A Year Without “Made in China” | Sara Bongiorni

Summary of: A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy
By: Sara Bongiorni


Embark on an eye-opening journey as we dive into the summary of ‘A Year Without “Made in China”‘ by Sara Bongiorni. This true story documents the author’s experiment to boycott Chinese goods for an entire year, showing the pervasive nature of Chinese products in the American market. The book sheds light on how the ‘Made in China’ label affects domestic jobs, industries, and factories as well as everyday consumer choices. With their experiment not driven by politics or xenophobia, the Bongiorni family sets rules and discovers both the challenges and benefits of not buying Chinese products throughout the year.

The True Cost of Cheap Goods

China’s dominance in the consumer products market has resulted in a trade gap of nearly $202 billion with the US, leading to the loss of two million American jobs. Despite some consumers turning away from Chinese imports, the question remains – is it practical to function without electronics, toys, and other trinkets from China? One family decided to launch a 12-month boycott of Chinese goods to uncover the hidden price tag of the US consumer’s comfortable, gadget-filled lifestyle.

A Family’s Economic Experiment

After realizing that their home was full of Chinese-made goods, Sara Bongiorni and her family decided to boycott Chinese products starting from January 1. This economic experiment was not based on politics or xenophobia, but rather aimed to understand the personal impact of globalization on their family and the American economy. China’s dominance in manufacturing, including cell phones, DVD players, video games, TVs, clothing, shoes, and toys, made it challenging to avoid Chinese products. Nonetheless, the Bongiorni household managed to find alternative products made in America or other countries. The experiment that started with a handful of skeptical friends and relatives eventually caught the attention of media outlets, leading to a book and speaking engagements for Sara. The boycott had a considerable impact on the family’s lifestyle, budget, and mindset, as it forced them to re-evaluate their consumption habits and consider the consequences of their purchases.

Boycotting Products Made-In-China.

A couple, Kevin, and Sara initiated a boycott on Chinese-made products that started after finding a Taiwanese tool with a superior feature. However, their self-satisfaction from boycotting Chinese products decreased when they learned that the idea originated from a Wall Street Journal story about Peggy Smedley. To define their boundaries, they developed the following rules: no political platforms, flexibility with unidentified parts, the gift loophole, and the child loophole. The three nail drivers from Lowe’s and metal tool hooks from Home Depot were factors in their boycott. However, they were unable to resist buying Chinese-made products mainly in electronics, video games, iPods, and other gadgets.

Finding Non-Chinese Footwear

Sara, a mother, struggles to find non-Chinese shoes for her son. She scours multiple stores and outlets, discovering that most of the world’s shoes are made in China. Even high-end brands such as German and French shoes are made in China. After searching online and out of state, she finally finds Italian-made sneakers via mail order for $68. The search highlights the dominance of China in the global sneaker market and how difficult it can be to find non-Chinese footwear.

The Boycott Experiment

Sara and Kevin had been married for 16 years and decided to launch a boycott experiment. Everything was going well until Sara caught Kevin sneaking in with merchandise from Home Depot. He had bought a hose from America, nozzle from Taiwan, and 59-cent paintbrushes for the kids from an unknown country. Sara realized that the brushes were the same as their old pre-boycott ones. Upon being challenged, Kevin confessed that he had accidentally bought them from China. After the incident, Sara started secretly scrutinizing Kevin’s purchases.

The Unintended Consequences of Boycotting Chinese Products

A decision to boycott Chinese products brought about some unexpected benefits but also created problems. Sara Bongiorni stopped buying from China when she realized how much of their household items were made in the country. They started shopping more mindfully, carefully considering every item they bought. They gained a decluttered home after donating their children’s outgrown toys and clothes to charity; however, they couldn’t replace them because many products for children come from China. While shopping for juvenile birthday gifts, they discovered a toy truck made with labor and parts from Switzerland, Denmark, and the US and Lego toys, which were Danish. But the boycott also created problems. When an old table top lamp broke, Sara faced a darkened home as most lamps are created in China. Shopping for items like toy cars, action figures, swords, and dolls became a boycott nightmare since most of them are from China. Despite these challenges, the Bongiornis continued their boycott to give other countries a chance to sell them things.

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