Made in China or HAND Made in China?


Standard Leather Bag: $100. HANDMADE Leather Bag: $400. The joy of owning a product that is handmade: Priceless

People who describe their goods as being handmade, usually do so in an apparent manner in order to make sure that you realize it wasn’t some kind of robotic machine that knitted the wool scarf or assembled the leather bag that they are selling. It ensures the buyer that there is a real person, a genuine face behind the product, who put in valuable hours and effort into the making of it. This “handmade” label, gives the product a personality, and justifies the higher price requested for it. When we go on a trip to another country, we seek for the word “handmade” when we are shopping, because we associate the word with being authentic and more real than others.

When a product is handmade, it becomes more “valuable”… At least this was what I thought, until Mr. Daisey mentioned how the majority of the electronic products we use are also go into the “handmade” category. He describes the factory floors he has visited as being dead silent. This silent is partially caused by the fact that the workers are not allowed to speak, but he mentions that there is a deeper silence, which is caused by the fact that there are no machines. Daisey says, “Everything that can be made by hand, is made by hand”. After hearing this sentence, my perception of the word handmade changed; because in the technology industry, I would think that electronic devices are being assembled by robots or machines. That would make more sense now, wouldn’t it? I associate the word “handmade” more with fashion and decorative items, but before listening to Mike Daisey I never even thought about the fact that my i-Phone is also “handmade”. Maybe this was due to the fact that, unlike most of the “handmade” fashion or decorative items, the “handmade” label on electronics, is not advertised quite openly.

As I mentioned above, if labeling the a product as “handmade” adds much more value to the product, then why do these technology companies not mention this? This is a tricky question, since if they started mentioning how their products are handmade by people and not machines in order to cut down costs, how labor forces are being exploited in Chinese sweatshops in order to squeeze out profits in every possible way, how the workers in these sweatshops sometimes loose their hands, while “hand” making products, would the “handmade” label still add more value to the product? Would people be willing to pay more for “handmade” electronics, if they knew that the money will never go back to the workers themselves who put in their valuable time and effort into the production process? These technology companies should use technology in their production process wherever they can, so that these workers are not used like robots or machines.

If, i-Phone: $649, i-Pad: $299, then what’s the price of “Loosing the ability to function your hand while assembling these “handmade” products”?

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2 thoughts on “Made in China or HAND Made in China?”

  1. It is interesting to note the difference in price between a “standard” leather bag versus a “handmade” leather bag. Our society associates the concept of a handmade product with status. It is believed that handmade products are high end because it implies the item is more personalized and unique than the standard. If society knew the process and working conditions of the employees that make these products by hand, then maybe they would be more hesitant to purchase them. Then again, we have an idea of what is currently happening in factories abroad and yet consumers continue to purchase more and more. We continue to see cases appear in the media about poor working conditions. So, when will this change? What will it take for factories to improve their working conditions?

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  2. The idea of “handmade” is an interested issue in correlation to technology, which can be different compared to jewelry or pottery. As a culture, we have trained many people to think that technology is made from other technology and we normally do not associate technology being handmade. Looking at Apple more specially, I do not believe that the “handmade” label will add more value to product because they are already accused of their poor labor conditions for workers in ShenZhen. Relating back to one of the readings we had in class about Apple’s secrecy to a point where they keep each individual iPhone part in separate black boxes. If Apple was to place that label on their products, it would expose their operations causing consumers and/or critics to questions their manufacturing practices. Apple wants to keep every as silent as possible to decrease the possibility of being questioned and not having the same target market. There are many people out there whom care more about sustainable practices companies participates in and treating employees fairly. Why has this connotation of handmade more tailored towards clothing, but yet there are sweatshops out that hand-makes clothing?

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