Tuesday housekeeping.
Evidently I'm just reading the wrong graphic novels.

You'll never look at shampoo the same way.

If you buy stuff (and we all do), you should read Paul Midler's book Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game.

China Midler lived and worked in China for many years (in the manufacturing city of Guangzhou) as a sort of facilitator for global companies hoping to have their products manufactured, cheaply of course, in China. Speaking the language and understanding the culture a bit more than did many of the executives he helped, who often flew in for just a few days for brief factory tours and meetings, he was perfectly placed to someday write a tell-all from both sides of the story. And so he has.

The book's not perfect. The prose is a bit clunky, and it starts a bit slow. But all in all I'd put it right up there with John Bowe's Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy as one of the biggest perspective-changers I've ever read (I also listed it as a best Business Book of 2009--The Economist liked it too so I felt I was in good company). What's surprising is not learning about all the way that Chinese manufacturers cut corners and save costs to help their bottom lines (Midler works extensively with an American soap and shampoo company manufacturing in China; hence, the title of this post) but how they view their business practices, and how, eventually, people who want cheap crap (yeah, that would be everybody) won't always be in the role of being able to dictate what we want and how we want it. I wouldn't say this narrative is frightening, but it's definitely unsettling.

Libraries won't own enough copies of this one to be able to hold a book group about it, but they should. But whether or not anyone would have the heart to discuss it after reading it, I don't know. Either way: take a closer look at all your stuff, think about what you paid for it, and ask yourself if it would still be such a bargain if you'd had to buy it in a three- or four-dollar store, rather than a one-dollar store. There should be interesting days ahead.