June 14, 2004
Offshoring: Good Publix Relations
Charlie Seaman used to drink Coca-Cola. Then the laid-off Atlanta tech worker heard the company was "offshoring" jobs overseas. Determined to stop patronizing companies that he believed discarded U.S. workers, Seaman began researching and eventually launched a Web site, onshorealternatives.com, that listswhich companies offshore and which don't. Now heshops at barnesandnoble.cominstead of Amazon, uses a local bank and drinks Publix-brand cola. "Once you get used to it, it tastes fine," he says.
In the debate over offshoring there's been a constant refrain: Americans may decry the practice, but they love buying low-cost goods at stores like Wal-Mart. Thanks to MADE IN USA tags, shoppers have long had the ability to buy American when making purchases. But much of today's offshoring is being done by banks, insurance companies and tax preparers—service firms that don't use labels. So anti-offshoring activists have been launching Web sites and writing letters, highlighting firms that offshore and urging "empowered consumerism."
It's not easy. The companies exporting jobs include most big-name firms; offshore avoiders often deal with local or obscure brands. Cindy Ranier of Maryville, Ill., switched brokerage firms and insurance companies, but says "it's impossible to do 100 percent." Free-traders say Ranier and others are tilting at windmills. Instead of obsessing over lists of bad companies, says Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy, they'd do better by "making cost-effective purchases. Then take the money you save and donate it to charity."