I was out running errands with my wife today and she wanted to stop by the Dollar Store to pick up a bottle of bubbles for the preschool she runs. Swinging by the Dollar Store to buy a bottle of bubbles made me immediately think of (Whatever Happened to The) Great American Bubble Factory, Drivin N Cryin's excellent 2009 album focused on the failing US economy at the time, all inspired by lead singer Kevin Kinney buying his grandkid a bottle of bubbles at a Dollar Store and wondering why the hell we are importing something so simple from China.
As we were returning to the car she asked me if the bottle of bubbles (actually a 3-pack for $1) was made in China. Has anything changed since 2009?
Yes, and no. The bubbles were of course made in China, however, they were imported to the US from Canada.
Imported from Canada? So this plastic bottle of soap water was made in China, shipped all the way to Canada, incurred the expense of clearing Canadian customs, then had to clear US customs to get to a Dollar Store warehouse where it was handled and processed before being shipped to the store here in Richmond. Maybe going through Canada is some sort of hack that actually reduces costs?
I'm guessing ocean freight is so efficient these days that the shipping costs on cheap consumer goods is essentially zero for the individual units. But still, there are a lot of hands in the supply chain all taking a piece of the action on something that I guess Dollar Store paid 50 cents for and sold to the consumer for a dollar. (Dollar Tree's most recent gross margin was 30% - so my guess above is probably pretty damn close).
So basically I'm wondering the same thing Kevn Kinney was wondering about 10 years. We really can't make bubbles in the US?
Maybe I can get some venture capital for a bubble factory if I put it on the blockchain, whatever the hell that would mean.
Also, if you aren't already familiar with them, Drivin N Cryin is probably the greatest rock band you've never heard of.