One of our customers (I will call him John) called one day. He had just noticed the header on our pro forma quotes. “What is this? You say that over 500 American families benefit from each chair you produce. I’ve visited your factory your employee count is not that big” John was a little bit skeptical.
“Well John,” I replied, “consider what goes into manufacturing a Bertolini Sanctuary Chair. We source all our material in the USA for our primary product line. This means our steel tubing, steel rods, blow molded seats, polymer backs, wood products, booted rocker glides for the feet, stacking buttons, fabric, the yarn in the fabric, the labor that manufactures the chair, the management team that leads the company and the shipping companies that deliver the chairs all represent US companies and the people or families that make a living from those companies. Add them all up and each chair supports more than 500 families.”
“Wow,” John was surprised.
“Let’s look at this the other way around,” I continued, “how many families do import chairs support? At most there is a financial benefit for about 50 families in the USA for every import chair sold when you consider the port employees, trucking companies, and the re-seller who imports and sells the chairs. That is about 1/10th the benefit to our economy. So, can a church like yours save money in buying an import? Maybe, but the impact of that purchase on the rest of the economy is mostly experienced in the country of origin not the USA.”
“Ok, but you said I might save money in buying a church chair from Bertolini Sanctuary® Seating. The fact is that I can save up to $15 per chair buying an import.” John said. John is correct of course if he compares our top of the line Sanctuary Chair with the least expensive import. However, we manufacture chairs across a wide price spectrum. The least expensive import chair is no more than $2 away from a Bertolini Chair designed and manufactured in the USA to compete with the import. John identified the tension that many of our customers face. The apparent short term gain in purchasing a less expensive import chair seems pretty powerful even if part of the unintended consequence is moving jobs overseas.
Do you really save money buying an import chair?
Our experience indicates that four years after customers purchase an inexpensive import they call us back to purchase USA manufactured chairs. The number of these customers is growing every month. Why? Import chairs don’t last. They fall apart and “ugly out” must faster than a USA manufactured chair. The typical import chair requires constant maintenance because of loose screws and poor construction. Churches that purchase inexpensive imported church chairs often replace their chairs every 4 to 5 years and/or spend many volunteer hours repairing chairs damaged in normal use. Are they really saving money over time? Buying a USA manufactured chair saves money when the cost of the purchase is calculated over time and the savings in volunteer hours a quality product provides is considered. Don’t just think about the initial purchase. Think about the value of the purchase over time and the durability of the chair that won’t fall apart when it is used.
Bertolini Impressions Series Sanctuary Chairs manufactured in the USA possess a 25 year warranty. Most importers warranty their product for 1 year. Do you want to buy a chair that runs out of warranty after only one year? Even Bertolini Inc’s least expensive chair has a frame warranty of 20 years and a 5 year warranty on all wearable components. Better yet Bertolini has been around over 50 years and we are easy to find. Come visit on of our factories either in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee or Chino, California.
Import chairs often use salvaged wood (from construction sites) that contain high levels of formaldehyde, fabrics with low light fastness and low quality foam. The negative environmental impact of import chairs is appalling. China remains the largest emitter of green house gas pollutants in the world. Chinese factories have abysmal employee safety records. Additionally if you want to purchase additional chairs you may or may not be able to purchase the same model or color you originally bought from an importer.
We know you have many choices in purchasing church chairs. We also know that furnishings are the second biggest facility expense your congregation will put it money into. We work to make sure your purchase of church chairs is high quality and long lasting so that you can spend your time and money in ministry rather than constantly repairing or replacing poorly made import chairs. Is there a real difference between chairs manufactured in the USA and those imported from other places? Yes, there is in quality, pride of workmanship and product warranty. Let us build just the right chairs for your congregation.
Dr. Ray Wheeler is the Director of Global sales for Bertolini Inc and an adjunct instructor in cross-cultural leadership, church growth and ethics at Bethesda University California in Anaheim, California and Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.