Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … Made In The U.S.A.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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If we had published this month’s column before July 4th, we could’ve written about independence. Now, it’s too late.


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July 4th may be celebrated with barbeques, parades, and fireworks, but I doubt many people stop and think about what our country’s independence means to each of us.


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I hate to break the news to you, but it’s summer. Kids are out of school, people go on vacation, and July 4th is a holiday. Not a solemn occasion.


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My point exactly. People forget its significance.

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I agree, but you’ve never been one to walk around waving the American flag.

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True, but there are other ways to demonstrate your patriotism.

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That’s a word you don’t hear very often. I wonder why.

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Part of me wants to say it is because it sounds old-fashioned. But, then I think about how “patriot” can have very different connotations in today’s political arena.

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PLEASE … no politics. In fact, there are days I wish I had a sweatshirt that said that.

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That is funny. And, there needs to be another one with “WARNING: I talk politics.”

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Well, add those to the long list of T-shirt ideas we have.

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Will do. Which reminds me, I need to send you the recent New York Times article about how “American Made” T-shirts are having their best year yet. Apparently, people are willing to pay considerably more for an American made T-shirt. And, ones from American Giant that had “American Made” printed on the front, and sold for $60, sold out the first day.

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Really? I remember the first time I thought about the concept of “Made in the U.S.A.” It was when you decided to print our book in the U.S.A. Before that, it never dawned on me to check labels.

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I guess you do not remember that advertising jingle from the late 1970s, “Look For the Union Label,” that touted buying clothing made in America.


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Nope. But I’ll never forget you were willing to print our self-published book here even though it doubled the cost. And although I still laugh when you say, “Printed in the U.S.A. is the most expensive sentence you’ll ever publish,” to this day, your decision still amazes me.


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It amazes me that it ultimately became part of a lesson plan for high school students. For me, it was just a business decision. There was no way I was going to send my money to China.


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I thought it was a very expensive decision, but I figured you knew what you were doing. Plus, it was your money.


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Since you own almost half of the company, it was your money, too.


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I don’t see it that way. I’m only contributing sweat equity, whereas you’re paying for everything.


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But, that does not change the ownership percentages. Or, the fact that not everything of value can be calculated in terms of dollars, contrary to what accountants may think.


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That may be true, but us “mere mortals” make most purchasing decisions based on cost alone.


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Which is why our printing decision makes such a great example. If you just crunch the numbers, it is a no-brainer. Print in China. But, sometimes, you have to factor in non-financial considerations … like your values and priorities.


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I understand that now, although, at the time, I thought you were crazy. Especially when you made R.R. Donnelley (RRD) defend their pricing.


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I wanted to understand why it cost so much more to print here. As expected, part of it was related to labor costs (we have minimum wage and child labor laws) and regulations controlling workplace health and safety standards. Plus, there were already significant environmental laws.


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And until we printed our book, I never even knew about any of those things. But now I realize how important they are.


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Important … and expensive. There is a price, often hidden, for maintaining high standards. Someone has to pay for it.


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Good thing you could afford it.


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Agree, but even if I were on a strict budget, I would have found a way to print in the U.S.A. I could have downgraded the paper, used a single-color press instead of a two-color one, or printed using a less expensive process. In fact, part of my logic for printing 25,000 copies was to get the cost per book down.


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I wish you hadn’t reminded me of that. I try not to think about how many copies we still have left. Having said that, for a self-published book, where we’ve spent more time on philanthropic pursuits in the education and criminal justice worlds vs. marketing, having sold more than 14,000 copies is pretty impressive.


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I guess that makes us a “bestseller” since 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies. But, the point I am making is that it is important to me that we support U.S. businesses.


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Says the woman with Hermes handbags from France and European cars.


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Does it make you feel any better that when it came time to replace my washer and dryer, I bought American made? Just because I may not always buy American does not mean I do not make a conscious effort to do so whenever I can.


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Well, from now on, I’ll try to be better about it. The key will be remembering to stop and think about it.


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Maybe we need to do a T-shirt that instead of declaring it was “Made in the U.S.A.” turns it into a question … Made in the U.S.A.?

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Make it a long-sleeve shirt or a sweatshirt, and I’ll take two!

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock

Are you taking the Dry January challenge and not having any alcohol for the month? Or, maybe you plan to drink less (but not nothing), which makes it Damp January. Or, maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it. (If so, there’s still time to start!)

Well, nothing much has changed from our approach to Dry January last year, except the one who had started drinking more last year is continuing the trend …



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I keep getting emails about where to go for mocktails. I know alcohol-free cocktails, like Virgin Margaritas, have been around for a while, but I’d never heard that term before. Do you think it has to do with New Year’s resolutions?


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It can if any of your resolutions are to lose weight, save money, sleep better. Or, drink less. Psychologically, January is the month when we “reset”, so a UK-based organization, Alcohol Change UK , started Dry January , where you abstain from drinking alcohol.


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Perfect timing since many people shop, eat, and drink more than usual over the holidays.


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I know you used to drink a glass of Cold Duck on New Year’s Eve, a tradition going back to our childhood, but that hardly counts as drinking. But, I have always wondered why you rarely drink, but never asked.
Keep Reading ...Show less

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It’s January, and everyone’s probably tired of reading about New Year’s resolutions.

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Not me. Since I never make them, I never feel the need to read about them.

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Of course, you don’t. So, what should we write about?

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How about that we celebrate some of our favorite things in January?

So many “National Days” in January are fun (we’ve written about them over the years) and remind us of some of our favorite things. (Can you pick which are Red’s favorite holidays and which are Black’s?) And whether or not you make resolutions, it’s always important to have a sense of humor and enjoy the simpler things in life …

Answer: Red’s favorites are Bagels, Popcorn, and Hugging. Black’s are Clean Desk, Bagels, and Backward.

Wishing you Happy 2024 – with new beginnings and much more!