Friday, August 12, 2011

The Don't Show Me State

Giving away trinkets with a pro-U.S. business message can be hard. We have already discussed whether pens the U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave out at some event were properly marked. Now, with a hat tip to Wayla-guy comes word that the state of Missouri has run into issues with trinkets promoting jobs in Missouri. Based on this article, it seems the state ordered a bunch of novelty carabiners from a Missouri based business. The carabiners were emblazoned with a logo and web address for a state jobs service. Unfortunately, when the carabiners arrived, someone noticed that they were labeled as having been made in China. [Insert annoying sing-song "Awkward" here.]

Being plucky Midwesterners, the state officials in charge asked for volunteers to help remove the labels. Also consistent with the Midwestern setting, volunteers were enticed to give their time with the promise of doughnuts. Eventually, the labels were removed.

Readers of this blog are likely to know where I am headed. That is 19 U.S.C. § 1304(l), which reads:

(l) Penalties Any person who, with intent to conceal the information given thereby or contained therein, defaces, destroys, removes, alters, covers, obscures, or obliterates any mark required under the provisions of this chapter shall—
(1) upon conviction for the first violation of this subsection, be fined not more than $100,000, or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both; and  
(2) upon conviction for the second or any subsequent violation of this subsection, be fined not more than $250,000, or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both.
Normally, I would not point this out. It is not my intent to get anyone into trouble. On the other hand, the story is already in the local paper. Also, I think this shows some of the craziness that surrounds the marking laws. On the one hand, the recipient of this item is not purchaser and likely does not care in the least where it comes from. If the recipient does care, he or she would not have been able to influence the purchase decision, so the marking is irrelevant. But, it is clearly not irrelevant, because the Missouri officials were so worried about being embarrassed that they removed the marking.

In the real world, where people vote with their wallets and make personal purchasing decisions, cost weighs far more on the decision than does origin. And, very few reasonable Americans would expect an inexpensive, low-tech trinket to be made in America. So, even absent the marking penalty noted above, it seems like the folks in Missouri over reacted to the "political optics" of the situation without thinking about the real world. All of which makes me wonder whether Missouri isn't much closer to Washington, D.C. than I had thought.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thumb drives passed out to registrants at the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security annual conference last month for conference presentations were made in China. But at least BIS left the stickers on. Seems the U.S. Government could have found a U.S. manufacturer.

John said...

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security annual conference last month to handle the Chinese matters and other lawful activities