Reader Participation Day: Should More American-Made Products Be Available for Purchase in America's National Parks?

Visitors browse the bookstore at Grand Teton's Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Bob Janiskee photo.

Anybody who shops for souvenirs or other durable goods in national park bookstores or concessions cannot fail to notice that the great majority of the products are imports. This T-shirt was manufactured in Honduras. That stuffed toy was made in China. And so on.

We know that it's all about money. Imported products are cheaper and yield bigger profits.

Do you think it's important to have more American-made products available for purchase in America's national parks? Would you be willing to buy these products even if they cost more than their imported counterparts?

Comments

Our National Parks could rightly be called International Parks based on the demographics of visitors. When I visited Bryce Canyon and Zion two years ago, I think the Germans easily outnumbered the Americans. I have visited the Arizona Memorial many times and the Japanese always have a large representation. This is pretty common for all the Parks I have visited. These precious places belong not just to America but to the world. I can't wait to start visiting the National Parks of other countries. I'll spend my hard-earned American dollars converted to the local currency so I can buy my souvenir hat pin (probably made in China). No problem.

We live in a global economy where the "made in" tag doesn't mean what it used to. You can buy a Honda with more American parts and labor in it than some Chevys. Those T-shirts were quite possibly stitched in Honduras with cotton and polyester from the US and then came back here to be screen-printed. Likewise, a Made-in-the-USA tag doesn't really mean the thing contributed to our economy much at all. I don't even look at where stuff comes from.
If you want to help the US economy while at the National Parks: eat at mom-and-pop restaurants in the gateway towns, stay at mom-and-pop motels, tip your tour guides generously (if they're allowed to accept), stop at a flea market and purchase some local crafts or art as souveniers...

Yes, I do believe the more 'Made in the USA' items should be purchased for sale in our National Parks' stores. It is good for America and Americans, for starters.
I do understand that folks from many other countries visit and enjoy our great spaces and people. Perhaps part of their experience is to take home a piece of America, so, a souvenir made here might enhance their experience.
Of course, our global economy and domestic economic policy favors trade; therefore, I also believe that stocking a balanced selection of items made from around the world is the solution. And, everyone wins.

I would like to see more local crafts sold in the National Park gift stores. I do look to see where something is made because I purchase a locally made item as a souvenir. Every park has local crafters in pottery, leather, wood or artists that would benefit from having the gift shops as a location for their products. The fact that the parks are filled with international visitors is an ideal setting for the presentation of American made goods. If we don't highlight our local artists we contribute to the problem of lack of American made products. When I am traveling out of the country, I buy a local craft. Locally made items available at the parks would give our visitors the same opportunity.

There is something about just wishing that more goods made in the US were available in our parks. A while back a delegation including the head of the Chinese military visited South Rim. Walking into the finest Native American/Mary Colter Designed retail store, the first thing he picked up, turned upside down and laughed out loud at seeing the "Made in China," logo. The new Martin Luther King Sculpted statue in place in Washington DC at a cost of many millions of dollars was "made in China." At least it would be very difficult to turn over and check the logo. Then there's the Oakland Bay Bridge also... Merely wishing a change because of constantly changing political correctness won't do the trick, I believe.

Jobs,jobs,jobs! We hear about the need to help the small business owner daily. Having a supplier here in America using local labor to produce products for our National Parks would be great. Have items made by local artisans and craftsmen available for purchase too. We are so sure that foriegn made items will be cheaper that if a real cost comparison was done, USA products might be cheaper than we think. Lets sell more USA products in the National Parks!

It would be nice, but I wouldn't like to see a mandate against foreign products.

I don't typically buy a lot of expensive stuff from the gift shops, which is where you typically find "Made in USA" labels. I do remember seeing a lot of American-made products at various places at Mt Rainier. Then again, a bead trinket was made to look like native craft work, but was made in China. We do have some incense cedar boxes that were made by a supplier in Michigan.

Impact Photographics is probably the largest supplier of postcards and refrigerator magnets for NPS gift shops. They claim that " less than of every retail dollar" goes to their foreign suppliers. I'm not sure what to make of it, because it could be that these things have a 150% markup and it's about half their costs going to their foreign suppliers. I'd be curious as to how much of **their** costs are going overseas.

http://www.impactphotographics.com/MadeInUsa.asp

I have several of their magnets. I think two are marked as Made in China and the rest in the US. I really can't tell a difference in the quality. These things are pretty much made by machine. In addition to that, the distribution of the money varies by the product. With those magnets, where are the parts coming from? Is it printed in China with final assembly in the US? We've got a plastic ruler with a Yosemite insert. It cost $2 and says "Made in USA". I suspect that the parts were all made elsewhere, but the final assembly was in the US.

I know if sort of gives that warm fuzzy feeling, but there's a reality to what's really going on with that label. In the end, the majority of the profits on souvenir sales are going to the store. That's going to be bigger than the cost of the trinket. That's what pays the person working at the counter who rings up the sale. It might be nice, but it it were mandated I'm thinking a lot of more expensive stuff might just sit on the shelf until it gets moved to the discount shelf.

The more products from the USA we can sell, the better- especially in our National Parks. But be careful what you ask for. Products from the USA typically cost more, so we'd all have to be prepared for higher prices in the gift shop. If that's OK, great- let's push for it! Plus, the comment "We know that it's all about money. Imported products are cheaper and yield bigger profits" is a little simplistic and somewhat misleading. Actually, cheaper products typically mean smaller profits, per item, where there's a standard percentage markup for profit, such as with gift shops, and more expensive products mean higher profits. Most businesses buy less expensive products so they can move more of the product, which does mean more profit overall. But let's face it, less people will buy the more expensive product, even if it's made in the USA. It's correct to say "it's all about money," but that applies to both the gift shop AND the visitors.

Since the Congressional gift shop only sells American made items, and I believe that American made items should be sold at gift shops at National Parks. That does not include books though. Things like Knick knacks, stuffed animals and clothing sold at NPS gift shops should be made in America, I believe.

In the case of the Bay Bridge a spokesman said that using Made in USA Union labor to build the bridge would have been unaffordable. You'd think that in "real world think" Unions would be more cooperative for the greater good. The Martin Luther King Memorial, I believe, is managed by NPS.

Great Smoky Mountains Association emphasizes not only made in USA but local products.
They have local honey, stone ground flour and other food stuff.
Check them out at http://www.thegreatsmokymountains.org/
Danny

I work in Yellowstone. I hear many folks complaining that so many items offered for sale are made in China. In an American Naitonal Park, they want to purchase items made in America.

Certainly most of the goods sold should be from the USA, especially in the National Parks. Ideally the goods would be produced as locally as possible. And don't get me going on free trade issues!

Unfortunately, the companies that made these trinkets in the USA are out of business because they could not compete in the world market. So if the buyer for the shops can buy an American made product that is comparible in price and quality, he should. I imagine the supplier for the shop does not give them much choice. So unless some of you open a shop making some of the things you are looking for, we are probably stuck seeing "made somewhere else."

The National Parks are our National Treasure. As such we should be promoting "Made in America". Tourists to the park, should they be Americans or Foreigners should be able to take home American made gifts from an American treasure. This will also create the much needed jobs here. It has been shown that items made here are not any more expensive than those made in China. Let's support American made instead of China made.

Anonymous:
The National Parks are our National Treasure. As such we should be promoting "Made in America". Tourists to the park, should they be Americans or Foreigners should be able to take home American made gifts from an American treasure. This will also create the much needed jobs here. It has been shown that items made here are not any more expensive than those made in China. Let's support American made instead of China made.
Honestly it's rather nebulous what "Made in America" means these days. How much of the content of a product is actually manufactured in the US?

As an example, there's the New Balance shoe company. They have US assembly operations. I believe they make the foam soles and have workers assemble the parts. However, there's been a lot of information that they have the entire uppers and rubber soles made in China, and American workers simply glue them together.

I suspect that quite a few of these comparably-priced, (supposedly) American made trinkets consist of lots of imported parts and materials. When they contain more American materials, they sell for a lot more. I noted the incense cedar boxes we bought. They were over $20. I suspect a cheap similar box made in China would have sold for under $10.

The only place we truly see a proper accounting is with autos. They'll list the value content of the parts. A typical American car will have a sizable value of parts from Mexico, Japan, and other parts of Asia.

Do you think it's important to have more American-made products available for purchase in America's national parks? Yes. This is becoming more and more important to preserving our economy and standard of living, in my opinion.
Would you be willing to buy these products even if they cost more than their imported counterparts? Yes. We are not talking about Target here. If you can afford to travel to and patronize our national parks, you can afford to pay a bit more for that "Where the hell are the bears?" t-shirt.

Bruce, that's not the way that people that have managed to have enough to travel in these Parks think. Examples: Oakland Bay Bridge, MLK Memorial and even while the Pinyon Nuts are being gathered by native Americans around the Grand Canyon they'er selling Pinyon Nuts at the market that are from, you guessed it, China! There's a reality our there:).