Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Price of "Made in the USA"

I know most people wonder if buying "Made in the USA" really matters. It can seem like it's just another marketing ploy. It's also really hard to walk away from a similar item that costs hundreds of dollars less, just to buy a homegrown product.

Viking, the makers of those gigantic shiny ranges, has been hard-hit by the economic slowdown and the slow migration away from domestic products. They're diversifying their business to try to survive - offering matching cabinets and cooking classes to try to stay in your lives. The one thing they can't do is explain to consumers that there really is a difference between imported and domestic products. You can't see it, but I can, and here are some things you should question before you buy a cheaper model:
  • Is that really metal? Cheaper models use plastic coated with metal, much less durable
  • How thick is that metal? If you don't like dents, you might want to ask how thick the sheet metal is - in other words, what gauge is this metal? Thicker is better for safety and durability. Similarly, you want thicker gauge wire for the racks inside a range.
  • Are those buttons for real? Thin shiny plastic panels won't look so hot in a few years, physical switches are always a plus.
  • How serious is the hardware? Look at the door hinge. Big thick metal parts are better than thin or even plastic parts. The oven door is a common failure point for ranges.
If you take the time to become familiar with some of these terms and materials, the differences between high and low-end will become apparent. Often a cheaper model will save money upfront, but the pricier model will last significantly longer. Hopefully, there will always be a place for Made in the USA, and Viking for one says they're going to "build in America no matter what."

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