Market Forces

I recently had occasion to buy a bedside lamp. I am not a fan of the harsh overhead lighting style known as the ‘main light’. I prefer side-lamps in the living room, and as little intrusive light as possible. I thought it might be nice for me to have one by the side of my bed. If I wake up early, it is very dark in Beetley, and a small lamp means that I don’t have to use the big light in the bedroom.

I didn’t need anything fancy. Just one of those small pottery round bases, with a shade about six inches across. As our local branch of Tesco is a ‘superstore’, selling almost anything you might need, I thought I would try there first. I quickly found exactly what I needed, in a neutral colour, complete with fabric shade. Fully wired, and complete with a sealed plug. The plug is fused, but has no real third pin for the earth, just a stub. So if the bulb blows, it will trip the electrics in the fuse box. But they are all much the same, so I bought it.

How much would you expect to pay, for a complete lamp like that? I thought I would go to £20, and happily pay that for something I not only wanted, but actually needed. I knew that I would have to pay extra for the screw-in bulb to go with it, but that’s life. But I looked at the price tag, and was surprised to find that the lamp and shade cost just £5. This big chain store can buy this product in, allow for shelf space to display it, and expect a decent profit from selling it to customers. And all for £5?

The clue to this was in the country of origin. ‘Made in China’. I cannot imagine how low production costs must be in that country, to supply a pottery base with approved EU wiring, and a sturdy fabric shade too. Then they have to promote it to foreign buyers, pack it into a carton, and send it by ship or aircraft all the way around the world, to end up in a shop in central Norfolk. Trying to break down the overall costs; salaries, shipping, raw materials, marketing, all just made my head ache. How can they possibly sell this for the relatively paltry sum of £5? People pay more than that for a ‘designer coffee’, in some trendy establishments.

I should be a happy customer. I got my lamp, and it works well. But I couldn’t help wonder how all this had destroyed similar industries in Britain. Paying Chinese people a pittance to work in factories making those lamps does not sit well with me. It doesn’t just spell the end of manufacturing in this country, but also does nothing for the individuals in China.

I had to buy a bulb of course. That was made in Britain, and cost me £2.50, half the price of the complete lamp. Is this what they mean by ‘Market Forces’, I wonder?

44 thoughts on “Market Forces

  1. You are so right, Pete! But the people need to have work, in my thought not to prepare civil wars. 😉
    Be true, the production of all these low cost things will come back to Europe. Growing lifestyle in asia will manage it. Have a nice day, Michael. We today have very British weather, Its raining cats and dogs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Thin so too, Pete! Some of our german money laundry organizations are not able to bring the money from the UK to other states. USA is watching. Here in the region we have a lot of businesses which have some covered businesses in the UK too. During investigation i only found a cummulated address, and Google Maps said nothing. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember when we were saying all this about Japan and its products…..sorry just a memory there…..seems everything I touch is made in China…..I mean a $800 iPhone cost about $3 in labor in China…..consumers are help cause this in some ways….then the poor cannot afford a Ferrari…I know because I still do not have one…LOL cuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. China has been operating that same ‘Japanese model’, chuq. Start small, making crap cheap. Then move into the high end electronics field, and diversify into huge industry like nuclear, cars, and electrical power. It won’t be long before they own and operate companies in the west, (they already do in Britain) and then they will not only control the supply of manufactured goods, but also the world labour market.
      The poor will never prosper, whether Chinese poor or English poor. They are just there to be exploited.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Profits and greed, Jennie. I could afford £20 for a lamp, and would pay that. Then they could make them in the UK, and provide investment and employment. But they would sooner exploit workers in foreign countries, and let other people worry about the collapse of manufacturing and job opportunities at home. It’s the very worst face of capitalism, and it’s coming home to roost.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The stamp that people like to see on articles they purchase is Made in America, because we have the same issues- cheaper labor in foreign countries. So it’s now become a sense of pride to support local businesses and industries. Best to you, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep. Market forces. Capitalism. Whatever name it has – basically means the workers, wherever in the world they might be, get shafted and the bosses get rich. And keeping the consumer happy with cheap deals is all part of the game plan. As you said earlier in response to a comment the world is going to hell in a handcart. And I have no idea how we can change things.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the grip of world-wide capitalism, Mary, there is no way to change it. Once unemployment gets very serious in the west, then perhaps the Chinese will employ us at rock-bottom wages to make their goods instead? Either way, it’s a bubble that will eventually burst.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pete, that is a subject I’ve often wondered. If the products are sold in one country but made in another – how long would it take before it’s the other way around. I mean if people aren’t working in the country that is buying the product, then how will they be able to afford it in the future. How will their children be able to afford it? Will those children have to work for low wages just so they can work?
    Hum….
    Thanks for a great post!
    Joan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joan. I suppose that once the manufacturing has made the Chinese wealthy, they will employ westerners to make their household goods, paying them poor wages. Then in a hundred years or so, the cycle will turn again.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Unfortunately ‘made in China’ appears far too often on every kind of product here in the U.S. It’s the reason for all the cheap prices at the big box stores (e.g. Walmart.) On the one hand it allows some people to buy affordably here what they otherwise couldn’t. On the hand, there go the jobs and what about the conditions for those laborers? A real catch 22 that we have yet to figure out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, I have no answers. People should be allowed to trade freely, and to own things that others can buy, I suppose. I just fear the eventual disappearance of all domestic manufacturing in the Western world, Susanne.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pete, the most progressive cities in America have instituted a $15 per hour minimum wage…a “controversial” move because it raises costs for products and services in those areas…is that really a “living” wage? No, but it is a step in the right direction…now imagine how long a Chinese worker is on the job making that lamp for that same amount of money…what some consider a paltry sum is considered a King’s ransom in far too many parts of the world…if you haven’t seen the documentary “Workingman’s Death”, it is a searing look at some of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the world…https://johnrieber.com/2015/11/22/searing-expose-docs-workingmans-death-whores-glory-brilliant-documentaries-showcase-life-on-the-edge/

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I recently ordered some castors for a desk – they cost me £2.99 including shipping from Amazon! I didn’t realise until I saw that there was a long delivery date that they actually came from China!
    Unfortunately they have the wrong size thread, but given that price I haven’t the heart to send them back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Julie got a hoody top for someone from Amazon. It came from China, and was a little too small. When she contacted them to ask about a replacement, they offered her a refund, and told her to keep it. I worry about the exploitation of workers in that huge country, as so many of those manufacturing companies are foreign-owned and managed..
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thought provoking, Pete. You are absolutely right. I have started growing my own sprouts in the kitchen and was looking for a jar to do this. I went to three local shops in Holt and Sheringham hoping to find what I wanted and no-one could help me so I had a look on the internet. Ebay/Amazon offers sprout lids for your own jars from China. 25 pence for a lid, shipped from China for £ 2,99! Shocking. Obviously I didn’t go for this option, but if you look closely, there’s a Chinese replica for almost anything you want.

    We are in the festive season and send you, Julie and Ollie best wishes for
    Happy Holidays and a healthy, happy New Year, Pete! Looking forward to seeing you in 2019! 🙂
    The Fab Four of Cley 🎄❄️🎅🤶🤶🤶❄️🎄
    Dina

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I should add that we were looking at lamp shades yesterday whilst at one of the big DIY stores and saw one for about £30 which we liked, £30! we both said at the same time, so we both decided to look on the internet to see how easy it would be to make one of a similar design 🙂 How hard can it be.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. And as the Chinese get richer then the African nations will provide the labour.
    One good thing that comes out of this is the many millions of people who are dragged out of true poverty, but then I guess you have to ask at what price? Was the average Chinese villager better off as a subsistence farmer than he is now making lamps?

    Liked by 3 people

All comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.