Why have so many American firms thrown in the towel?

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

This writer was greatly disappointed recently when he needed to purchase a product from a large local store. You see, I was a volunteer. And like all volunteers, from time to time one needs to help toward fund raising for an upcoming function. In my case the president of our group asked if someone would buy a fund raising package of items worth at least $35 as part of a silent auction - I must have been standing up at that time and got willingly volunteered.

Knowing the function would have a good number of working men and women as well as union people who support purchasing American made products, as well as buying local, I set off on my mission. The first two purchases were wines made in Wisconsin, including one from the Door County Winery. Two wine glasses came next. With the wine and wine glasses in hand, it made sense to buy a nice hard cover book to read (listed at $29.95 but discounted greatly). A basket was found to hold the items, a few buttons added to promote Sheboygan County brats, and lastly a nice looking towel for the basket to keep the items from moving and breaking - but that is were my problem and disappointment came about.

The Sheboygan Mall is where I headed. It was nearby, there are some large stores and I knew at least one of them had a good selection of towels. While I will not mention the store by name, I will discuss my experience of what I found and did not find.

The towels were located near the southwest part of the store. While it felt like an hour, I spent about 15 minutes looking through the different neatly stacked towels; including bath, regular and wash towels. In one location I found a good selection of towels made in Turkey. In another area India had a strong presence and selection of bathroom towels. Finally I found China, not the nation, but their large selection of bathroom towels - these took up a fair amount of room. As you might now expect, I found no tag or notation “Made in America”.

As a last resort I asked a clerk, a nice young man who was willing to look to see if he could find any towels made in America. I quickly stopped him and asked if he knew if they had any in stock - he did not. I asked him if his employer had explained what areas might have American made products - he said no. When I left the store, a check-out clerk asked if I found what I was looking for - I politely said no, at least nothing made in America.

Knowing Cannon towels were a common American made product found throughout the country at one time, I went to the Internet and found they were still business selling towels as were a couple of other U.S. companies. Then I feared, were American towels being blacklisted?

It would seem almost anti American that a large store would not have some American towel product for customers to select from - but no. It felt like a slap at the American worker who earns money here and who are willing to shop locally but are prohibited of having a choice. For some of us who have served our county, one might go so far as to say that keeping American products off the shelf is not only unfair, it could cross the line and be unpatriotic?

When I go to a store shopping, I’ll buy a mixture of items. If I buy cheese, I’ll try to buy Sargento, Gibbsville or other area cheeses. And if I’m out of town buying for the grill, I’ll try to buy Johnsonville, Miesfeld or other local meats. I make an effort to buy local and American.

But maybe not selling America products somehow is more profitable? Maybe shipping jobs overseas without a concern about our workers has some strange advantage? Maybe I should not have gone shopping? As for the towel I needed, sadly I found a nice quality (like new) American made Cannon towel at the St. Vincent DePaul resale store. Next time I need American made towels, like my American made tennis shoes, I’ll have to buy them online.

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