Discussion:
Should we buy unicycles made in China?
(too old to reply)
Amos_And_Ego
2003-12-06 23:14:21 UTC
Permalink
The other day I read an article in the Economist which said that 60% of
the bicycles in the world are manufactured in China. As high as 80% of
the bicycles sold in the US are made in China.

In the old days, most unicycles were made domestically, but increasingly
unicycles are made in China and Tiawan (which often subcontracts out to
Southeast China).

As unicycles have gotten cheaper, they have increasingly switched to
being manufactured in China. They are no longer a specialty item, but a
mass produced good, like the rest of the standard bike market. Brands
like Torkers have overtaken over the old domestic makers. To compete,
brands such as Shwinn are now produced in China as well. Only in the
high end market do the domestic brands compete. For instance, DM
Ringmasters are made in England or parts such as Poznanter Hubs by
Profile are made in the US, but the rest of the market has switched to
China or Tiawan.

Despite the fact that we deride Chinese goods, they have generally
brought us good quality at a much cheaper price. Today some of the
highest quality components are made in Tiawan, such as Kris Holm seats.


As a consumer I love the cheaper prices, but I wonder if we shouldn't be
asking ourselves about the human rights abuses and exploitation of labor
which is taking place in China and the Tiawanese companies who
subcontract out to China. How do I feel about my latest toy, a Torker
unicycle, knowing that it was made by Chinese workers who probably earn
$15-$20 per week?

I know that neo-liberal economic theory should allieve my sense of
guilt, but I don't buy it. Whichever way you look at it, I am enjoying
a beautiful new toy because other people are being exploited. By buying
their products, I am economically propping up a government that abuses
human rights, prohibits free speech, and carries out more legal
executions than any other regime in the world. I know that China has
gotten better over the last couple decades and many claim that free
trade has brought new freedoms to the country and might even lead to
eventual democritization. It is possible that a better future lies
ahead, but it is inescapable that we are currently participating in this
system by buying Chinese-made unicycles; and we are therefore somehow
responsible for what is going on. We are asking people to work hard
for little pay while living under a repressive regime so that we can
enjoy luxuries like unicycles. Does this bother anyone else besides
me?

Alright, having got that off my chest, I'm going outside to play with
my Torker with a guilty conscience.

--uni on, Amos Batto


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joona
2003-12-07 00:01:25 UTC
Permalink
Yeah, your right. Let's all go and buy Profiles, DM's and throw away our
Torkers, KH's and Yunis.:rolleyes: And what about our computer parts.
Some of them are made in taiwan too. And clothes.

This doesn't mean I support cheap labor, but this is how it usually
works.


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uni412
2003-12-07 00:08:58 UTC
Permalink
I feel sorry for the laborers in China, but us not buying Chinese made
unicycles isn't going to help them out. I'm sure that China's economy
doesn't really very much on unicycles. Thats just my opinion.


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pete66
2003-12-08 01:00:19 UTC
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* After trying the seat myself, I loaned it out too*
Did you not like the KH seat? What kinda seat did you use now?


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ed the twinky
2003-12-08 02:42:33 UTC
Permalink
in my opinon i don't mind buying items made in china the reason being is
taht thee people are working for liek 20 cents an hour and are barely
making enough moeny... and to me.. if i buy one of these products it is
like their work wasn't in vain or anything.. im ean as bad as it is..
these people obviously derserve better but if this is wut they have to
live doing... might as wells make sure wut they do is worth a little at
least... if my opinon seems like a buncha BS and you can rebuttle it.. i
don't mind... its just taht my opinion isn't based on statsitcal
standards but on morality... and just because it is made in china
doesn't mean tath its a terrbile item.. i mean.. it may have a slitghty
lower standard of manufacturing compared to japan and america but if it
works it works


--
ed the twinky

OOH WAH!
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Rowan
2003-12-08 04:26:38 UTC
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*Did you not like the KH seat? What kinda seat did you use now? *
I do like the KH seat. I didn't like my first KH seat because it
snapped, but I got a replacement and it works well. I only got it to try
it, I didn't intend to use it as my main seat, because I have a carbon
fibre airseat with a leather cover, and a reeder handle. It cost a
bundle so I have to use it in order to get my moneys worth, and I am yet
to fine tune it to it's best configuration. Although the parts for it
were made in America and UK (and I don't know where else) at least it
was assembled in NZ, because they don't come pre-made.


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bugman
2003-12-10 06:01:27 UTC
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Personally I buy everything I can, from whoever will supply it. I don't
discriminate against the people of any country that produces products
that I want or need. I think discrimination is wrong. I think there
are many good chinese factory workers that deserve to eat just as much
as I deserve to eat. To deny them that opportunity for some political
position is just wrong. When you don't buy from companies or countries
that you don't agree with, do you really think you are hurting those who
have money? You only hurt those who are just getting by.


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bugman - Equilibrium Challenged

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like trying to balance a wet noodle"
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bugman
2003-12-10 06:18:21 UTC
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Personally I buy everything I can, from whoever will supply it. I don't
discriminate against the people of any country that produces products
that I want or need. I think discrimination is wrong. I think there
are many good chinese factory workers that deserve to eat just as much
as I deserve to eat. To deny them that opportunity for some political
position is just wrong. When you don't buy from companies or countries
that you don't agree with, do you really think you are hurting those who
have money? You only hurt those who are just getting by.

A while back some fine liberal minded individuals in our government
thought they could punish the rich by putting luxury taxes on things
like yachts. Of course only rich people buy yachts, so they will be the
only ones punished when they pay the taxes. So after this great idea
was passed, the actual outcome was a little different. The yachting
industry tanked, and 1,000's of good, hardworking blue collar craftsmen
lost their jobs. They lost their homes, they lost there purpose.
Before the grand plan to soak the rich they were happy and proud
everytime one of their ships hit the water. Maybe even they were a
little envious of the rich people who had the money to buy their
handiwork. Handiwork they would never be able to afford. But, w/o the
rich they couldn't even afford to feed themselves.


--
bugman - Equilibrium Challenged

"Trying to maintain balance by wild arm and body motions is something
like trying to balance a wet noodle"
Jack Wiley _The_Unicycle_Book_
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johnfoss
2003-12-10 17:56:28 UTC
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*if somebody could sell me decent fair trade unicycle parts i'd be
more tyhan likley to pay the extra.*
This is more noble than perhaps most of us. I think the question for the
masses is *how much* extra would be necessary to buy the right goods?
Obviously you still have the difficulty of finding out the truth about
things, but then it might be quite a bit more expensive to afford the
worthy products.
*however its up to the people who get this stuff made to make sure
that they only employ companies who treat their workers well.
that means unicycle.com*
For the most part, Unicycle.com is a reseller. Their main purpose is to
bring together most or all of the unicycles out there so people can shop
under one virtual roof. But in the process of doing this, they have
gained more ability to custom order things, and have some control over
production on some products. This is a step in the direction of being
able to have a say over working conditions.

But Unicycle.com can't do the world any good if it is underpriced and
put out of business by competitors. The vast majority of new unicycle
buyers this year will purchase Torkers, or other lowest-priced
unicycles, regardless of who sells them. Therein lies the dilemma.
*i'm not sure about this, but is it likley that the higher quality the
parts the more likeley the factory is a good place to work.?*
I would accept that as a likely trend, but I'm sure it is not a rule.
The product being produced can be just about anything, regardless of the
conditions in the workplace. Some people have great jobs making crap,
while others have terrible jobs making high quality, beautiful things. I
don't think there's a strong link.


--
johnfoss - IUF Director

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
"jfoss" at "unicycling.com"
www.unicycling.com

"My sister wanted to buy the new Eminem CD. I had to say to her, 'Like,
you can't hear it.'" — my nephew Austin Miller, whose sister Alexa is
100% deaf... But she can ride a unicycle!

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Rowan
2003-12-07 01:13:53 UTC
Permalink
*As a consumer I love the cheaper prices, but I wonder if we shouldn't
be asking ourselves about the human rights abuses and exploitation of
labor which is taking place in China and the Tiawanese companies who
subcontract out to China. How do I feel about my latest toy, a
Torker unicycle, knowing that it was made by Chinese workers who
probably earn $15-$20 per week?*
I think the Chinese economy needs the sales more than the American one
does. I didn't feel too good about giving the USA $4000 New Zealand
dollars to buy my Unicycle, but I didn't know of any better place to buy
a MUni. I like supporting Unicycle.com but if any taxes go towards
George Bush's wars and bombs I would be disappointed. I don't want to
have anything to do with supporting a selfish hostile regime such as the
USA. My parents are going to go and live in China next year. They will
be teaching english. My mum has already taught there for 6 months a
short while ago, and she said there are lots of really nice people
there. At least if they are getting $15-$20 a week it is far better than
not getting paid. Food is much cheaper there too, a big feed of rice (at
a restaurant) costs less than a dollar. My mum saw a website while
researching her teaching position, which mentioned about the pay foreign
teachers get, "This is not to be spent in rich countries such as
America". It is a blunt but honest statement. I think people should keep
on buying chinese unicycles, and if you feel guilty about slave labour,
go to China and set up a business in which you pay all employees fairly.
If you are going to boycott anyone, boycott American made, just in case
the taxes fall into the wrong hands.


--
Rowan - Another Unicyclist
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harper
2003-12-07 07:26:09 UTC
Permalink
We should only rent or lease unicycles from China. Maybe rent with an
option to buy, but not outright buy. We should only buy unicycles from
Jagur Thomas, Inc.


--
harper - Old dog, no tricks

-Greg Harper

B L U E S H I F T

"... is it better to have the seat too high, or too low?" -supertones

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Calamari
2003-12-07 07:46:20 UTC
Permalink
As a career machinist in the USA, this issue has been the subject
amongst my co-workers for several years now. It seems that only within
the last six months or so the rest of my country is looking around and
noticing the massive loss of our manufacturing jobs and the castration
of our industrial might. It is a difficult situation to break into black
and white. But I am troubled by the deeper implications of buying "made
in China", however because of trade practices endorsed by our/my own
government there are now times when there is NO choice (has anyone tried
to buy an American toaster lately?). I find it chilling to see our
industrial abillity bleed away and I beleave in time it will actually
undermine our security. This will be a growing issue and it is going to
become more and more important for consumers to shop wisely, because the
government seems infatuated with a blinding race to the economic bottom.


--
Calamari - coffee addict

A broken watch is still correct twice a day.
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Amos_And_Ego
2003-12-08 23:45:52 UTC
Permalink
*Make up your mind, ethics or laws. They are two totally different
concepts.
While you are concerned with companies abusing labour, countries such
as the US are abusing peoples rights under the pretense of abiding by
law. Their own country protects human rights, so they take their
prisoners of war to Cuba where human rights are not an issue. The
taliban captives are not being paid, and are being held indefinitely
under the new title of "detainees", which means "Prisoners of war" but
has been twisted in an attempt to bypass the law. *
Rowan, I agree. Ethics and laws are two different things and I have
participated in a number of "illegal" activities which I believe to be
ethical, such as civil disobedience and working in a homeless shelter
"aiding and harboring the further entry" of illegal immigrants into the
US, which are illegal activities.

I am not confusing law and ethics, I am simply stating what we have been
able to demand of our university administration. So far, no school in
the USA has signed a contract to only merchandise clothes produced under
a "living wage." So far we have only managed to get school
administrations to sign contracts with a "code of conduct" demanding
that manufacturers abide by a certain standards in addition to their own
countries' laws. Obviously a "living wage" would be more ethical, but
"a code of conduct" is the best that we can do for the time being. Our
long term goal is a true wage increase, but that will take a lot more
time and energy. Still asking that a company abide by its own
countries' laws in this case is more ethical than not asking it to abide
by any labor laws--which is the defacto reality. In many of these
factories, the minimum wage is not paid and people are forced to work
overtime without proper compensation.

As for the ethics of US Foreign policy, all I can say is that I am
deeply upset about what my country is doing. I am currently a graduate
student in Latin American History, so I am very familiar with the
immorality of my country abroad, both in the past and the present. I am
not trying to suggest that America is an ethical nation, whereas others
are not. If America was an ethical nation, we wouldn't be engaging in
this sort of trade in the first place.

Also the holding of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is illegal
according to the Geneva Convention and the US is violating the law, even
though our Congress did pass laws allowing it. I think it is less a
question of ethics versus law and more of a question of international
law versus US law.

My two cents, Amos


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Amos_And_Ego
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gerblefranklin
2003-12-09 00:30:57 UTC
Permalink
Not to go out on a tangent, but I've been tracking this thread in hopes
that I can get to hear Kris Holm's opinion on this topic, since he does
basically control the manufacture of KH brand products. Mabey he could
do some influence on the contractors he's using, partially because he
probably owns rights to control the manufacture of the products bearing
his name. Just my musings.


--
gerblefranklin

I don't break equipment, I make it cheaper.
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grey
2003-12-09 01:30:24 UTC
Permalink
My stock answer to this general line of thinking is "If you don't like
what workers overseas are paid for their labor, start your own plant
over there and pay them what you think is fair, or ethical."

My hat is off to Patagonia, Ben and Jerry's and other business people
that put their principles into their business decisions. But
Anglo-American capitalism had child-labor and sweat-shops for years, and
people worked there because it put bread on the table better than
working their gardens. As an economy, we have grown out of it. Growing
economies go thru logical stages.

The fact is, the developed economies (that's us) have the purchasing
power. If we don't buy from the developing economies, no one will.
They will be stuck with no way to build capital and grow into a consumer
economy like us. Not that I think consumerism is the greatest thing,
but that is the model the world strives for. And it does provide us
with nice toys like hi-tech MUnis.

my two cents ©


--
grey - George Kleinert

"The feeling is weird - sort of like learning to use a single-wheel
prosthetic device to keep the earth away." - cyberbellum
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johnfoss
2003-12-09 23:32:09 UTC
Permalink
Should I buy a unicycle from China on ethical grounds? To answer this, I
must start by defining what standards I think a factory or company must
abide by to satisfy me. Are the laws of that nation sufficient, or are
their laws not sufficient? Make sure you've got your requirements
figured out before you begin passing judgement.

The second step in passing judgement is finding out whether the
factories that apply to your purchases are violating your standards.
Assuming that they are not is unfair. Just as sweat shops still operate
in the US (illegally, I assume), clean, safe factories that pay a decent
wage surely exist in China and elsewhere.

That second step represents the first part of your roadblock. Where the
hell are our cycle parts made? In simplistic form, manufacturers sell to
distributors, and distributors sell to bike shops. Bike shops have no
easy way of finding out who the manufacturers are if distributors don't
want to tell. And they don't. And this is in the most basic chain of
production. There could be any number of layers of middlemen,
subcontractors, corporate layers, etc.

The other part of that roadblock is expecting accurate information about
what goes on in a factory in a far off land. Who do you believe? My
experiences in China include being lied to by almost everyone except my
translators (assuming they were just being accurate). The truth is
optional, and that's when you're face to face. Across an ocean assume
even less truth.

So let's assume you have established your personal standards of what you
will accept, and you have reliabile information about the various
factories (and who makes what). What if every piece of the unicycle you
like is made under acceptable conditions except for one? What if the
whole unicycle is fine except for the ball bearings inside the bearings,
for example? I guess you'd have to decide what level of that is
acceptable as well.

If you have zero tolerance, and trust nobody, you can just buy things
made in other countries. First decide which countries are acceptable to
you. Okay, David Mariner (DM). He makes the stuff himself. Great! Only
he doesn't. He makes frames and a few other parts. He doesn't make
cranks, pedals, rims, spokes, etc.

And what about the tubing he uses? What country did it come from? Uh
oh... Good luck getting those parts while knowing how they were
manufactured.

Also, consider what you're trying to do here. Are you trying to save the
world through unicycle purchases? That's like a drop of rain in the
Pacific Ocean. Any unicycle being produced in a factory is probably a
marginal money maker at best. These factories probably spend most of
their time making bike parts, or other materials that have larger
markets. You'd have to not buy those products either.

I wonder if people (here in the USA at least) realize how much of the
stuff around them comes from China and Taiwan? Lots. If you want to make
an ethical dent, start with larger-ticket items that are used by more
people.

Unfortunately, as long as the cheapest unicycles continue to come from
Taiwan/China, and they're of good quality for the money, that's where
the vast majority of the sales will be. By far these are the most
frequent unicycles purchased, and people buy them because of price. You
aren't likely to beat the prices with other existing brands from other
countries.

Why are Miyatas so unpopular these days compared to 10 years ago?
Because they're too expensive! They're really good unicycles, but being
manufactured in Japan just left them priced too high. So now we know the
seats have been switched to China, and possibly other components.
Japanese companies have to remain competitive as well.

By all means, spend your money on who you think most deserves it. If you
would rather Scott Bridgeman benefits over some unnamed factory in Asia,
buy one of his frames. As for the rest of your parts, if you look hard
enough I'm sure you can find some that come from countries you find
acceptable.

Just remember not to believe all the pro- or anti- propoganda you read.
Despite China's communist label, free enterprise is thriving over there.
This was one of the most obvious things to see there, for all the people
who went to UNICON X. People are climbing all over each other do do
business with you, and sell you a product cheaper than their
competitors. Some of these products are of laughably poor quality, but
others are excellent. The whole range is there.

I also remember reading an article recently about working conditions in
Taiwan. The author was talking about how people complain about human
rights violations and working conditions, and assume it applies to a
whole country. This story described air conditioned factories with
workers making a good living wage, and living suburban lifestyles. From
what little I've seen, the quality of life for people in China is
improving rapidly as well.


--
johnfoss - IUF Director

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
"jfoss" at "unicycling.com"
www.unicycling.com

"My sister wanted to buy the new Eminem CD. I had to say to her, 'Like,
you can't hear it.'" — my nephew Austin Miller, whose sister Alexa is
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paco
2003-12-10 02:07:54 UTC
Permalink
I saw this news article a few years back about brick makers in Brazil.
These people were individual families who made and sold bricks to
support themselves. The entire family had to participate just to eke
out survival. The problem was that with the equipment used, the
children would often lose limbs, and sometimes be killed. That's not
very humane. But if these families tried to improve the situation, or
if the brick buyers stopped buying the bricks on moral grounds, the
delicate balance would be disrupted and most of the family would die of
starvation. Is that humane?
I realize that these are separate issues, but just one more thing to
think about.
And incidentally, if you want to see a very interesting film with the
setting being the onset of Chinese communism, go see, "To Live."


--
paco - Proud owner of 2 opposable thumbs

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"That happened once!"
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johnfoss
2003-12-10 21:11:26 UTC
Permalink
*Incidentally, while everyone here seems to be treating Taiwan and
China interchangeably, the two places are actually very different,
even if in theory Taiwan is part of China still.*
This is correct, they are not the same. Along with that, one factory in
China might be much nicer than another in Taiwan, or anywhere else in
the world. Can't blame a whole country. If it's a political thing, and
for example you don't want to buy anything from China, good luck. It's
everywhere!
*Finally, whilst I'd totally agree it might be a nice thing to do to
not buy things made in certain places because of labour conditions,
often people buy US or UK made goods to 'support the country'. If
you're doing this you aren't really helping. Your country will be
better off overall if you buy the goods from the cheaper producer, *
Also true, depending on your goals. If I buy an American car to support
American industry, I may inadvertantly be supporting increasingly
unbalanced trade. If I buy the best car for the money, and it happens to
be from a different country, I am encouraging the American companies to
remain competitive.

However if my friend Joe works at the Dodge plant, I might buy a Dodge
just to honor him, and contribute to his individual job security.

By the same token I might buy a unicycle, even for more money, from a
vendor I know and trust, rather than from an anonymous eBay vendor.
Unicycle.com, for instance, contributes to the unicycling community.
They spec the unicycles people ask for, and do the work to turn feedback
into products. The nameless competitors do not.


--
johnfoss - IUF Director

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
"jfoss" at "unicycling.com"
www.unicycling.com

"My sister wanted to buy the new Eminem CD. I had to say to her, 'Like,
you can't hear it.'" — my nephew Austin Miller, whose sister Alexa is
100% deaf... But she can ride a unicycle!

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jagur
2003-12-07 09:22:09 UTC
Permalink
* We should only buy unicycles from Jagur Thomas, Inc. *
lardy tarr..another hungry customer summins trade.29er on the rise...


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jagur - Random Unicyclist

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-Forget_Your_Life-

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eenwieler
2003-12-07 09:50:07 UTC
Permalink
If we all stop with buying unicycles. and other people with buing outher
stuff that comes from china or taiwan. Than the fabrics will close and
the villigers will get instead of the 15 / 20 dollar each week .nothing
because the had lost there jobs. The only way to help them is buying
stuff from fabrics that give the villigers more money.
In netherlands we have got a special brand of coffie. By this brand the
farmers that produce the coffie bones get a good price for the bones. So
if you want to help them you can better buy things that works on the
same way. Than you know that the villigers have a good life.

Ferko


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eenwieler - One wheel is everything I need.

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Liam
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by eenwieler
In netherlands we have got a special brand of coffie. By this brand the
farmers that produce the coffie bones get a good price for the bones. So
if you want to help them you can better buy things that works on the
same way. Than you know that the villigers have a good life.
It's called fair trade food and is on sale all over the western world.
Unfortunately, though, I've never seen a cheap, fair-trade unicycle.


Liam

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evilewan
2003-12-10 05:06:17 UTC
Permalink
and to think i felt bad about buying a profile hub because it WAS made
in america.

they spend some of that tax on bombs to drop on the middle east. just so
that halliburton can get construction contracts.

i buy fair trade food and pay extra for the privelege.

if somebody could sell me decent fair trade unicycle parts i'd be more
tyhan likley to pay the extra.

however its up to the people who get this stuff made to make sure that
they only employ companies who treat their workers well.

that means unicycle.com

i'm not sure about this, but is it likley that the higher quality the
parts the more likeley the factory is a good place to work.?

the more skilled the workers are the less they have to worry about
changing jobs. and the more the employers have to look after them.
thatys how it traditionaly works here in britian, but what about places
without trade unions?


--
evilewan - death or glory

--
evilewan.

see the rec.sport.unicycling maintainance FAQ @
http://evilewan.unicyclist.com/
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Frank A.
2003-12-07 13:31:37 UTC
Permalink
*We should only buy unicycles from Jagur Thomas, Inc. *
The JTI inventory also includes unicycle accessories along with some
nice scratch and dent bargains! :D


--
Frank A. - off-road

"Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child
at play." - FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Beyond Good and Evil


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duaner
2003-12-11 00:22:17 UTC
Permalink
*By the same token I might buy a unicycle, even for more money, from a
vendor I know and trust, rather than from an anonymous eBay vendor.
Unicycle.com, for instance, contributes to the unicycling community.
They spec the unicycles people ask for, and do the work to turn
feedback into products. The nameless competitors do not. *
The nameless competitors do have some value though:

1. They keep unicycle.com's prices fair.
2. They sometimes (often?) have items when unicycle.com is "out of
stock".

I.e.

1. I bought an eBay uni when unicycle.com was out of stock.
I had to do this a few months back when unicycle.com ran out of 24"
torkers!
Not only were they out of stock, but they failed to mention this when I
placed my order. I did not know they were out of stock until the order
arrived a week later sans uni and I called them up. (A bad way to do
bussiness).

2. I would buy an eBay uni if I could get it for a price+shipping that
was *substantially* lower than unicycle.com's.


--
duaner - -

duaner.
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evilewan
2003-12-11 17:03:43 UTC
Permalink
i suppose that at the end of the day unicycles are a non essential item
and we should all feel bad and greedy for having them ( i do)
even those of us whpo are performers could actualy just juggle with bits
of wood to make a living.

if there is a sweatshop in china where underpaid teenagers loose fingers
in machines to make our unicycles, then its our fault.
especialy the ones that encourage or teach others.

all we can realy do is tell our suppliers that we dont want our
unicycles cheaper if that means people being exploited in order to do
it.

or not buy them.


--
evilewan - death or glory

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Borges
2003-12-07 16:58:12 UTC
Permalink
If you have questions about a product, contact the manufactorer and
demand facts about the production. If you don't like what you hear,
don't buy the product.
That way, at least, you'll force them to make an effort to hide the fact
if the doors at the factory can't be opened from the inside.

Probably everyone reading this is among the 5% richest people in the
world. We don't share the wealth, so we won't go to heaven. Let's have
fun with our toys while we can.


--
Borges - High impact cerabellum workout

"Getting caught wearing this helmet may result in death by hanging"
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Amos_And_Ego
2003-12-07 19:54:09 UTC
Permalink
-----------------------------------------------
Borges wrote:
If you have questions about a product, contact the manufactorer and
demand facts about the production. If you don't like what you hear,
don't buy the product.
That way, at least, you'll force them to make an effort to hide the fact
if the doors at the factory can't be opened from the inside.
---------------------------------------------

I agree with you that we as consumers have a moral duty to demand that
goods which we buy are produced ethically. So I decided to test out
your idea and contact the manufacturers of my unicycles. I own a Savage
giraffe, a 20"Torker, and a 28"Sun. All are cheap unicycles probably
manufactured in China or in Tiawan with parts from China. After a quick
google search, I was unable to find any information about how to contact
Savage. I'm sure that there must be a way, but there was no easy web
site that I found which gave this information. Nor did this imformation
come with the unicycle when I bought it from Ace Cycles, although a
sticker on my giraffe says "Made in Tiawan."

Next I googled for Torker. After poking around the www.torkerusa.com
site, I was unable to find a telephone number to call nor is there any
information about where they are made (not even in what country).
However, there is a snail mail address and an email address so I will
try that and see what they say. My Torker has a "Made in China"
sticker.

Finally I googled for Sun Unicycles. The closest that I came up with
was www.sunbicycles.com, but they didn't have any unicycles in their
product list, so I am not sure that they are the manufacturer (or brand
adfixer) of Sun unicycles. Their links to contact them and to order are
broken. My Sun has no sticker telling me what country it was made in,
although that information might have been on the box when I bought it
from unicycle.com.

Now I am sure that someone who works in bike store could find someway to
contact these companies, but it isn't easy for the average consumer like
me. Even if I do manage to contact them, will they tell me where the
unicycles were manufactured and whether they are produced under a fair
wage or even the legal minimum wage? I don't know in the case of
unicycles, but I don't hold out much hope if they are anything like
clothes manufacturers.

Unfortunately it can be extremely difficult to find out any information
about many manufacturers because they hide behind a web of
subcontractors. Disney is famous for doing these sort of shady
practices whereby they claim that they have no responsibility for what a
subcontractor does. Many companies won't reveal the locations of the
factories where their goods are made, so it is very difficult to
investigate whether there are labor violations. If goods are made in
Latin America, there is some chance of obtaining this sort of
information, but it is almost impossible to obtain this sort of
information from a Chinese subcontractor.

I am involved with a student group at Indiana University that demands
that any clothes which bears my university's logo has to be produced
under certain conditions. The manufacturer signs a contract to abide by
the minimum wage laws of his country, comply with that nation's labor
laws, and post the legal rights of workers for that country on the walls
of the factory, ...etc. We aren't even asking that manufacturers pay a
living wage, just abide by their countries' laws. If a manufacturer
signs the contract but doesn't comply, we have the legal right to yank
his contract. We have done it a couple of times, but it takes good
organization and a number of universities working together in a
consortium for changes to be made. One university working alone can not
usually force a manufacturer to change its practices.

Althought the unicycle market is certainly different from the university
clothing market, I think some of the same principles apply. One
unicycling enthusiast who calls and asks questions about labor
conditions won't have much impact, although it might send a message that
someone cares what is going on. I don't believe that one consumer can
force a change, but if 1% of unicycle consumers raise a ruckus, we might
be able to improve conditions for the people who make our lovely toys.
From what I have seen from the anti-sweatshop movement in other areas,
the most important thing is organized opposition.

All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the
anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors. They
are protected by their own government from outside investigation of
their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy anything
from China. I have less problems buying something made in Mexico, since
there are some means of protesting what is happening in a Mexican
factory and working in solidarity with workers who are collectively
organizing for their rights.

So what can I do as a average consumer? If I have lots of money, I can
buy expensive unicycles which are assembled domestically with most parts
made domestically. Nowadays, I doubt anyone can find a unicycle which
has every single part made in the USA, Canada, England, Germany,
Australia, New Zealand, or any other developed nation.

If that strategy is outside of my budget (I am a grad student after all)
I can write a quick email to the seller (unicycle.com) and the
manufacturer (Torker) and express my concerns.

In addition, I can also try to buy stuff which is made abroad under
better conditions than in China. In this case, I might try to buy
things which are made in Tiawan rather than in China. This stategy
only works if I am sure that the Tiawanese company isn't subcontracting
out to China. Most likely, a unicycle like my Savage was probably
assembled in Tiawan, using Chinese parts. This is better than my Torker
which is probably 100% Chinese made.

So my plea is for anyone who knows how to contact unicycle companies, to
post that information on this thread. And let us know if you find out
anything about where and how unicycles are made.


--
Amos_And_Ego
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Ken Cline
2003-12-08 04:37:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Amos_And_Ego
All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the
anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors. They
are protected by their own government from outside investigation of
their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy anything
from China.
And I though cynicism like this was reserved for those of us old
enough to have left the university.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that at least some products made in China are
produced ethically. Participants in the Fair Labor Association
[http://www.fairlabor.org], a group of apparrel manufacturers, agree
to a code of conduct and independent auditing. I can't vouch for
every member of the FLA, but I know that Patagonia is deeply committed
to social change and maintains extremely high standards at all of its
production facilities, including those in China.

But this doesn't help unicycle shoppers. Oh well.

Ken
Rowan
2003-12-08 00:42:12 UTC
Permalink
-Originally posted by Borges-
*Probably everyone reading this is among the 5% richest people in the
world. We don't share the wealth, so we won't go to heaven. Let's have
fun with our toys while we can.*
Speak for yourself. Just because you lack generosity doesn't mean no-one
else shares wealth. I loaned my old crap unicycle out, and got myself a
KH saddle. After trying the seat myself, I loaned it out too, if that's
not sharing the wealth I don't know what is (KH seats are costly). I
don't believe in heaven but that is no reason to be selfish.
*we as consumers have a moral duty to demand that goods which we buy
are produced ethically.
...
We aren't even asking that manufacturers pay a living wage, just abide
by their countries' laws.
...
All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the
anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors.
They are protected by their own government from outside investigation
of their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy
anything from China. I have less problems buying something made in
Mexico, since there are some means of protesting what is happening in
a Mexican factory and working in solidarity with workers who are
collectively organizing for their rights.*
Make up your mind, ethics or laws. They are two totally different
concepts. While you are concerned with companies abusing labour,
countries such as the US are abusing peoples rights under the pretense
of abiding by law. Their own country protects human rights, so they take
their prisoners of war to Cuba where human rights are not an issue. The
taliban captives are not being paid, and are being held indefinitely
under the new title of "detainees", which means "Prisoners of war" but
has been twisted in an attempt to bypass the law. Those people making
unicycles in the Chinese factory are not "workers" they are
"contributors" and do not have human rights as such.


--
Rowan - Another Unicyclist
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joemarshall
2003-12-10 20:23:52 UTC
Permalink
Incidentally, while everyone here seems to be treating Taiwan and China
interchangeably, the two places are actually very different, even if in
theory Taiwan is part of China still.

Also, just because something is made in the UK or US doesn't mean that
it is better quality, or that the workers are working under better
conditions. For example, ventilation standards in the large Taiwanese
factory that makes a large proportion of the world's bikes are
supposedly far better than those in many small custom builder's
workshops. This might not sound very important, but if you're welding
every day, you're producing lots of very nasty gases, good ventilation
is the thing stopping your health being seriously damaged. Also, many
small builders in Western countries are one or two man operations, with
very little in terms of quality control, whereas in a large factory, the
amount of quality control is only limited by the amount the customer is
willing to pay.

Finally, whilst I'd totally agree it might be a nice thing to do to not
buy things made in certain places because of labour conditions, often
people buy US or UK made goods to 'support the country'. If you're doing
this you aren't really helping. Your country will be better off overall
if you buy the goods from the cheaper producer, protectionism just
doesn't work as a way to help your country. George Bush is currently
discovering this with steel tariffs, he's saved a few thousand jobs in
steel, but killed off loads more jobs in steel based manufacturing,
where parts are being made outside America and shipped in now.

Joe


--
joemarshall - dumb blonde
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