Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The State of Things

One of the changes I've noticed since the onset of Covid is the decline of quality of products.

This is not something one can blame a president for, or Congress, or anyone in politics, really. This is a corporate problem. A business issue. A capitalism thing. A people thing.

Shrinkflation is real; I've watched everything get smaller from my Dove soap to my box of Cheerios. Batteries don't work as well as they once did and I am finding that newer ones corrode much more quickly than the old batteries used to, as well. Nothing purchased now seems to be properly made. It's more like it's tossed together by people who don't know what they are doing.

I have thought about this a lot. Is this because the corporations have fallen into using poor materials? Do the people who are working there now not know what they are doing? Is it a combination of both?

I suspect it is a combination of many things: greed, the need to pay stockholders in big companies, the higher cost of materials thanks to tariffs put in place by the former president and now also by the current one, as well as changes in personnel.

It's important to remember that over 1 million people in this country died during Covid. They weren't all 88 years old languishing away in a nursing home, either.

Also, Covid hit just as baby boomers were retiring, and Covid sent some 2.6 million more people than expected into early retirement, according to PBS. (My husband was one of those early retirees.)

So theoretically, that's over 3.6 million people no longer in the workforce. I know some of the older people who died weren't working, but for numbers sake, there you go. Millions of people no longer working.

Imagine the scenario. I don't know how batteries are made, or if they are even made in the United States but let's assume they are made here. There is a lot of automation in most manufacturing now. So a battery plant might employ something like 400 people. About 150 of those would be salespeople and upper management, because companies these days are a bit top heavy.

That leaves 50 more for support staff to upper management, so now I have 200 people doing the actual work of making batteries.

Then 2020 came, and Covid struck. On the floor with 200 people, the head floor manager dies of Covid. Fourteen of the oldest employees retire. Over the next two years, five more people die from Covid or something else, and three more leave. That's 11.5% of the floor workforce knocked out.

Maybe upper management decides not to replace them. So now there are only 177 people doing what was a 200-person job. Of course, some of those who died or left took expert knowledge with them. Maybe only the head floor manager knew that if you didn't flick this particular machine in just the right way, you would get too much alkaline or too little alkaline in the battery. Maybe nobody has figured this out yet.

Or maybe management hires new people. They have to be trained, but the person who usually trained new employees is one of the retirees. Someone else steps up to do it but leaves out a few crucial steps that the person who had been there for 20 years knew.

So, you end up with a poorer battery. Serviceable, maybe. Acceptable by whatever quality assurances the company has in place (if any), but still not as good a battery as one purchased in 2019. And now it costs more, too.

And people who don't stop to think things through blame the government.

The problems in this country go way deeper than just who is president or who is in Congress, although many of the issues start there. The problems start with us. With who we are and who we want to be. Do we want to be the best darned battery checker in the world, or just draw a paycheck? Do we take pride in our communities anymore? Do we volunteer for civic work, help the town council put out flower arrangements to make the entry way a pretty spot? Do we donate to the library, check on a neighbor, or just sit around and bitch, moan, and whine on Facebook (or a blog) about all the things we see wrong around us?

I am older now. I'm in chronic pain. I don't get out as much as I used to. But in my younger days, I volunteered for the ladies auxiliary in the volunteer fire department. I peeled potatoes to help them raise money at various events. I volunteered for the library. I volunteered for a historic preservation organization.

I did stuff. Some of it was important stuff. Maybe some of it wasn't, I don't know, but I gave it my best shot.

During all of this, I worked a job, kept a house, stayed sick a lot, and put myself through college not only for an undergraduate degree but also my masters. I never once did a job just for a paycheck. Sure, some of the places I worked I worked for the money, but I also did the very best I could at the job. Maybe my best wasn't good enough for some particular work, but it was my best.

Ok, I'm losing my train of thought, but I think the problems in this country can be boiled down to two things: you, and me. 

We need to learn to get along and how to work together to bring about a better world. It can be done.

Let's get off of Facebook and get to the real world.

The solutions begin with us.


  1. Yes, very true. And in many cases, the corporations just aren't putting the money into the products anymore. It's all about getting as much profit as they can squeeze out. And that translates to the workers, too. Why should they care if they're just going to get downsized when their corporate overlords decide that paying people is too expensive?

  2. I think so many people love social media and are not interested in getting back out into the real world. That's how I see it at least. Much easier for people to make themselves seem more than they are on Facebook.


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