Ever since we launched our new line of LED UberLight task lights in 2008, we’ve been telling all who will listen how wonderful they are.
Well the New York Times has confirmed that not only are LED lights more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, they also require less energy in their production. In fact, “the energy used for incandescent bulbs is almost five times that used for compact fluorescent and LED lamps.
It won’t be long before the standard household 60W incandescent bulb is replaced by energy efficient LEDs. Read the full article here.
This is that wonderful time of year when Alice and I hop onto an Air Canada flight… destined for Shanghai.
Before I get to the airport I take my last deep breaths of Toronto air (not the best, but relative to Shanghai’s it’s like a stroll in the forest) and prepare to sit like a sausage in a meat package for the next 16 hours or so. Needless to say, not my favorite way of spending a Sunday afternoon. Hey, ya gotta suck it up for the cause right?
The nice thing about going away is that I get to spend the next 10 days with my wife Alice. My best friend, soul mate, and for the next 10 days or so, my lifeline, since she’s also my translator. The trip this year will be filled with lot’s of fun and excitement. A trade show in Shanghai, then off to Shenzhen and next to Guangzhou for visits to our factories. After a week of this, there will be a welcome two days off in Hong Kong (Alice’s birthplace) for a much needed rest, and perhaps if there’s time, the worlds best $20.00 Swedish massage.
For those of you who travel for business, you know how exhausting it can be. Yes, we’ll miss the kids (really we will), and yes, it’s going to be a pain in the butt trying to find Wifi zones for my iPhone so I can get to my emails, but traveling is also a bit of a refresh from the daily grind. We get to meet with our partners, break bread (or rice) with them, and hopefully form new friendships. It’s actually a pretty cool perk if you want to know the truth.
And finally, I’d like to also extend a warm L’Shana Tova to all of our Jewish friends and family. To celebrate the season, this morning I ate two pieces (a first for me) of honey cake made by Hava, a friend of my sisters. With apologies to my Aunt Ruth, this cake blew my socks off. HONEY CAKE RULES!
I haven’t read this yet, but I’ve already put it on my Amazon wish list. Written by Ellen Ruppel Shell, and reviewed by Leah McLaren of the Globe & Mail, Cheap: The High Cost Of Discount Culture sounds like a non fiction book worth reading.
What price as a culture do we pay for “cheap-goods”? I personally think we pay a very high price. I can understand why there is a need for low cost goods, not everyone can afford the best after all.
What I have the most problem with is what happens to the goods priced in the middle. Not the most expensive (and most often substantially overpriced), but the stuff that is priced at a moderate level, that represents value and quality. Too often these goods are being squeezed out by mass retailers who’s only interest is providing their customers with the lowest cost (and often the poorest quality) products.
Perhaps the great equalizer will be the Internet. For many consumers, if you can’t find what you want at retail, usually a few clicks with your favorite search engine will reveal some hidden gems. It’s just too bad that our culture has forced the removal of real choice from the retail landscape.
Once in a while it’s nice to know that I am not going entirely mad. In last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Karen von Hahn wrote a wonderful article entitled “Purveyors of tat beware: Consumers are onto you”, celebrating the return to a consciousness for quality products in our society.
Why do I fear impending madness? Well, as one of the lone producers of high end (mostly Made in Europe) fabric care and steam cleaning products, our price points are sometimes two, three, four or even five times higher than the typical big box stores. Compare a home ironing board at one of the big box stores for $29.95 to our Made in Italy C60 (The Board™) for $149.00 and you’ll see what I mean. The Board™ is a thing of beauty though. We continue to make our ironing boards mostly by hand, and it has a solidness that is from another era. Still, for most people, the thought of spending that much for an ironing board when the alternatives are so cheap is an almost impossible hurtle.
But as Ms. Hahn writes, “we all grew up with the old adage that I am not rich enough to buy cheap”. Yes our version of an ironing board costs five times more, but it will probably last five times longer. Maybe even a lifetime.
There are times when I really believe there are only a handful of consumers left who appreciates quality. Of course we could produce a $29.95 ironing board as well. But honestly, why even bother? Ms. Hahn directs her readers to a Finnish design company called iittala, who’s website laments our “buy cheap” society in a doctrine they call “Against throwawayism“. It seems there are others out there that understand that “cheap” doesn’t always mean it costs less.
But this poses another good question, and that is, “how do you determine quality”. “Brand, Price”? Tricky stuff to be sure. I can’t say I really know the answer. Many of us have bought expensive items and been disappointed, I know I have.
The high level of marketing has made it almost impossible to know which brands to trust. As a manufacturer, I know we are only as good as our product quality. I hear of 10-20% returns for defective or deficient merchandise at mass retail and I shake my head in disbelief. I wonder if this can be sustainable Maybe the bigger question is should it be sustainable?