“No more China!”

Recently I received an email from our customer, Danny L, complaining about some items he found in our catalog. His problem was that despite being acceptable quality, they were made in China.

He said, “I am a retired small business man and just thought you should know how I feel about it. This is a turning point for my family, from here on it is made in USA/CANADA/ maybe even Europe, but no more China. The too big to fail companies here have to under stand we will no longer support them off-shoring all the American jobs.”

Because this issue is close to our hearts here at Lehman’s, I wanted to share my response to him with all of our customers. Here is the email I sent him:

Danny,

Thanks for your email and for your business. I understand your frustration, and that is why I wanted to respond personally and speak from my heart as an owner and as the president of Lehman’s.

Our goal is to carry USA or Amish-made whenever possible. But, it is becoming increasingly difficult.

For one thing, of course, the Amish are limited by the their beliefs about the use of technology as to what they can produce. In the last few years, they have loosened their rules enough that machine shops and simple manufacturing (beyond woodworking and furniture building) are becoming more common. But, an item with as many moving parts as the can opener is still beyond their means to produce.

Meanwhile, something sad and terrible is happening to American manufacturing. As China (and other “Asian rim” countries like India and Vietnam) become more powerful and more efficient, entire industries are being decimated. [Click this link for my January, 2010, blog post about “Chindia”.]

This sad fact is true: I don’t know of any USA made can openers. The Swing Away can opener you asked about was USA made until recently. However, the company in St Louis moved the manufacture to China.


The French Bread pans you asked about are also imported. We just discovered a source of USA made pans and we are testing them in our Kidron store. If they work out well, we hope to add them to our catalog. I have found some sources for French made pans, but they are far too expensive…on the order of 3x more than the ones we currently offer.

The Vermont Comfortmeter does indeed have a German movement. I’ve seen this on a number of complex products. The Chinese haven’t yet advanced to the place where they can make the complicated, technical parts of a product. So, they take a high quality, German, Swiss or USA made “heart” and transplant it into a Chinese made “body.” This is what happened on the Comfortmeter.


Vermont Comfortmeter

Vermont Comfortmeter

I also want to point out: We are committed to honesty in our catalog and on our website. Whenever we offer an item that is not USA made, it will always say “Imported” or “Made in China” or have a similar explanation in the description IF we know about it. (In some cases, the supplier has changed from USA to imported in mid-stream without telling us. In one case, we even caught a vendor who was putting Chinese product inside boxes that said made in USA! All of the items you asked about say they are made overseas in their description now.)

So, I just wanted to say this: 1) We are committed to honest descriptions. We will never knowingly mislead any customer. 2) We are doing everything we can to carry USA made (and in many cases, Amish-made) product. We will never displace a USA manufacturer by copying their product with an imported item. If we know of a USA source for any item we carry, we will offer it to our customers.

Thanks so much for your email and for the opportunity to explain what is happening.

Galen Lehman
http://www.galenlehman.com

PS – I think you are doing the right thing by saying that you will stick with American made. I honor you and your family!

Note: If you know of places where we have failed to measure up to this standard, please let us know and we will correct the situation. We’re not perfect, but we are trying our best! And, if you know of USA made products we should carry, please tell us about it.

Galen Lehman

About Galen Lehman

Lehman's CEO and son of founder Jay Lehman. Homesteads on five acres. Believes in a Simpler Life...rewarding relationships, fresh, local (preferably homegown) food and the gratification of hard work. Plant a tree!

29 thoughts on ““No more China!”

  1. I appreciate your honesty and I agree that it is getting more and more difficult to find products that are made in the USA. I appreciate your efforts to support American made products.

  2. I am happy to see at least one American company doing this.

    Our country has been sold down the river by businesspeople in search of quick profits at our country’s log-term expense.

    I’ll be looking at Lehman’s first for any needs.

  3. That post explains why I shop at Lehman’s. I KNOW what I’m getting and I’m able to make and INFORMED decision. Retail sellers have the option of selling cheap or taking the time to really research what they are selling and offer the best possible options to their customers. A company that takes these issues seriously and supports local economies whenever possible is rare. I applaud Lehman’s for providing goods that are of high quality and doing the research so that I can purchase high quality goods and know where they come from.
    Glynis DeYong.

  4. I want to say thank you thank you thank you to DannyL for writing Lehman’s, and for Galen’s response! We try and buy only made in USA products and are finding them difficult to find.

    As DannyL mentioned, we find more quality in products from Europe and abroad lately. Tho, we are very disappointed when, from those places that sell quality, we find products made in China there.

    Keep up the good work Lehman’s!

  5. I think this is great that even though you might lose a few products because no one else makes it other than china, so maybe there is a business with a heart. on my blog i just wrote a small story about a local dairy in my county of Lebanon,pa. so i talked about buying from local family run businesses. if anyones interested you can check my blog out. Richard. http://www.amishstorys.com

  6. Hi, I am new here and to Lehman’s but I have to agree. I am trying to only buy USA made, but it is very difficult. I am almost to the point of saying as long as it isn’t made in China, it is ok. Guess I will have to add other Asian countries and India as well. I work in retail and more and more people would rather spend more and get USA made rather than cheaper stuff from overseas, they even ask for only USA made. I was thrilled with your catalog stating USA made, and plan to focus on those items. Used to be retailers proudly stated that they supported USA companies…

  7. I have to agree. I look to Lehman’s for USA made goods. Please try to find goods made in America. It means so much these days.
    Keep up the good work!

  8. i think its wrong that our manufacturing jobs are going to china. what will we do if another world war breaks out with our industry in such bad shape. before china it was mexico and japan our jobs were going and now jobs are also leaving those countries and ending up in china. i think we are in a downward spiral thats not stopping. its just getting too hard to find anything that still made here. dave

  9. I bought a part for a vegetable and fruit mill. My mill is old it was called a Squezzo this part was expensive to me. I live in Ga. I was on vacation when. I got home I tried the part but it would not fit my mill. The next year I went there on vacation again I took the part back with me and this time I even brought my mill with me I didn’t have a receipt.I couldn’t find my charge card statement where I had charged it. It did have the sticker on it . I could not believe that they would be nice enough to give me a refund. The cashier was going to refund me the amount that the computor had for that year the price had went up , I told her I couldn’t remember the exact amount but it was less than what the computor was saying and I had rather cheat myself than the company. Because I didn’t expect them to give me a refund at all. If it had been many other companies I would have been stuck with a part that wouldn’t work.I really appreciate this company and it makes me want to trade with them.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to explain from your viewpoint. I certainly appreciate your trying to keep your products American and hope that you’ll continue the effort. What I just said feels oddly “wrong”, but it isn’t a racist thing or an ego thing…its just a sad thing…that America no longer makes things, just uses them up. I wish it were different.

  11. Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I was gratified and humbled by each comment. I hope that we can continue to live up to your expectations. And, as always, please let me know if we ever let you down!
    Galen Lehman, President

  12. i agree… i wish just one business like this would refuse to sell chinese imports no matter how well made they are. the chinese are trying to desrtoy our children with all kinds of toxic substances in toys that toddlers put in their mouths. why do we put up with this??
    i tossed out all my coffee cups made in china, they are still putting lead and other nasty stuff in the glazes

  13. I also agree… I so very much wish you would just not carry anything made in China, period. Is the number of sales worth the cost to our national sovereignty and workforce? How many orders does Lehman’s get FROM China?

  14. I understand that not all things can even be gotten made here anymore. But like the gentleman who wrote in, we avoid made in China whenever possible. Haven’t set foot inside a Walmart in over 10 years, and haven’t missed it a bit. I just can’t support the largest retailer in the world who is the #1 exporter of American jobs. I’d rather pay more, have less, and know that my neighbor has a job. I wish everyone would adopt this philosophy. We’d all pay less in taxes if everyone had a decent job and paid them. Kudos Lehmans!

  15. I commiserate with Lehman’s. It is honorable to say “buy American!” but it is often impossible to find things certain things MADE in America. Seriously, when we send our scrap metal and even paper out of the country to be processed, what does that tell you? We do our best to buy locally, and I am currently negotiating for the purchase of a milking stanchion that has stood dormant in a garage for 10 years, rather than buy a ‘brannew’ one, made in China. With that as a template, we will build more, once we adjust for our ‘short’ cows. But good solid state metal implements are hard if not impossible to find. I applaud Lehman’s for trying to keep “Made in America” going, but I do recognize how hard it is, with “cheap and easy” being the current tide.

  16. Part of the problem is that we want a good product but don’t want to pay a lot of money for it. I buy my cloth diapers from a company that has seamstresses (work-at-home moms) locally making their product. They cost almost 50% more than ones made in China. Yesterday, another mom was complementing them, but then when I told her how much I paid for them, she said that was too much.

  17. I’ve been ridding my kitchen of anything made in China. I’ve made numerous purchases from Ebay. Recently bought a Swingaway can opener and a Universal electric fry pan,both probably 1950’s vintage. Both of them work like brand new and are really nice to use. I refuse to buy anything from China that will touch any of my food. Fill your home full of antique stuff.

  18. Wonderful response to a sometimes frustrating and increasingly complex issue. Thanks for sharing this note.

  19. I really appreciate your attitude and your attempts to provide American-made products. I grew up in the fifties and early sixties, and my parents owned a small-town grocery store and meat market. They built a facility to butcher meat on their farm, and it was totally hygenic, but then the government regs were changed to make it impossible to sell locally-produced beef and pork any more. They required an on-site government inspector, which made the cost prohibitive, especially when in competition with the new supermarket in town. Thus, the new regs decreased the quality of meat, raised locally by farmers personally known by my Dad, and made it no longer possible to go out to the farm and look the animal over and ascertain the quality before purchase and butchering. This enables me to understand your position. I wish you well.

  20. No Walmart, I try hard to buy American.

    If you see a preferable American-made replacement please notify Lehman’s & I am sure they will look into it !

  21. It’s going to take a wholesale revolution in thinking before most people will give up their cheap products. Walmart hasn’t helped by moving aggressively into rural areas. Where I live, the only way to not buy some things at Walmart is to drive 70 miles to the nearest large city. So most people feel like they have no choice but to buy whatever Walmart sells, regardless of its origin. Yay to all of you for being aware, and for speaking out, and to Lehman’s for doing their best to provide us with honest USA-made products.

  22. We can either complain about it or DO something about it. We can either lie to ourselves and blame the “companies” or we can be honest and see that the companies are all but forced into it, because (gasp – hot button topic here) over-zealous unions and excessive taxes and regulations – increase the cost of making these things in the US.

    Reverting back to the can opener mentioned in the letter. If the can opener “made in China” sells for 12.95, and one existed for 19.95 made in the US, I’d certainly buy the US version. If union dues, taxes, OSHA and EPA regulations, etc etc add up to the point where the same can opener cost 79.95 to make in the US, would you really pay that much ? How about if it cost 300 dollars US made ? I’m not saying where that point is, but there is a point where we wouldn’t pay 300 dollars for a can opener.

    The bad news is, “boycotts” won’t work because of the 300 million + people in the US right now, you’ll never get a majority of them to join you. Too many are either too uninformed, too isolated, or too apathetic.

    The good news is, if at some point our political climate stops treating every company or corporation as the enemy, and realizes that there really are some cause/effect or perceived punishment/reward scenarios causing this – then maybe we can stop “killing the goose that lays golden eggs” and get to the root of this.

  23. Was just yesterday talking with some elderly neighbors I do odd some jobs for, about how quality/quantity of goods has steadily decreased since we started shipping jobs/manufacturing overseas. She noticed it starting in the 60s/70s. I’m trying to make our property as self-sufficient as possible because I don’t like to spend alot of money or worry about product safety/quality. Place already came with a chicken coop, some fruit trees(we bought more last year) and strawberries, plus I found out last year that what I thought were toadstools all over the yard were actually bolete mushrooms aka very edible ones. This year I’m going to experiment with growing grains and fiber(linen flax and something called a cotton tree).

  24. I’m relucant to see a poltical debate get started here, but considering the tax breaks, subsidies and political favoritsm corporations currently enjoy, it’s hard for me to believe they’re “forced” to move our jobs overseas. When the corporate CEO’s start foregoing their outrageous salaries and pay their fair share of the tax burden instead of moving their money into overseas accounts, when the companies they run stop throwing millions into political lobbying, when those same companies stop looking for ways to get around environmental protections that help keep us all safe, etc., etc., etc., I’ll have a lot more sympathy for them. Until then, I not only do my best to buy American-made, but also locally grown or made.

  25. I don’t want to start a debate either, Liz – believe me. But when China has no minimum wage, no OSHA, no EPA, and no AFL/CIO – it doesn’t take much to see why they can be more competitive.

    I’ve never had Congress give me a job, but I have had several corporations give me a job. Either we’re a capitalist society, or we believe that entities that turn a profit are the enemy. I’m okay with whatever happens, as long as we’re honest with ourselves.

  26. And I am pretty sure the CEO’s pay “their fair share” of taxes, they pay WAYYYY more than you and I put together do.

    Envy and “get-even-ism” won’t help us.

  27. Very disappointed to learn that Swing Away had moved to China too. I’m counting on my “Made in USA” model to keep working for a long time. I only purchase something made in Chine if it is absolutely necessary.

  28. We’re phasing out our “Made In China” products here at home too. If 2011 is the Year of the Protest (so far), all I can think about is Tiananmen Square when I see China-made products.