Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good Targets and Bad - Made in America

I keep a small rental near  the city, for work and on call.  It's close to where I need to get to work and my neighbor is a a young police officer and his family, who thankfully looks after it when I travel or am off work.

It's got some nice furnishings, as I sold a large four bedroom house to downsize, but like most rentals, it has all the ambience of a dental lab, with white walls and plain window fixtures.  The place has two bedrooms and a little office.  Unfortunately the bedroom where the occassional family member or friend bunks has a Eastern exposure.  The first time I slept there, when I had all beds and couch occupied during a race weekend, including someone with a bad back using my bed with the orthopedic mattress, I got an early morning wake up call.

No wonder my guests were up so early!  I thought it was anticipation of my cooking.  No, it was the BLINDING sun that came through the cheap blinds.  A Rooster on crack couldn't have woken them up any faster. 

Time to buy drapes.  And this is where my story starts.   There's a super Target within an hour.  It's fairly new, fancy, with clean wide aisles, all kinds of kitchen stuff, food and housewares and patrons that didn't look like they were auditioning for the circus or trying to buy ingredients for Mama's Meth Lab.  I liked their grocery department, as far as selection  (all kinds of bacon and Jason's maple almond butter!) and the household section looked impressive with a quick, shallow glance.

So have some folks  that we as a nation, elected. 

I wasn't fussy, any neutral color would do, I just wanted two sets of drapes, long enough to cover the windows, and made of a thermal material to keep out light and noise.  I also needed towels to replace a few old  ones  that went from "shabby chic" to "did Barkley EAT this?" (Yes, that's my sock with his toy)

It did not go well. Target had LOTS of drapes on display Apparently, whomever does inventory figures six drapes per color.  That would be three windows. The fact that three of those were one length (64 inch) and the other three were another length (83 inch) didn't  factor in. Doing the math, that each window requires TWO drapes, was too much for the stock person here.  No matter what color or style, I could NOT find two complete drapes the same color and the same length in the entire store.  I'd have asked if they had any in the back had there been a clerk.  Oh, wait!  Maybe they were manning the 26 checkstands?  No those are all empty but for the two with long lines.

On to towels. I hated to wait in line, but I did NOT want to go home with neither drapes nor towels. They had a whole wall of towels, plush, lush towels, their own brand!  Oh, they were SO soft. so fluffy.  Not WalMart cheap, but reasonable. I wanted to get good towels.  I showered at a bachelor buddy's house after working on cars one day and found myself completely covered in blue lint after using the towel on the rack.  I looked like Smurfette.  No, I wanted to get some better quality towels, which is why I went to Target, not WalMart.

After purchasing the towels, I washed them and dried them in the dryer before I used them.  After my shower, I ended up covered in blue lint. "Why does this look familiar?  There was lint all over the tub rim and on the floor.  I washed them twice before using again.  Each time I cleaned the lint trap, there was enough lint in there that,  had I added starch, I could have had a whole new towel.

I looked at the rapidly "less fluffy" towel to see the tag -  "Made in China".

I called car buddy and said "it's like your Smurf towel!"  He said "did you get yours at Target??"

Oh. . . I'm a trained forensic expert.  I detect a trend here.

It's been a month, a half dozen washings and the towels are still shedding  and getting thinner and rougher each time I wash them.  There's still tiny spots of lint all over my tub and bathroom floor.

I think after one or two more  washings,  I can cut these towels into little squares and sell their thin, abrasive surface on eBay as the "DIY Glock .25 cent trigger job." I could make a fortune.

Lesson folks.  If you can, buy American, you might pay a bit more but there is a reason.  Quality.

With that, I'll leave you to a link to a nice little blog managed by some folks I hang out with, who appreciate quality, and are happy to pass on information(without compensation) for companies that still earn your dollar with good products, all made in America.. They don't post often, but there are some good buying hints there. Say hi to my friends Midwst Chick and Company over at Made in America.

I'll be in the bathroom mopping up lint.

But at least this weekend's guests will be able to sleep in until the bacon starts frying. 


  1. Best towels = Lands' End.
    Best cheap window coverings = Ikea.

    Neither will be Made in America, but will be quality controlled. That's what is missing at Target and Wal-Mart.

  2. My wife LOVES those brown Army towels I bring back from deployments. I'm more of a Cannon bath sheet type. We manage to abide.

  3. Ah, That brings it to complete clarity. For those that look at my daily driver they would not suspect that much time is given to the other autos. I use Zanio polish and other auto finishing chemicals from them.

    First thing on the Web site there? Use made in America towels. 100 percent cotton. Others are too abrasive. They also say to remove the hem.

    I so get this post!

  4. I really didn't get anything out of this other than Bacon Maple Butter...sorry, I tend to focus on the important things.

  5. i am kinda with greg and am easily distracted by anything that has the word bacon in it. i always try to buy North American made - Canadian first, American second. i love my bros and sis's to the south.

    your friend,

  6. Lint, yes, oh the lint. Towels should not shed like a malamute in summer! (Not unless there's a malamute in the house, and someone decided to just pick up the towels from the laundry basket and use them without checking the suspiciously dog-shaped depression for layer of fur. Maybe that's why my old housemate liked dark-colored towels!

    These days I no longer have the joy, love, and fur of a malamute's company... but I've learned to check mixed laundry very, very carefully for those red shop towels, or silicone-impregnated gun rags, before tossing the whole heap in the washer.

  7. For towels just go Turkish... Just sayin... :-)

  8. I suspect the cotton towels shed because the cotton strands were either grown in a short growing season or were processed so much that the fiber lengths were chopped into little bits. It is amazing how cotton has changed, even the stuff grown and made in the USA isn't what it used to be. I once had a favorite workshop shirt that had belonged to my grandpa; oh that was good strong, lint free cotton. Even the old fabric covered aircraft miss the long strand strong cotton; that may be why so many are recovered using synthetics. Grade A cotton is really expensive!

    Completely off topic:
    Oh, And rib stitching knots work really well on reupholstering furniture too.

    Not terribly fond of Wal-Mart and Target myself. There are other stores with better quality control.

  9. Clearly those towels cost less than 20 bucks apiece.

    That comes from an anecdote told by an American tool vendor who toured a Chinese tool making plant, considering using them for one of his products.

    He noticed that people were assembling sets of drill bits, and that the sets had 3 or 4 bits that were dark black high carbon steel while the others were gray. The gray ones were being dipped in some fluid to make them black.

    When he questioned his "guide" about the process, the answer was that people only use 2 or 3 common sizes in a set, so those were made of the good metal. They saved money on the rest.

    ... and ... wait for it ...
    The sets sell for 9 bucks retail and they KNOW that Americans never return anything that costs less than $20.

  10. On our list, towels are now one of those things we do not skimp on. Fluffy towels, especially in winter out of the towel valet, are essential.

  11. You know my gf is Vietnamese, a boat person who came here and worked to bring her family. They would've been upper-middle class in VN, but lost everything to the communists.

    She mentioned that her father used to be a barber and still cuts hair, but his clippers are getting worn out. A few days later, I happened to see some clippers on sale and bought them for him.

    When I gave them to him, he thanked me, though he speaks little English. Then he looked at the box, shook his head, and handed them back to me. It said "Made in China".

    Uyen told me that once they searched for six months and finally ended up buying a sturdy old blender at a garage sale, because every other one they looked at was made in China.

  12. I am so pleased you have arranged things. I struggle with these little things a bit more than you but just the same. It's nice to not be the only Charley Brown out there. Life shouldn't be so difficult? Towels? Really?

    UK Houston,

    I go with Eddy Bauer for towels, though if Lands' End is good, I'll look at theirs too. And I hadn't even thought of Ikea for window dressing. Thanks.

  13. I gotta go with UK Houston.....

    For towels, Lands End.

    Been buying from them for a lotta years.


  14. I've never understood how Target is able to convince people that they stock better quality than Wal-mart. Maybe such fine distinctions are beyond me. I usually look for Wal-mart when I'm on the road because they are likely to have a place to park the big truck. When at home, I'm more of a Mills Fleet Farm shopper.

    I think I bought curtains once a couple of decades ago, but I probably got them from the Sears catalog. I don't know if that even exists anymore.

  15. Sorry I got lost at Red headed smirf. mmmmmmmmm.


  16. Lands End? I had no idea. Two my favorite "worn for years, never wear out" shirts are from Land's End.

    fast richard -yes, I was suckered in by it being much cleaner and brighter than Wal Mart, but the quality is no better for more money. I still like their grocery for stocking up on some basics, and their store brand of food items is actually quite good, but I probably won't go back as far as it is from home.

  17. Considering the more obvious important things to head for, when it came time to inherit things I would grab the towels first. Some are 8 decades old and still going strong and awesome, while the ones bought at JC Penney never made it to one decade.

    I may never have to buy another towel since inheriting the ones I have. But I do love the extra long "modern" towels sizes. I just know that they won't last as long.


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