Sam Burnham, Curator
I was listening to the radio the other day. I do that often. If you've followed this site or our social media accounts, you know I'm a public radio nerd. And I'm not a freeloader, I'm a member. They cover a lot of stories and topics that you'll not see other places, especially on cable TV news. And it is precisely one of those topics that brought about this story.
The story was on these new online shopping sites that buy products directly from the manufacturer and offer ridiculously low prices. It's kinda like the old guy with the awesome baseball card booth at the Collinsville Trade Day back in the 80's. Nolan Ryan rookie card for half the Beckett Monthly listed value? Yes sir, I'll take two. But instead of a baby faced version of the Big Tex Express, you're more likely buying a dress, or a smart watch, or a lawnmower part.
Here's the catch. Many of the products are manufactured overseas, mostly China. While the Chinese factories can pump out smart watches that cost the same as a regular watch, you wind up breaking even because that's pretty much how it works. Maybe the tan dress you ordered arrives three weeks late and it is hot pink. But maybe you get exactly what you needed and the price is fantastic. But maybe it doesn't work that way at all. Then you have to try to track down some factory in Hunan Province that you can't even pronounce and try to get a refund. And the guy on the other end of the line isn't at all impressed when you sling the "just how big a boy are ya?" line at him. He knows you're not coming to Hunan to put knucklebumps on his forehead. Again, it's a dice roll, a risk, buyer beware.
And then it happened. A caller gets through and asks that most asinine of questions. "Is there any proposed regulation of this industry? Will there be any more consumer protections?" Really. They are already in place. It's called go to the store and buy from a person who lives in your town. It's called have a human interaction with a clerk who knows the product and can put it in your hands so you can judge the quality, color, size, condition. It is called common sense and buyer beware. It's called if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Why is it that everything has to be regulated? Why must the government always be called us in to protect us from our own lack of judgement? Buying online is a gamble and we all know that. Part of the low price is due to a lack of overhead and regulation. If you want a sure thing and decent customer service, you have to pay for it. If you need the government to regulate the online Chinese import market for you, you probably don't need to be out running around unsupervised anyway.
That's enough of a rant for now. I just got a new book from...*squints*...Snake Nation. Off to go read some so I can write some more for y'all. Y'all keep it between the ditches.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire