to light is an example of one reason Chinese products are considered to be inferior.
Researching this issue on Google, I ran across a blog post from NJ.com that reminded me of my part in this whole mess. The post, "As consumers, we're killing job growth," made me stop and think about my original eyeglass-buying experience in which I told the sales person that I didn't want to see the higher-priced frames. The economically priced (cheap) frames were good enough for what are essentially prescription reading glasses necessary to compensate for a slight astigmatism that makes the three-for-$20 glasses at the big-box stores unacceptable (they give me headaches).
In this post, the author writes about the mindset of the American consumer and worker, which appear to be working against each other: "As consumers, we demand low-cost goods and services, often willing to travel some distance by car to a business out of our way, believing we can save a buck. At the same time, as American workers we demand jobs that pay a livable wage for all who are able to work and earn a living. But by holding fast to these beliefs, we are actually lessening employment opportunities and earning power for the millions entering the job market annually.
"If we are serious about putting Americans back to work, earning a livable wage and redeveloping our local downtown business base, an important piece of the solution is actually quite simple.
"Stop patronizing businesses that buy cheap, and often dangerous, goods from China, which is driving their economy to become the largest the world has ever known … it is better to pay a few more bucks for a safer product that is going to benefit the local economy."
There you have it, my friends. I'm seeing red not just because the cheap Chinese-made frames I originally bought were of inferior quality, but because, looking in the mirror, I also see my red face for my complicity in a problem that has a far-reaching impact on our nation's economic health. I confess that I just don't pay enough attention to where the things I buy are made, or how much of a big-box store's inventory comes from China (reportedly 60 percent at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club). Shame on me. I have to do better.
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