Friday, November 30, 2012

Where Have All The Cobblers Gone

To my son Tommy,

Years ago shoes were expensive.  A good pair of shoes cost a decent part of your week's wages.  I am not talking about designer shoes that cost an years salary just for a name and some bedazzle.  I am talking about your normal everyday average Joe shoes.  They were built to last and often hand made. People used to take care of their shoes, and not just the dress pair.  When shoes became in disrepair it was cheaper to bring them to someone to fix them up rather than buy a new pair.  Through cobblers and shoe repair and just because the basic quality was better, shoes often lasted for 7 or 10 years or even longer.  You had no problem paying the ten or twenty dollars for repair because it was much better than paying the hundred or more for a new pair of shoes.  You only had repair them once every 5 years or so.  It wasn't a common occurrence. Flash forward to today.

Now shoes are cheap.  You can get a basic pair for under twenty bucks.  A far cry from the hundred dollar shoes of yore.  These cheaper shoes are cheaper quality and made in some far off foreign land by a guy who gets slave labor wages to feed his family.  The shoe companies did business like this so their executives and stock owners made more money.  It is useless to have someone repair the shoes.  A shoe repair company would probably have to charge you twenty bucks to pay for labor and materials and overhead to fix your shoes.  And for twenty bucks you could just buy a new pair, so why bother.  Into the garbage goes the old shoes and you have your new kicks for $19.95 plus tax that hopefully last you a full year.

Many believe that capitalism is the end all be all of economic systems.  I tend to this train of thought but I look through long-term glasses with an eye on doing the right thing for everyone.  Unfortunately they have short term capital gains on their mind and self interest in their heart.  They don't think of the big picture and how everyone is effected.  In this case, we lost two professions.  We don't have the shoemakers nor the shoe repairers.  We have increased the landfills with old cheap sneakers made in China or Bangladesh.  Some with a worldly view may say "Well the shoe factories are helping those poorer countries." but taking advantage of a desperate starving man trying to feed his starving family is not what I call help.  Perhaps if they shared some of the 2 billion annual net profit with them...but to do so would make the stocks fall and a ton of rich people would be....hmm less rich?  Also the cost on our governments (local, city, state, and federal) for waste management increases the burden on our taxes, but that seems to not factor into any one's decision.  Many also point to the cheap shoes as a benefit to the consumer.  Again with the short term, you see that in the first year they buy shoes...the expenses of the consumer are lower.  But when you spread out the costs of the shoes over the lifetime of the shoes (even including repairs) you end up seeing the consumer benefits little.  The bane of capitalism is this type of corporate greed and corporate myopia.  It even bled into the consumer and they have wholeheartedly bought in to buy it on the cheap and toss when you are done.  Capitalism killed the cobbler!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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