One of the few television series that my wife, Amber, and I can agree on is “The Shark Tank,” a program that gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their idea or product to a handful of self-made millionaires.
The last one we watched had the Sharks granting audience to a man from North Carolina who was selling the Invis-A-Rack, a collapsible truck rack.
The product seemed ideal for construction workers who don’t want their personal vehicle to look like a work truck. It also seemed like a great investment for the Sharks.
Though the inventor, Donny McCall, was flexible with the terms of the deal, there was one aspect he would not compromise on: the Invis-A-Rack would always be made in America.
So, Amber and I sat and leaned into the TV as the Sharks told McCall how easily he could make his dream come true if only he would move production outside the States.
McCall appealed to Shark Tank member Robert Herjavec, whose late father immigrated to Canada from Croatia.
Herjavec said the pitch struck a chord with him. He told about how proud his father was to get his first factory job — sweeping floors.
As Herjavec’s eyes welled up and his voice faltered, he went on about how much the opportunity meant to his family.
As Herjavec shared the memory, his voice grew louder, more deliberate. The camera slowly zoomed into Herjavec then went back to McCall, who was nodding as the story unraveled, and then back to a closer shot of Herjavec.
And as the violins of the ambient music crescendoed, Herjavec finally said, “I just can't get involved with something where you're not taking care of the business.”
I looked at Amber and then back at the TV, and I just started laughing.
One by one, all the Sharks passed on Invis-A-Rack.
I don’t know enough about global economics to understand how we, as a country, changed so much. I don’t know how we went from making every thumb tack and can opener at a store to considering a product with a Made-in-USA sticker a boutique item — like one of those fair-trade tote bags El Salvadorians make from soda cans and newspapers.
Many conservatives will point to unions as the cause of the problem. To me, though, that’s kind of like talking about all the great snack treats and cold medicines America is missing out on because of those squares at the FDA.
A lot of liberals will blame massive corporations who have turned the American landscape into an endless line of big-box stores and fast-food restaurants.
Though they would have a good point, that’s not the culprit either.
The ultimate bad guy in this whole scenario is us — the consumer.
When I can’t bring myself to pay one extra dollar for some grapes — regardless of the working conditions for the field hands who pick them — I’m the bad guy.
When you can’t bear the thought of a $7 bag of coffee grounds — even when it means the farmers can have some resemblance of dignity — you’re the bad guy.
When greedy, unethical CEO’s throw any concerns about the well-being of workers to the wind simply so they can shave off a few cents from the retail price of a product, they do so at the behest of millions of nagging consumers.
At some point, we have to ask ourselves, are those few bucks we save worth the American economy.
Daniel Gaddy is a Walker County native and a staff reporter for the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.