Saturday, July 21, 2018

The 99 Cent Store, Made in China?

by Steven Lane (writer), Simi valley, Ca and Austin, Tx., November 22, 2006


I have visited little tiny pieces of the Peoples Republic of China but actually when I was there, I am not sure you could call these places China. Hong Kong was China but the Brits were running the joint. Macao was China but the Portuguese were the pit bosses in that little gambling mecca, and Taiwan used to be China before Chang Kai-Shek was sent to his room by Chairman Mao.
The British left their mark, they still drive on the left side of the road in Hong Kong, but a scant few leagues away on the island of Macao we go it American style. I don't know what they do in Taiwan, they might drive down the middle of the road. Taiwan can't afford to piss anyone off or there could be a new flag flying at the CKS airport before you could say "steamy dumplings". But this isn't a travel piece, this is about a question that I think of often, I am not politicizing it, I am not beating my chest in angst over it, I am not trying raise up a nationalistic battle cry. I just want to know.
Try this on and see if it fits. It seems that 99% of all non food items in the 99 Cent store are MADE IN CHINA.
My question is how do they do it? Give me a cause and I can easily become one of those hand wringing liberals that feels a personal obligation to every human being on earth. However, let's just get the "The Godless Commies use child labor and political prisoners as slave labor", out of the "mix". Not that it doesn't happen, I am accepting that it has to be part of the program.
Here's my dilemma, I happen to know for a fact that the 99 Cent store will pay a maximum of forty cents for any given item from it's wholesalers. You got it, that five pound kielbasa sausage you bought last week, for less than a buck, was purchased for 40 cents or less. That's the max, not the bottom price. (feel free to use this info at cocktail parties, it's very impressive to other people that you are "in the know") So, I am assuming that the entire Chinese manufacturing team is positioned in some sort of Walmart inspired Gulag and is getting paid "zero", "zilch", "nada". Labor free!
Here's the rub, that 8" by 10", curved glass and aluminum picture frame with the etched likeness of Betty Boop you bought last week is made out of "real" materials. Materials that have to cost something even if there is no cost of labor to get the material. Someone in China is selling the raw goods and someone is buying them. Money is crossing palms.
Then that completed item is shipped to the U.S. The ship and the fuel for it to get here were not free. We know that as soon as the unloading of that boat began and the first truck hit the road, the "no labor" ride ended. The Teamsters don't ride for free. Then, there has to be a middleman between the Chinese producer, along with payment to an importer. The delivery company has gotta have his "pound of flesh". And this is "All In", "Done and Dealt" for less than 40 cents.
Could someone please explain how this can possibly work economically. The possibility of any "loaves and fishes" scenarios have already been ruled out as improbable.

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting!”
Agatha Christie

About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on The 99 Cent Store, Made in China?

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By Adler on November 22, 2006 at 10:28 pm
I've lived in both Europe, and Asia for 10 years each. I've sort of lived the Ex-Pat lifestlye. Then got stranded in Arizona. While In Asia, I ran OZ/ NZ, SE Asia, the Pacific-Rim, northern Asia, Japan everything out to India, including Japan. How do the Asians / Chinese do it? I could walk into my local grocery store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and buy Skippy (Smooth or Chunky), any brand of Cereal you could name, British Jam, German Jelly, Japanese noodles, Canadian Waters, French sparkling water, any fine selection of wine or liquor. How do they do that at half the price we pay here. MacDonald's, Burger King, KFC, every franchise that you can think of is in Asia @ half the price. And, it tastes even better there! I'm not sure if we should comment on how they do it, but how "We" do it. Aren't most of our Auto Industries in the toilet? I can go on and on. I've been around the Planet, and we with all over our educated study have never studied the planet. Asians, and Europeans have.
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By Annonymous on June 21, 2007 at 03:14 pm
Well, I think corporate greed does not run rampant everywhere else like it does here....
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By Geddy on July 08, 2007 at 11:22 am
It is called dumping. They sell products at below cost, much like the "loss leaders" at your local supermarket. They did it for years with steel back in the 80's. Mind you, these are not high quality items, but they know foreigners are always looking for a bargain and are greedy. It also serves to disrupt our economy. Using the steel I mentioned as an example here's how it works: During a housing boom, the plumbing supply house I worked for sold galvanized pipe for water lines. They could buy steel pipe from China for 1/2 what they paid for American made. The supply house' markup was the same. As the middleman they still made 10cents a foot for everything they sold. The plumber building the house would much rather buy the cheaper pipe because it increased his profit on the job phenominally. The pipe would also often split at the seams a few years down the road and the plumber then had another source of income. American steel manufacturers complained loudly knowing their product was superior but more expensive. They lost millions (billions?) in sales to the foreign product forcing many out of business. This allows the Chinese to raise their prices since there is little competition anymore and they recoup their previous losses. They now also have a well established "pipeline" if you will, for foreign trade partners. With these established trade avenues they can sell higher profit items like silk to willing buyers at enormous markups.
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By VeroniqueChevalier on September 23, 2007 at 04:56 pm
You may now add many food items to the list of non-food items found not only at the 99 Cent Stores, but also at Trader Joe's. Now that is a really scary thought. They don't have the sort of environmental strictures that we have in the US. It's enough to put me on a permanent diet, imagining what sort of toxins may lurk in that strand of Chinese garlic or that package of already fried rice.
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