Thursday, May 20, 2010

My flawed Apple from China

I ordered an Apple iPod one day last week. It arrived in a neat package three and a half days later. It bore no mark of its geographic origin but Apple’s tracking chart told me it came from Shenzhen, China.

Shenzhen, a booming province near Hong Kong, is the home of a huge factory owned by a Taiwanese multinational, Foxconn Electronics Inc. Its workers, estimated to number 300,000, turn out products for the world’s leading phone and computer companies. Apple is among them.

About the time I was ordering the iPod, a 24-year-old worker surnamed Chu plunged to her death in a fall from a Foxconn dormitory. According to wire service reports, Chu became the seventh worker in the Foxconn Shenzhen plant to die in similar falls within a year. All apparently suicides, all driven by the extreme pressures of six- and seven-day workweeks.

As I get acquainted with my new acquisition, a refurbished Touch iPod, I marvel at its technology, but with a gnawing feeling of guilt for acquiring it.

Its cost, $149, made only a very tiny contribution to the $6,000,000,000 or so in merchandise that China is exporting to the United States every week. But how badly do I really need it? And how hard did the likes of Ms. Chu work to have a stock of refurbished iPods on hand so that I could have one in three and a half days?

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