Trail of Painted Ponies: Flawed Business Model

Crying_Pinkie_in_an_Iron_Lung-RockoCrossoverMy daughter Lea is obsessed with all things horse. Real horses, pretend horses, drawn horses, model horses — you name it. She’s also big on collectibles and “stuff,” the bling-ier the better. So when I recently came across one of these nifty “Trail of Painted Ponies” figurines, I thought I had an obvious winner for a present — the one I found was even a native American Hopi pony, which according to the box was “yada yada yada all about treasuring American native traditions and arts and whatnot…” which just added to the appeal, since Lea is also a huge fan of all things native American.

What was there not to like? Well, I happened to spend just a little too long reading the box with all its verbiage extolling the virtues of the company’s support for the art and belief in education and philanthropy and giving back and whatnot, that I stumbled across one important detail… take a wild guess where this exclusive work of native American hand-crafted art was made? Yep, China. So, that ended the purchase process right there.

But, really. Here’s a company bending over backwards to paint itself (pun intended) as being all about handcrafted attention to detail and love of craftsmanship. And to boost its standing, it then goes to great lengths to explain how it gives back millions in philanthropic support: “From animal protection and the environment to healthcare, education and the arts, we have blazed a Trail of support built on a foundation of solid business practices.” And yet, those solid business practices apparently involve outsourcing labor to China. I’m sure their Chinese workers are very good and meticulous, but why on earth can’t the company offer their support by paying American craftsman a working wage, instead of buying cheap labor and then giving away part of the resulting excess profits as philanthropy?

It’s almost as if the simply approach of doing the right thing has become completely alien to American business: make it in America, support American workers, and win goodwill from consumers by simply going against the conventional wisdom of outsourcing.I for one will gladly pay extra for a product that hasn’t been sourced from Obscuristan, where child laborers work with lead paint to “save me” a buck or two. I wonder when that message will get thru to the MBA wiz kids in American industry?