The 60-ish guy in the orange Home Depot apron didn't much care whether I bought a U.S.A.-made BBQ grill or not. "Don't know what difference that makes," he muttered. Maybe other shoppers had asked him the same question--what with the Diane Sawyer Made in America/ ABC News series and all--and he was tired of answering. I wanted to say: Well, for one thing, Communist China just unveiled their first aircraft carrier. As far as I know, aircraft carriers aren't flotation devices for peace. I don't want my American dollars to help them buy more of those things.
But instead I grit my teeth and kept my big ol' Italian mouth shut. Don / Richie C would've been proud. Dad wouldn't have been. "Ya gotta speak up," he used to say, perhaps tired of being pushed around by studio bigwigs with tight production budgets and unrealistic ideas. "Gotta let 'em know where you stand."
I again asked the Home Depot guy which of the Weber gas grills had been manufactured in the U.S.A. "It just means a lot to me," I said. This time he softened, took a few steps, and stood before a shiny black grill. He patted it with one hand. "Well, your Spirit line here'll give you a bit more for your money, but it's made in China." He motioned for me to follow him to the other side of the BBQ display. "Now this here's the Genesis. Top of the line and still made in America. But it costs a bit more."
When I got home, a quick phone call to Weber corporate confirmed that the Genesis line, as well as the Summit line and all the portable kettle grills are still made in the United States, in Palatine, Illinois. So good to hear. The Spirit (an unfortunate name, if you ask me) is the only Weber model made in China, at this point.
Don and I went back the next day to purchase our new Genesis Made in the U.S.A. gas grill. We are the best Americans ever. That's what we thought--yes, we've been married so long now that I can actually hear Don's thoughts--as we strutted into Home Depot to plunk down our hard-earned cash. Doing our part to ease the trade deficit. Doing our part to keep jobs in America. Doing our part to keep America making stuff here.
Look at us, Home Depot people. Follow our lead. Let freedom ring.
And then, on the way to the cash register, we spotted a wine cooler. Not just any wine cooler, but a Vissani 52-Bottle Wine Cooler for $199 + tax. Don and I looked at it and then at each other. For years and years--too many years--we'd stored dozens of bottles of wine under our bed, in the backs of closets, in a spare (and stuffed) refrigerator in our garage, in any nook and cranny and pathetic spare inch we could find in our house. And so, seeing the $199 Vissani 52-Bottle Wine Cooler, we thought, in unison: This is perfect. We have got to buy this.
"Go ahead and check," Don said. "See where it was made." I wear mono-vision contact lenses and can read the small print. Don needs reading glasses and didn't have a pair in his pocket. I scanned the waist-tall box, knelt down. There, clearly, in one-inch black letters at the bottom, it said: "Made in China." Sigh.
We looked at each other and, of course, had the same thought. Screw Made in the U.S.A. We are so buying this cheap foreign-made puppy. Who cares?
And so it was that a couple of days later, on a sunny Friday morning, the cheerful Home Depot delivery crew arrived with our Made in the U.S.A. Weber Genesis grill and our Made in China Vissani Wine Cooler. I had the guys put the two items in the garage. Don and I would unpack them later in the weekend. I shut the garage door. We were having a family gathering with two of our kids and their spouses and some nieces and nephews. I needed to get ready.
By early evening, we all sat on the back patio. We laughed and talked and, of course, ate lots of yummy food--corn, avocado and black bean salsa, green salad, fruit salad, baked beans, and BBQ beef sandwiches (cook a pot roast topped with Lipton Onion Soup Mix, wrapped in heavy-duty foil, in 300 degree oven for four hours; shred the cooked meat, add your favorite barbeque sauce to it; I use Kinder's). Throughout the evening, people went back and forth to the garage to fetch cool drinks out of the spare refrigerator.
That night, as we cleared plates and food from the patio table, one astute observer teasingly said: "So, Teens, did I see a Made in China wine cooler in the garage…?"
Yikes. I laughed and fumbled around for a reasonable explanation. None arrived. The wine cooler had been an impulse purchase. We hadn't needed it. We'd wanted it. Badly. But should we keep it? What kind of example would that set? Money, meet mouth.
And so today I researched other options. There are two wine coolers made here in the U.S.A., by Viking and Subzero. Both are too pricey for our budget. But if I clean out the spare refrigerator, pare things down more, I can store the white wines in there. And for the reds, I found a nifty Utah-based company called Wine Racks America. Their beautifully made wood wine racks are handcrafted in North Salt Lake. Nice.
Now I just have to figure out how to get the blankety-blank China-made cooler into the back of my car. Darn thing weighs 112.5 lbs. No matter. Don / Richie C will find a way. And as we leave Home Depot, free of the offending product, Don and I should both think: That's one less American contributing toward your next aircraft carrier, China. But what we probably will think is: Maybe the wine cooler will go on sale after January 1st.
Hey, we're only human.