10 Tips for How to Buy American-Made

Have you decided to buy American as much as possible?  Many shoppers want to buy products that are made in the USA because of the quality, ethical, environmental, and community benefits, but have trouble finding the items they are looking for. 

Here are ten tips to help you get the items you need, without compromising your values:

1) Start looking before you're ready to buy anything.  Find a few Made-in-USA directories online (try searching for "made in america directory" or similar terms).  Browse through them and note companies that make the sort of things you tend to purchase.  Most directories only include a small percentage of the many American manufacturers out there, so gather a collection of your favorite directories before you are in a hurry to buy something.  

2) When you visit a site that you've found on a directory, do your own research before making a purchase.  Directories do not always screen their listings, and some companies may qualify for a listing if only one or two of their products are made in USA.  Make sure that their website explicitly states that all of their products are made in USA, or, if not, which products they actually make, and which they import.  If it's a large purchase, check reviews just like you would for other online shopping.

3) Don't rely on a directory to list everything made in USA in the category you are looking for!  Find other options by searching on Google or your preferred search engine for Doodad "made in usa".  Make sure to include the quotes around "made in usa" to weed out websites that don't use that exact phrase.  Don't assume that any company that pops up actually makes their products in the USA - they might just mention the words on their website! Just like when using a directory, verify by actually reading the listing to make sure that the product is specifically described as being made in America.  If you're still not sure, check online reviews.

4) Do you want to buy something, but the listing doesn't say specifically whether it's made in USA?  Perhaps you've bought items from the company in the past and they was made in America, but you're not sure if current models still are?  Find the company's contact information and phone or email, and make sure to ask exactly where in the USA a product is made.  Customer service representatives will often assume a product is made in USA without checking because they aren’t aware that most products are not made in America.  When you ask what US state the item is made in, they will often look it up and come back with, 'Oh, I’m sorry, now that I look more carefully I see it is made in Sri Lanka!'

5) Check the packaging and tags of things you buy.  Imported items are required by law to be labeled with the country of origin.

6) When shopping in person, try small boutique stores before large chains.  Ask to speak to a manager (or even the owner!), and tell them that you prefer made-in-America items.  Small stores are always looking for specialty items that they can provide that set them apart from the big box stores!  If the manager says they can't find American made products, let them know about brands you've tried.  Even if you've bought directly from the manufacturer, they may also sell wholesale.

7) Recognize that American-made items can cost substantially more than imported items.  Take into consideration the superior quality and ability to repair and reuse the item, which may make it actually an excellent value!  A product that costs twice as much as a poor-quality import but lasts three times as long has actually saved you money.

8) Hold charities and non-profits that you support accountable.  If you are donating to an organization that supports the environment but offers a free tote bag that was made someplace with lower costs because of the low environmental regulations in that country, make a call and let them know how you feel.  The same with organizations that support the needy - if they are giving away "free" imported gifts in return for your donation, remind them that a better way to support their mission would be to buy from businesses in their own community that employ local people.

9) If you can't find an item made in USA that fits your needs and need to buy an import, consider the environmental standards, employee protections, wages, and distance of shipping when making your choice of what country to buy from.  Not all imports are the same! 

10) When you find something you like that's made in USA, SPREAD THE WORD!  American manufacturers can't stay open without customers, and you probably don't want to buy thousands of dollars of merchandise every day!  So, if you find an American-made item that is good quality and reliable, tell people about it.  Recommend it to your friends, post about it on social media, link to it on your website.  Word-of-mouth is the best advertising for companies that don't have major marketing budgets because they're spending their money on making good products with fair wages and high community and environmental standards!

11) Bonus tip!  Don't forget that Tough Traveler makes great luggage, bags & backpacks in the USA!