Paging Jeffrey Immelt
We're going back to Thomas Edison's principles. We're going to build stuff and invent stuff.
President Barack Obama on January 21, 2011, at GE Energy's Plant in Schenectady, NY
They're laughing at us all the way to the bank.
Donald Trump commenting on the Chinese delegation's recent visit to the USA
So I'm reading up on American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, trying to erase the image of him lolling around his LA factory, naked as a jaybird other than his underpants, when the phone rings. It's aforementioned college daughter, Michelle. "Hey Mom, just wanted to let you know my new microwave's broken."
Michelle lives two hours away. Although she's a trooper and never been one to complain, it's tough for her to get around town. She doesn't have a car. She takes the local bus, which is fine by her. But still. She can't haul a 10-pound microwave oven from her apartment to the bus stop three blocks away, get onto a bus still carrying the microwave and get off the bus still carrying the microwave and carry the microwave from that bus stop to the closest Home Depot, long cord undoubtedly dangling at her ankles as she schleps the appliance monstrosity across a football field-sized asphalt parking lot. Sorry, I deliberately kept that sentence long and cumbersome; for Michelle (and any car-less college kid), the journey would be long and cumbersome.
Besides, this is a brand new microwave. The second brand new microwave in four weeks. The first one malfunctioned, too. Both were Made in Malaysia by General Electric, the company that used to Bring Good Things to Light but now apparently can't. Bet ol' Tom Edison's rolling over in his incandescently lit grave (come on, of course he figured out a way to get light in there). Ok America, let's "invent stuff."
Earth to President Obama, come in, please. Can you give your new best buddy, GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, a call? Isn't he your handpicked choice to head up your Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? Good, cuz that means you'd have his cell number. Just text him for me. Something short and Donald Trump-ish: U R Fired.
Thing is, I've been on the phone for the past few hours, trying to find a simple Made in the USA microwave oven for Michelle. How difficult could that be? Very. In fact, the closest I've gotten to Made in USA--via tips posted online--would be one made by Sharp, model # R-414Hs. It used to be sold on Amazon, Made in the USA. No more. Now, the only place that sells it is an online pawn shop (no joke) for $35. It's used, no box, and supposedly in good working condition. Um. No thanks.
It took me a while to get through to anyone at Sharp's help line. I wanted to find out if they do still make any microwaves in the USA. I called an appliance store and the guy had no idea. "Well, could you go look on a box for me?" I asked. He sounded annoyed. "We don’t actually have boxes here, only floor samples. We order everything." I persuaded him to hunt up a Sharp corporate phone number for me. When I finally did get through to someone at corporate the phrase "hell in a hand basket" popped into my head. I explained my website, my Buy USA mission, my need for a new microwave, etc. The phone rep asked me to wait for a few minutes while she checked. She came back on: "Well, I'm afraid most new units come from Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, China, or USA. The parts come from everywhere and they are assembled everywhere and we don't know what's assembled where. It depends on the unit."
One of the most frustrating things about searching for microwaves online is that, as far as I could tell, the country of origin is not given. This, in my irritated American-consumer opinion, should be required. The same way restaurants and food manufacturers are now required to tell us nutritional information. We may not want to know a bagel has like a bazillion calories, but the info's there anyway. So with a Sharp microwave, for example, it would tell me on the box all the places every component came from, and where in the heck it was assembled. Inquiring minds want to know.
In the meantime, my search for a Mostly Made in the USA (are my standards already dwindling?)microwave continues. Because we bought the GE one(s) at Home Depot, we'll likely get a new one there. It won't be GE. I'm sure Jeffrey & Co will get along fine without our family. Unless the company goes back to the brink of bankruptcy. Didn't GE receive billions in federal bailout money? Your tax dollars at work. And they still can't make a decent microwave oven.