Alternate Title: Why Brands Matter More in Latin America
A lot has changed in the States since I left. Specifically watching the political scene, I feel completely out of touch with the public as I don’t know what the hell is going on.
But before I left, one kind of emerging hipster value was to avoid big brands. Wearing clothes from local designers, eating food from small indie restaurants and buying from farmer’s markets was the direction all the cool kids were moving in. The political justification came in the form of the anti-corporate bestseller for far-left progressives, No Logo by Naomi Klein.
I never cared about the politics of it and I was never a hipster, but I did straddle that scene and some of it rubbed off on me. So imagine my horror when I arrived in Latin America to see how the general public drools over fairly pedestrian brands like Coca-Cola, Levi’s or Nestle. Even brands you wouldn’t expect like Caterpillar, Lee, Gillette, Pampers, Johnson & Johnson. In emerging markets, these are top-of-the-line products that have the public trust to charge a premium.
Why so different? Because the depths of poor quality down here are unlike anything you’d see in Gringolandia. An excellent example is in a standard clothing rack my wife purchased at ProMart.
The clothing rack served its function for several months with no problems. But one day while trying to stay busy so she wouldn’t be called on to watch the children, our ex-maidservant Chata was cleaning every nook and cranny in the children’s room. She disassembled the clothing rack to dust the vertical chrome poles when she sliced her finger.
Blood flowed like Niagara Falls. I didn’t take a picture. Wife tied a plastic bag around her hand and I hustled her into a taxi and took her to the hospital for poor people who don’t have insurance. The bag had at least six ounces of blood at the bottom by the time we arrived, and it broke open all over the cabbie’s floor. I gave him an extra 10 soles as tip.
The hospital charges amounted to some 100 soles for ten stitches when it was all said and done. I gave Chata the rest of that day and the next day off.
When I got home, I took a look at this piece of shit clothing rack. And I found where Chata cut her finger.
Look at how thin the metallic pipe is. I could shave with that.
Here it is next to my Peruvian ID card and a business card.
We threw the box away so I didn’t think I’d have the manufacturer name for this article, but I found the model on the ProMart website: Richkey Organizador de Ropa Basico.
ProMart is actually a well-known home-improvement retailer in Peru, basically a Home Depot knockoff down to the logo. It’s a subsidiary of Intercorp, the holding company of Interbank which has subsidiaries across various industries in Peru.
But ProMart is a Peruvian brand, not a gringo brand. And that comes with a different degree of quality control. As poorly as you may regard the shit you get at Home Depot or even Walmart, take another look at those uprights.
It may be Peruvian engineering, but I would guess Chinese. While Walmart and Home Depot obviously sell goods made in China, I don’t see either one importing that to put on the U.S. market. Part of the reason I drool over Walmart when I’m back in the States.
I took a hammer and pounded all the sides of each upright in so Chata would literally have to reach in and pull up on the edge while sliding her finger in order to cut herself. But then I looked at the children’s beds and thought about how the piece-of-shit rack doesn’t even affix to the uprights. It just pulls off. And I threw the entire piece of shit away.
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