I am a self-professed luggage addict. I love any piece of well-made, sturdy luggage that I can throw things into and take off on a weekend trip with my family. In fact, for nearly every special occasion over the past two years or so, my wife has helped feed my addiction by buying me what I consider to be the creme de la creme of luggage, Briggs & Riley. It’s not the most expensive stuff out there, mind you, but in my humble opinion, it’s the best. One reason: If a brute from one of the airlines decides to toss my bag off a 747 onto the tarmac and it breaks, the company will give me a new one. Their bags have all the pockets and bells and whistles anyone could ask for.
Like most anything I buy, I like to take a look at the tag to find out where it’s made. What I found out surprised me, at least at first. The bags are made in China. It’s an American company, based in New York state, but like many companies these days, their product is sourced from China. I made my discovery a few years back and it altered my perception of “Made in China.” I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter where a product is produced. What really matters is how stringent the company that outsources the product chooses to be. These bags have developed a sort of cult following since their introduction about 15 years ago. They’re prized for their styling, durability, selection and bulletproof warranty. If the company didn’t have such exacting standards and took anything that Chinese factories produced, they wouldn’t be in demand.
There’s ample evidence behind my long-held, but now dispelled, impression that all Chinese products are subpar. Just recently, China’s own quality assurance administration declared that nearly a fifth of the food and goods produced by the country are substandard or tainted, the International Herald-Tribune reported. With statistics like that and numerous news stories about tainted food coming from China, it’s easy to see how the U.S. population could absorb a negative view of the country’s manufacturing ability. And the country’s historical disregard for intellectual property rights has only fueled an undercurrent of disdain.
With China’s burgeoning numbers of car buyers, the country will eclipse the United States as the largest automotive market by 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Growth in parts imports has been staggering. From 2006 to 2007 alone, the amount of automotive parts exported from China to the U.S. increased 23 percent to $8.5 billion. Clearly, the country is a force to be reckoned with. In the perfect world, a company’s products would only sell if they’re good. But a proliferation of cheap products throughout the world in many industries has increased the pressure to keep prices low, low, low. As with anything in this world, you really get what you pay for.
I know my favorite luggage, even though it’s produced in China, is the very best. As the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. Or the luggage.