$5 for a 1/8″ Twist Drill? Only in America…
“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” –Aldous Huxley
This morning, during my morning routine of purging… junk mail from my inbox, I took a break and read the latest blog post by Chris Schwarz–who happens to be a writer that sounds like Tom Brokaw when he speaks.
This post reinforces the belief that conversations amongst kindred spirits are best lubricated with beer–surely beer is the foundation of all folklore.
But I digress. I shared the following experience with Chris via email today and thought it worthy of the Drivel Starved Nation.
Do you think Americans would pay $5 for a 1/8” twist drill?
You bet. By the tens of thousands times ten. And as unbelievable and absurd as it sounds, here is how.
About 10 years ago I was in an OEM Chinese factory that made bench grinders. You have seen them, ½ HP motor, two 6” grinding wheels, pig tail cord, a small plastic face shield and no nameplate—these would be attached by the American companies that bought them. The total cost per grinder, landed in the US was $7.15. Of course at this price it would be asking too much for a UL tag.
These grinders were, and still are being sold here and the prices range from $49 to $200– awesome margins by any standard.
Behind the factory floor there was a small mountain of insulated wire that had been pulled from old cars, appliances, televisions and the like and it was replenished daily. Surrounding the wire mountain were a couple of dozen women who were stripping the wire of insulation. These wire remnants were then spliced together and used in the grinder motor windings. Completely illegal, and dangerous. But cheap.
I thought I was shocked until I walked into the factory section that made twist drill bits. Here they were making, for the AMERICAN MARKET, those 59, 89, 119 pc drill sets found at the box stores and other discount joints for $19.95. Again, there were rows of women who were dipping the bits in what looked like Easter egg dye.
I asked the interpreter what they were doing. He replied, “They are making all the bits the same color as these four.” The four bits he pointed out were the 1/8”, ¼”, 3/8” and the ½”.
I asked why.
I learned that those four bits were properly hardened. The remaining 115 bits were made with what I call pot metal. The reason?
“Because those are the only four hole sizes that Americans use.”
I asked, as politely as I could, if there was any guilt or remorse for duping their American customers. The reply was shocking.
“In America, if it cost less than $20, nobody complains about quality—everybody in China knows this.”
So for those that complain about prices, you should be screaming mad if you have purchased one of these deals because your twenty bucks just likely purchased the four most expensive twist drills you will ever own. And in so doing, have made it that much more difficult for honest companies to compete.
More recently, I found myself at the local paint shop to purchase a Purdy paint brush—I have always liked them. So when I walked into the store I asked the sales rep to show me the most expensive brushes…
“I don’t get asked that very often..” he replied.
I then learned that the cheapest brushes outsell the flagged end bristle brushes by about 20 to one. The reason?
So people can throw them away rather than clean them.
And I am here to report that properly cleaning (and storing) a well-made paint brush is an honor for a tool that will last a lifetime.
In short, we are the world’s worst consumers and those that complain about prices are likely leading the chorus.
Obviously, as a member of the DSN, you are dancing to the beat of a different drummer, or, you are here because of my awesome and totally professionally rendered cartoons…
Either case I thought you might find my experiences enlightening.