When A Mac Cultist Traveled To The Apple Factory

You may have idly wondered where it is that your favorite gadgets come from…for a few seconds, and then gone right back to your game of Fruit Ninja. But writer and performer Mike Daisey took that curiosity to a whole other level. He traveled to the “special economic zone” of Shenzhen, China, to see where it is that all of our crap comes from. UPDATE, 3/16/12: This American Life has issued a retraction of this story after reporters tracked down Daisey’s interpreter and learned that much of the material presented in the show was made up.

He stood outside the gates of electronics mega-manufacturer Foxconn to see whether anyone would like to chat with him–not as a reporter, but as a regular end-user. Then he posed as a businessman looking to buy large quantities of products. And then he wrote a one-man show about the experience, excerpts of which aired on public radio show “This American Life” this weekend.

It’s easy–and more comfortable–to imagine our gadgets being put together by a series of tiny robots, but that’s not so. It’s the opposite, actually–with China’s low cost of labor, Daisey explains, anything that possibly can be done by hand is.

How often do we wish more things were handmade? We talk about that all the time, don’t we? “I wish it was like the old days….I wish things had that human touch.” But that’s not true. There are more handmade things now than there have ever been in the history of the world. Everything is handmade. I know. I have been there. I have seen the workers laying in parts thinner than a human hair, one after another after another. Everything is handmade.


Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory [This American Life] (direct MP3 download here)
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs [New York Public Theater]
Supplier Responsibility [Apple]

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  1. Swins says:

    Yawn…there are plenty of pictures and stories on the web about the factories.
    China is best because Caucasians are just too damn tall.

    • Cat says:

      ‚ô™ ‚ô© ‚ô´ ‚ô¨ I like Chinese.
      They only come up to your knees
      They come from a long way overseas
      But they’re cute and they’re cuddly and ready to please. ‚ô™ ‚ô© ‚ô´ ‚ô¨

    • Jaynor says:

      Yawn… pretentious jerkism at play.

      Nice reference to Crazy People though – love that movie.

    • dreamking says:

      “Sony.”
      “Ah, yes, Sony, Sony.”
      [flips visual aid]
      “Bony.”
      “…kore wa?!”

  2. FreeMarketFan says:

    It’s best to get little kids for some of these jobs as they have tiny fingers

  3. qwickone says:

    I listened to the story and it’s excellent. It would do us all some good to know where our stuff comes from. If nothing else, it helps you to appreciate what you have.

  4. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’ve always wanted to see what happens after I return a car battery for a core charge. It would be neat to see the old world craftsmanship, as young children remove the lead from the battery acid using their hands and no protective equipment. In world of automation, it’s nice to know that some things are still done by hand.

    /s

    • econobiker says:

      Or obsolete computer parts shipped to Africa for “recycling” that end up being burned in open pits with children tending the fires. This is so the precious metals can be salvaged after the plastics and other materials are ~gone~. ~Gone~ as in burned off in toxic smoke or melted down into a toxic sludge into the ground.

      • ScandalMgr says:

        In my industry, Aerospace, fraudulent parts frequently originate from “recyclers” who relabel the chips & sell them to wholesalers.

        I guess its because there is better money in that, than burning off the plastic to recover the gold.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        That’s stupid. You lose gold that way into the ground and also into the air. An temp controlled oven with a conveyor would be the most efficient solution for maximum profit, and you don’t have to worry about paying kids with sticky fingers to “tend” the fire.

  5. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    So the big question is…is this guy going to stop buying Apple (and/or whatever else) products because he’s seen the “sweat shop” conditions in which they’re made?

    Is he going to work to advocate workers’ rights (let alone human rights) in China, either for the rest of his life or until China’s working conditions improve to a level we’d find acceptable in western countries?

    …or is he just gonna run out and buy an iPhone 5 when they come out like the rest of the sheeple?

    I’m pretty gosh-darned sure that Apple consumers would continue to buy any and all iThings when offered by Apple even if they each came with photographic evidence of being manufactured in giant factories with gears lubricated by the squishings of kittens and puppies, and with high-gloss finishes polished with the tears of the orphans of the workers who committed suicide at said factories. Consumers of non-Apple products can very likely be swayed to at least buy a different brand of {whatever}…not so with Apple consumers. Because their purchased hipness and social acceptability is vastly more important than the woes of strangers slaving away in some distant country.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      It’s so cute that your brain is too busy pigeonholing people based on their purchases that you fail to realize that every single other gadget maker uses the exact same abysmal production methods. Including the factory that made whatever computer or gadget you posted from.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        “It’s so cute that your brain is too busy pigeonholing people based on their purchases”

        People’s purchases aren’t made by accident. Especially when it comes to products like Bose, Apple, and Monster Cable – you can discern a *lot* about a person simply by witnessing their ownership of such products.

        Secondly, I acknowledged that similar issues exist in other non-Apple factories…how Macish of you to miss that part. My point there was that non-Apple consumers can at least be swayed to buy, say, a Samsung product instead of the LG product they intended to buy if they saw sweat-shop footage from an LG plant.

        As has been demonstrated, Apple consumers can’t even be swayed by the exhaustively-documented fact that Apple factories…and apparently *only* Apple factories…have conditions so bad that workers resort to suicide to get out.

        Have fun being a pompous douchebag on your iThing there. I’ll be here…using the PC I built myself. From parts that, at the very least, didn’t come from suicide-riddled factories.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          I’ve noticed a lot of people, at least around here, who own Apple products are also much more likely to be left of center politically and are much more apt to speak up about horrific working conditions, injustices, etc…but they look the other way when it comes to Apple. They’re total hypocrites.

          Me, I only own one Apple product…an old, bashed-up iPod…and it was given to me by someone else. When it finally dies, I am pretty damn unlikely to replace it with another Apple product.

          • RayanneGraff says:

            I’ve noticed that too, and it baffles me. I’m pretty left of center myself and I can’t believe the popularity of apple products with co-lefties; people who cry the loudest about human rights, who then waltz into the apple store & shell out thousands of dollars for the latest macbook that was made by workers who aren’t even allowed to sit down all day long & who could never hope to afford any of the electronics they make. It’s shameful. I actually have an ipod too though- an old second-gen firewire model that was a gift from an old friend who knows I collect old electronics.

        • Doubting thomas says:

          You are tragically misinformed if you think your PC products are made in non-sweatshop conditions.
          Foxconn, where the publicized suicides took place, also makes several brands of LCD TV’s, PlayStation 3s, and is the worlds largest manufacturer of printed circuit boards.
          Also unless you are wearing homemade hemp clothing it was probably sewn by virtual slave labor in a 3rd wold country, especially your shoes.

          The heavy metals in your PC parts you are so proud of were likely mined in Africa where warlords use lovely tools like rape, torture and mass murder to keep the peasants in line and retain control of the mines.

          But you go on ahead believing that only Mac-users contribute to human misery.

          -posted from my Dell PC – cooled by the tears of orphans.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            I am misinformed about nothing. What I am saying, and that people like you keep ignoring, is that if you provided most rational people with evidence that a particular factory/company is abusing it’s employees, I can be swayed to purchase products from a different company. Apple consumers will not be swayed by anything. Up to and including the deaths of workers at Foxconn Apple plants where the conditions are so horrible that the only way out is suicide.

            You’re also ignoring that only Foxconn’s Apple factories have these problems…as you correclty noted, Foxconn is one of (if not the) biggest ODMs in the world. But problems don’t exist, to this degree, at other plants. In lieu of further information, my assumption is that it’s because of the margin Apple allows Foxconn to make on said products. Foxconn is liable as well…but Apple is the master holding the whip.

            I know and acknowledge that worker conditions world-wide are often terrible. But unlike the public reaction when, say, a clothing manufacturer is shown to be abusive to it’s employees and the retailer drops them because of the resulting outrage, no one rages at Apple for it’s abuses.

            Why do you think that is?

            • Doubting thomas says:

              Target and others don’t end their relationship, they have their supplier change vendors and rename themselves.

              Foxconn suicides have happened at several plants across china, and in several plants no owned by Foxconn. The Apple ones just got better press. Intersting side bote. Suicide rates in China are 13.9 per 100,000. With over 800,000 employees in china Foxconn employee suicide rate is below the national norm.

              There are wide spread global abuses everywhere. Not just at Foxconn, and certainly not just with Apple. I own 1 apple product, an Ipad, which was a gift and which I enjoy very much. If you could measure the human suffering contained in my Ipad it would be about equal to the amount in either of my laptops, or on the floor of my closet. The suffering gets even worse when you look at what happens to those toxic computer parts when they are shipped back to China and Africa.

              • YouDidWhatNow? says:

                Nice Mac fud:
                ” Intersting side bote. Suicide rates in China are 13.9 per 100,000. With over 800,000 employees in china Foxconn employee suicide rate is below the national norm.”

                The general population is irrelevant as a statistic to compare to. The only valid comparison is to other similar factories. For which you, and all others like you, fail to ever provide any facts for.

                • Chris says:

                  YouDidWhatNow,

                  I suggest you listen to the broadcast as I gather from your comments that you haven’t done so yet. Also, it’s well done and does a good job of keeping your attention. I doubt it will change your dislike for anyone who has ever bought an Apple product though.

                  I’d like to learn more about your points. Can you give a more information on:

                  1. You mention, “you can discern a *lot* about a person simply by witnessing their ownership of such products”. What can you discern from someone who has a Samsung phone, a Toshiba TV, a Macbook Pro, a Panasonic DVD player, Time Warner cable service and a Nikon camera?

                  2. “only Foxconn’s Apple factories have these problems”. I’m interested to learn more. What study shows this?

                  3. Regarding suicide rates, “The general population is irrelevant as a statistic to compare to”. Why is it irrelevant? It turns out that working at Foxconn reduces the risk someone will commit suicide compared to working somewhere else: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/foremski/media-gets-its-facts-wrong-working-at-foxconn-significantly-cuts-suicide-risk/1356

                  4. As a corollary to the above, “The only valid comparison is to other similar factories.” Why would you only compare to other similar factories? That removes the control (in this case, the general population) from the study. For example, if factory A has 10 suicides / 100,000 people / year and factory B has 30 suicides / 100,000 people / year but anyone not working at factory A or factory B has a rate of 70 suicides / 100,000 people / year, would you say factory B is “riddled with suicides”? In this case I’d be happy working at factory B and ecstatic working at factory A.

                  • YouDidWhatNow? says:

                    1. You’d likely discern that this is a person who generally buys things based on an evaluation of price and features…until you come to the Macbook, which shows a disconnect with reality. Exactly the same thing when you discover that a “scientist” suddenly declares his adherence to some religion.

                    2. I can’t find any reports on any…which is quite telling.

                    3. I see you have no fundamental understanding of statistics. Comparing the workers at a particular plant to the population as a hole is akin to comparing the injury rate of cliff divers to the population as a whole. Either group is exposed to wildly different circumstances…therefore, any such comparison is meaningless. Only comparing the suicide rates of other factories makes sense, because then at least your target populations are generally exposed to the same types of environments and risks – or at least as close as you can get to it. Plot the suicide rates of 1,000 high-tech manufacturing plants and see where it shakes out.

                    4. Sure, I’d likely prefer to work in the plant that had the lowest percentage of employee suicide. Which is precisely why you do the comparison noted in point 3 above instead of simply against the population as a whole. How are you going to figure out which factory is the least awful without doing #3?

              • SixOfOne says:

                Yep. H&M couldn’t care less how they treat their slave labor in Cambodia, as long as they get cheap clothing to sell here.

            • LHH says:

              Uh-huh, only Apple… right….

              http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/11/foxconn_mass_suicide/

              Sent from my PC by the way. Not that it really fricking matters.

            • spittingangels says:

              YouDidWhatNow? …

              While we are taking stock of what points of yours other people seem to be ignoring, let’s point out some things you seem to be ignoring by singling out Apple above all others.

              As DoubtingThomas just explained, the per-capita suicide rate in China is actually *above* the well-publicized suicide rate at Foxconn plants that happen to make Apple products. One thing he got wrong is that the metric for China is actually 20-22% (depending on year) and 13.9% is actually the *most conservative* estimate. A different way of looking at this metric is the Foxconn employees that work at these city-factories are generally happier than the rest of the population of China. Of course, most people ignore that perspective to feed into their (predisposed?) anti-Apple bias and attempt correlate this metric to what they to might believe to be a first-world metric but without doing any research, it seems. The published rate for USA is actually 11.3 so by actually doing some research and not latching onto media hype in a bubble, we can actually correlate that Foxconn workers in China are actually happier than the average American.
              http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml.

              Another thing you seem to be ignoring is the media skew towards Apple. Apple is reported on far more than any other technology companies because it sells papers and gets pageviews. Almost no one cares about LG. Media is no longer about informing the citizenship, it’s about generating profit and that is done so by sensationalism and trumped-up hyperbole. And even when exaggerated or factually incorrect stories are retracted, the damage has already been done. A responsible journalist would’ve published the suicide rate metric for Foxconn alongside the metric for China and possibly other countries for comparison. If they had done more research, they might’ve even found metrics for Chinese factories other than Foxconn. But having all that data would’ve made this a non-story. Instead, the story was published in a bubble and allowed the readers to draw their own conclusions. Those that didn’t bother to do their own research just stuck this into their arsenal of “Reasons To Hate Apple and Call People Sheeple” retorts. Please search Google for “foxconn suicide rate comparison” and you’ll see several well-researched articles that set the record straight.

              You also seem to be ignoring the fact that switching factories for a technology company is no trivial task. Making a computer or other electronic device is not like K-mart or Target switching where clothing is manufactured. The machines to make electronics are highly specialized and a factory like Foxconn’s has to be completely retooled in order to produce a different products and that cost runs into the millions of dollars. Add to that the fact that you are ignoring recent reports of Apple ramping up production in other countries such as Brazil (but don’t you worry, Wall St. analysts also seemed to have missed these reports, so you are not alone)

              Since you are so certain that the components of your home-built PC didn’t come from “suicide-riddled factories”, as you so eloquently put it, please tell us which components you have and which factories they came from so we can be just as well-informed and high-minded as you.

              Some of us like Apple because their products are generally reliable and do what they are expected to do and don’t require a lot of configuration tweaks to get to working reliably. Some of us even void our warranties and open up our Apple products (*gasp*) to upgrade with off the shelf SSD drives and RAM or replace the EFI firmware or install UNIX/Linux programs on them (built from source, even!) or even run Windows on them. My Apple computers are the most versatile tools I have because they can run OS X, UNIX or Windows programs. Sure, I have Cygwin installed on my (home-built, probably suicide-tinged) PC running Windows 7 but it’s not the same as a native Unix-compatible environment. Out of the box, I can write Perl or shell scripts, run an Apache webserver, and even have basic support for Python, PHP, Ruby and other common scripting languages without having to install anything additional.

              Some of us buy Apple products because they are the most affordable, value-conscious products on the market. Sure, a Kindle Fire is cheaper than an iPad but it doesn’t provide the same features and is a smaller device. Most tablets that could be considered true iPad competitors are the same price or more expensive than the iPad (until they don’t sell and the companies desperately slash prices to sell unsold inventory). And just try buying an “ultrabook” style laptop for cheaper than the MacBook Air but can provide the same performance.

              The fact of the matter is, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, Apple is making some of the best consumer devices today and at very competitive prices that other manufacturers are struggling to meet.

              • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                That must be the longest Consumerist post ever written.

              • RayanneGraff says:

                “Some of us buy Apple products because they are the most affordable, value-conscious products on the market.”

                … in what UNIVERSE could apple products be considered affordable??? Apple makes the most expensive, absurdly overpriced crap on the market.

                • spittingangels says:

                  “… in what UNIVERSE could apple products be considered affordable??? Apple makes the most expensive, absurdly overpriced crap on the market. “

                  Admittedly, my post was very long but could you have bothered at least finishing the rest of the paragraph that you quoted me from. There are only two examples where I show Apple can beat competitors on price: iPad and MacBook Air.

                  Granted, neither product is *cheap* but they are extremely affordable for what functionality they offer. Not everyone needs that functionality but many of us that invest in such products do.

                  Hell, Intel is having to provide subsidies just so PC manufacturers can meet the $1000 price point for “Ultrabooks” that the MacBook Air has set and most debuting at CES this week are *still* coming in more expensive than the MacBook Air.

                  You can’t make a supposition on value based on hardware specs alone and those that do invariably leave out certain types of components that don’t support their argument, like the fact that Bluetooth is standard on all Apple products sans classic iPods or what type of LCD panel is used. Cheaper laptops typically use cheaper LCD panels of inferior quality in comparison but what’s cited is only the resolution size.

                  Here’s one more example:
                  iPhone 3GS is free with contract, iPhone 4 is only $99 with contract, both run the latest version of iOS 5. Which android phones at those prices will run the latest version of Android (ICS 4.0)?

                  • thomwithanh says:

                    iPhone 3GS will indeed run iOS 5… that doesn’t mean it was designed to, or SHOULD run iOS 5. I once had an iPhone 3G, and when I upgraded it to iOS 4, it became so slow and unusable I sold it on eBay and bought a Droid. Never looked back….

                    • spittingangels says:

                      “iPhone 3GS will indeed run iOS 5… that doesn’t mean it was designed to, or SHOULD run iOS 5. I once had an iPhone 3G, and when I upgraded it to iOS 4, it became so slow and unusable I sold it on eBay and bought a Droid. Never looked back….”

                      I know the experience. I upgraded to the iPhone 4 when I could but my gf was stuck with the 3G and the memory just wasn’t enough to handle iOS4 without frequent hangups where it might not respond for sometimes a minute or more. I offered to downgrade it for her back to iOS3 or jailbreak with whited00r but she stuck it out and now she has the newer iPhone 4S. Considering how long it took to come out, she had enough time to save up the money for the upgrade and now likes to flaunt that she has a newer phone than me.

                      Frankly, I was disappointed in just how quickly the 3G model fell into obsolescence because of iOS4. It was functional but just barely and caused a lot of grief for Apple’s users.

                      That being said, the 3GS is much faster in performance than the 3G (by a factor of 2) and from reports I’ve heard it runs quite well even on iOS5. The biggest indication of this is that Apple still provides it as an option for sale. Even though it is Apple’s answer to the “free” carrier-subsidized phone, Apple would not risk a bad first impression by selling a device that couldn’t cut it performance-wise.

                      I’ve no personal issues with Droid or any other android option. But, anecdotally, I know lot of people that got one because of the “better than iPhone” hype and returned them in exchange for an iPhone which they are quite happy with. Mainly battery issues but some found the the phones were just too large (4.5″ or larger screen is a spec that only looks good on paper but not in practical use) or the configuration options were just too confusing.

                • YouDidWhatNow? says:

                  He’s clearly gone off the deep end…as have essentially everyone who buys Apple products. Their anti-reality shield is amazing.

                  It’s like trying to talk reason into a creationist as a scientist. By the time you get to this point, it’s clear there’s no point in trying any longer.

                  • spittingangels says:

                    Funny, by your commentary, I would’ve pegged you as the one that favors Intelligent Design. It certainly requires the same amount of effort into negating actual fact as you’ve put into your anti-Apple bias. You guys crack me up.

                • LHH says:

                  Overpriced yes, crap no. I use both at work and I tell ya if I could get IOSX on the PC that would be a perfect marriage for me. Yes I know all about hackintosh but just not willing to go the hassle. But yes in general I will say that their hardware is waaaayyyy overpriced.

                  And no its not like any distribution of Linux so stop right there. Been futzing with Linux since 95 and while it has come miles and miles in terms of ease of usability it is still not ready for primetime for the general public. Still need to be a bit of a geek to use it.Especially to troubleshoot it.

            • spittingangels says:

              “You’re also ignoring that only Foxconn’s Apple factories have these problems…as you correclty noted, Foxconn is one of (if not the) biggest ODMs in the world. But problems don’t exist, to this degree, at other plants.”

              Man, talk about timing…

              http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/11/world/asia/china-microsoft-factory/index.html

              What’s interesting here is that the workers are apparently threatening suicide not just because they are unhappy but as a negotiating tactic for higher wages. I’m going to go out on a limb and openly speculate that if the workers had just killed themselves, this wouldn’t have made the news cause it’s not Apple-related. It’s the suicide-as-negotiation part that makes this newsworthy.

          • just_joe says:

            For a really good read on the way the factories operate in China, please refer to :

            Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the China Production Game

            by

            Paul Milder

            Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Poorly-Made-China-Insiders-Production/dp/0470928077/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326311188&sr=1-1

            This will really open your eyes to how the factories operate. One item that was emphasized is that many of the workers don’t think they’re being abused, etc. It’s sort of a cultural thing where the workers feel that they need to do whatever it takes to keep China improving and expanding.

            Many of the suppositions that have been listed here are addressed in this book.

            It’s a very informative read on the culture of the factories – absolutely must reading for anyone interested in understanding why so many businesses abroad (not just in America, mind you) – are falling into the Chinese production trap.

            One interesting note: even though WalMart has huge contracts with plants there, they actually represent some statistically small percentage of overall business. So many factories, after achieving the status of being a WalMart supplier – they have no qualms with letting them go later after they demand higher prices. From their point of view, they’ve already won the game since having WalMart as one of their contracts, validates their factory. WalMart on the other hand, has been known to “jump ship” at the drop of a hat to get a better deal.

        • Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

          Actually, your original post did come off as an anti-Mac rant. Very little of your clarification above came across like you say it did.

          Either way, I think your vitriol against Mac should be a little wider spread to, well, damn near most of the things we have here. Just about everything imported to America wasn’t produced using labor standards equal to ours. We even get around our own standards by exploiting illegal labor within our own borders.

          Big picture: if we as a nation want all goods and services provided by producers with what we term “humane” standards, we’ll have to do two things: get ready for the price of everything to increase and begin producing domestically what we can’t get “humanely.”

          Honestly, I agree with you about “sweatshop” conditions. I just think focusing on one industry is counterproductive and shortsighted and needlessly spreads the exact same bad kharma it aims to prevent.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            “Either way, I think your vitriol against Mac should be a little wider spread to, well, damn near most of the things we have here.”

            It is. I firmly believe we should flat-out ban trade with China over it’s human rights abuses…and any other country that is similar in that regard.

            Ultimately though the point is that I finger Apple specifically because they’re not held to the same standard that we hold other companies to. When a clothing manufacturer is shown to be using abusive employment methods, there’s a huge public outcry about it and Target/K-Mart/whatever terminates their relationship with said clothing manufacturer. But not even worker conditions so terrible that the only way out is suicide sparks any notable public outcry…and that says an *awful* lot about Apple consumers. And society in general.

        • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

          People who buy things for the thing and not the brand (which is what I guess you meant by non-Apple consumers) can be swayed, but, I’d have to imagine that the sway is, the vast majority of the time, related to features/price/performance.

          Unfortunately, tech is a dirty business. Even the cleanest, safest, and most fuzzy-bunny-loving-est of it still deals with nasty chemicals, dirty processes. But, really, it’s no more dirty than any other factory that makes non-trivial things. I mean, look up Jeri Ellsworth. Even producing home grown transistors at home involved extremely high heat oven temperatures, hydrofluoric acid, a bit of a death wish or protective gear…

        • LHH says:

          You know not just apple products are made at Foxconn right? Own an Xbox do you? That is made there as well as well as many other electronic products.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            Nope. And based on this I won’t:

            http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/11/world/asia/china-microsoft-factory/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

            This is literally “new” news…just hit CNN. Obviously, for the sake of human lives I sure as heck hope that no one goes through with this suicide threat. BUT…

            …if it does happen, let’s see what the backlash is on Microsoft. The backlash on Apple was…nothing. Which has been my point all along – there have been no consequences for Apple for their part in abuses of employees – which is markedly different from the consequences other companies have faced in similar situations. Other companies get ripped to shreds whereas Apple consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about it.

            And if this trend within Foxconn continues, it becomes clear that Foxconn is a company that really no one should do business with. Let’s see if Microsoft severs ties. Where Apple didn’t.

            For the record, and as I stated here a while ago, I really think we shouldn’t do business with China at all – just in terms of general humans rights issues, their factories aside. If the cost of our electronics etc. go up, then so be it. Continuing to do business with them is tacit approval of what they do to their citizens/employees – so they really have no reason to change.

        • icruise says:

          I suppose there are some people who choose Apple products simply because of some sort of perceived coolness, just as there are some people who will never choose an Apple product because of their own anti-Apple bias (ring any bells?) Most of us, though, buy stuff that we like and that works well for us. For me in the last few years, that’s largely been Apple stuff (when it comes to computers and cell phones anyway). I couldn’t care less if you prefer something else, but it does annoy me when people assume that I’m using an Apple product because of the shiny apple logo, rather than because of things like attention to detail, usability, stability and reliability.

          As for the topic of this article, I do think Apple needs to stay on top of the situation in its Chinese factories and do its best to ensure that its workers are well treated. I’d even be for a full-scale re-evaluation of our reliance on China for manufacturing almost everything we use, even if it meant paying a lot more for things. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is just Apple’s problem. Apple just gets a bit more media attention because of its amazing success in recent years.

          • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

            Your logic and open-mindedness are misplaced on YouDidWhatNow? as (s)he is apparently incapable of comprehending the possibility that someone may own ANY Apple device because they enjoy the product itself. Anyone who owns an Apple device is automatically a follower who can’t think on his/her own. You know, just like someone who’s blindly anti-Apple. Too bad freaks at either end of the spectrum rarely have any self-realization.

            • YouDidWhatNow? says:

              You’re wrong. In the same way that someone who blows $100 on a Monster Cable HDMI cord, when confronted with the fact that a $5 cable from Monoprice is exactly the same quality and does the same job every bit as well, protests with “I’m perfectly happy with my Monster Cable purchase and you’re a hateful evil person for trying to even talk to me about it.”

              If you’ve bought an Apple product, you’re a sucker and you’ve been taken. There’s no other way around it. Any protestation in defense of your Apple purchase is nothing more than your own indignation and inability to actually interact properly with reality.

    • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

      People, do not feed the troll. The anti-Apple doucebaggery seen below is no better than the pro-Apple douchebaggery against which this guy is railing. Just let his idiocy and hypocrisy be a lighthouse in the night to guide you away from being as big a turd as he is.

      • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

        Correction: “The anti-Apple doucebaggery seen ABOVE and BELOW by YouDidWhatNow?…”

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Spoken like a true wingnut unable to admit that he only buys Apple products so that he can fit in with his “friends.”

        • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

          Have you any capability for reading comprehension? Apparently not. If so, you’d have noticed that I also mentioned pro-Apple douchebaggery. I even used the same derogatory term for both the anti- and pro-Apple stances. If I was part of the “sheeple” movement you’re citing, I don’t think I’d ever refer to a pro-Apple stance as douchebaggery.

          Please refrain from commenting or procreating until you have mastered this feat. The world will thank you.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            …all you’re doing is calling people names – not even offering an argument for or against anything, let alone providing any reason or rationale therefore.

            And you think I’m the troll?

    • thomwithanh says:

      What’s the alternative, though…. are there any mainstream consumer electronics that aren’t manufactured in these types of conditions anymore?

      Excuse my French, but the entire model for producing electronics is seriously fucked up.

  6. Rachacha says:

    This does not surprise me. I recently visited a partner organization in China, and I asked how they conducted a repetative test on a product that required a switch to be moved back and forth for 500,000 cycles. In North America we would rig up some sort of mechanical actuator or robot to perform the test that can take about 1 week to complete running 24 hours a day. They replied that they simply have someone cycle the switch manually, and click a mechanical counter to keep track of how many times they have done it. I was surprised that they could afford to have someone forking for 3 weeks (assuming an 8 hour shift) doing nothing other than flipping a switch, but they confirmed that labor was so cheap that they could not justify the expense of a robot or motorized test fixture.

  7. john says:

    Microsoft uses Foxconn to make XBox 360s, too. So it isn’t just Apple using cheap labor.

    • john says:

      Never mind, looks like Foxconn makes just about everything that is a consumer electronic.

      • Emperor Norton I says:

        The monitor jack on my four year old Dell laptop has Foxconn molded into it.
        I assume they made much of the computer.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, I hear this used by people defending Apple all the time.

      Firstly, pointing the finger and saying “they do it to” does not excuse Apple’s actions but also let’s remember that Apple and their fanboys are the one who constantly try to paint all things Apple as more socially conscious then other companies.

    • Weakly says:

      No one would care if he said Microsoft products are made in China.

  8. Razor512 says:

    that’s any I don’t use apple products, instead, I use HTC products.

    the 4 year old kid that made my phone did a pretty good job.

    anyway, work conditions in China suck and and there isn’t much that can be done about it in the US. Avoiding China made products will only put those people out of work, causing them to end up in even worst work conditions.

    They are not forced to work there, they choose to because the other options are even worst

    • neilb says:

      After listening to this story (which was engaging and entertaining too), I looked up HTC.
      HTC designs AND manufactures exclusively in Taiwan, as far as I can tell.
      They have better working conditions in their plants, as far as I can tell. They do NOT make everything by hand–they have some darn impressive machines that remind me of Japanese car factory videos from the 1990s. :)
      I wish I knew more, but it seems to be decent. My mental image is that Taiwanese factories are the working condition midpoint between Japan/US and Shenzhen, but I have no idea if this is real-world accurate.
      After the story, I am challenging all of these mental images!

    • Rachacha says:

      Tell me about it. It was quite disturbing to see children and young adults who were severely maimed to the point that all they could do was lay on their stomachs out on the sidewaks of Guangzhou begging for money. My colleague informed me that children were kidnapped as part of an organized crime ring, their bones were repeatedly broken and never properly reset. These people were then dropped off on a street corner in the tourist districts every day and forced to beg for money

      http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1301&MainCatID=13&id=20110209000110

    • Outrun1986 says:

      That is the problem, if the chinese were out of work, their lives would be even worse. Many of them would rather work in less than acceptable conditions than be reduced to not working.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I want CERTAIN things made by hand – like fine furniture. But not my electronics – I have no issues with those made by robotic hand.

  10. c_c says:

    More like the computers are assembled by hand. It’s not like workers carved the circuit boards from raw silicone with their bare hands, or the casing from a block of aluminium by hand.

  11. c_c says:

    More like the computers are assembled by hand. It’s not like workers carved the circuit boards from raw silicone with their bare hands, or the casing from a block of aluminium by hand.

  12. shthar says:

    This guy better not try to invistimagate where all the food he eats comes from.

  13. econobiker says:

    And following the logic of labor being so cheap in China, they are exporting their depressed wages and/or unemployment/underemployment to 1st world countries. That is combined with exporting their lack of environmental and health/safety regulations.

    Someday the Chinese will ask the UN for environmental remediation funds and the US and other countries will be on the hook. By that time the Waltons et al will have forced production out of China and into Somilia or Chad or what ever 3rd world dump has the cheapest labor at that time.

    • Cat says:

      Already happening. I was disappointed when Levi’s started making jeans in Mexico. My wife bought me a pair for Christmas “Made in Lesotho.”

      Lesotho? Fuck, I had to look that up!

      I have only worn them a few times so I can’t speak to the construction quality, but the material is thin and… well, they aren’t going to last very long. They cost around $30. I’m going to the thrift store this weekend and buy some good old “Made in the USA” Levis this weekend for $5 a pair.

      • kobresia says:

        Yeah, you’re lucky they were made in the western hemisphere, I have some Levi’s I purchased a couple years ago that were made in China. I get the impression that Levi’s is really just another brand that’s been licensed to a company that only cares about making things as cheaply as possible.

      • elangomatt says:

        I actually looked up Lesotho recently as well, but because a shirt I bought from Kohl’s was made there. Not a whole lot of information that I could find, but it didn’t sound like a very good place to work/live at all.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yep, everything is the evil company’s fault, the American consumer who insists on buying the cheapest product on the shelf, even if it puts US workers out of a job, has no responsibility for any of this.

      Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine, people love bashing companies for moving where labor is cheaper and they are less regulated despite the fact that much of it can be traced right back to American Consumers buying habits. Just like people whine about their local Walmart putting smaller local stores out of business, well pardon me but it wasn’t Walmart, it was YOU refusing to shop at the smaller local store because it’s prices were higher then Walmart.

  14. Cat says:

    There are many countries that would gladly do the work the Chinese are doing for us now, for just a few pennies more a day, and with better working conditions.

    And many of those countries are, and have been, our friends and allies for years.

  15. dreamking says:

    Handmade is not the same as hand-assembled.

  16. MrEvil says:

    My guess is that even the least expensive pick and place robot costs well more than a dozen Chinese laborers’ annual salary. And probably slower than a dozen Chinese laborers working in parallel.

  17. AEN says:

    Apple could use prisoners to make iPhones. At least then, they’d be “made in USA”. Just sayin’

  18. bobloblaw says:

    omg this was a great epi you should listen to it!

  19. smartmuffin says:

    People who are appalled by the low wages and poor working conditions in the third world should be in favor of repealing minimum wage laws in developed countries.

    Labor is largely non-specific and interchangeable. If there were no artificial barriers erected by the state, you’d start to see wages equalize globally pretty darn quick.

    • Talmonis says:

      No thank you. I’d much prefer NOT to be paid pennies an hour just like in Myanmar/china/lesotho in a corporate race to the bottom for everyone but themselves.

  20. spittingangels says:

    YouDidWhatNow? …

    While we are taking stock of what points of yours other people seem to be ignoring, let’s point out some things you seem to be ignoring by singling out Apple above all others.

    As DoubtingThomas just explained, the per-capita suicide rate in China is actually *above* the well-publicized suicide rate at Foxconn plants that happen to make Apple products. One thing he got wrong is that the metric for China is actually 20-22% (depending on year) and 13.9% is actually the *most conservative* estimate. A different way of looking at this metric is the Foxconn employees that work at these city-factories are generally happier than the rest of the population of China. Of course, most people ignore that perspective to feed into their (predisposed?) anti-Apple bias and attempt correlate this metric to what they to might believe to be a first-world metric but without doing any research, it seems. The published rate for USA is actually 11.3 so by actually doing some research and not latching onto media hype in a bubble, we can actually correlate that Foxconn workers in China are actually happier than the average American.
    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml.

    Another thing you seem to be ignoring is the media skew towards Apple. Apple is reported on far more than any other technology companies because it sells papers and gets pageviews. Almost no one cares about LG. Media is no longer about informing the citizenship, it’s about generating profit and that is done so by sensationalism and trumped-up hyperbole. And even when exaggerated or factually incorrect stories are retracted, the damage has already been done. A responsible journalist would’ve published the suicide rate metric for Foxconn alongside the metric for China and possibly other countries for comparison. If they had done more research, they might’ve even found metrics for Chinese factories other than Foxconn. But having all that data would’ve made this a non-story. Instead, the story was published in a bubble and allowed the readers to draw their own conclusions. Those that didn’t bother to do their own research just stuck this into their arsenal of “Reasons To Hate Apple and Call People Sheeple” retorts. Please search Google for “foxconn suicide rate comparison” and you’ll see several well-researched articles that set the record straight.

    You also seem to be ignoring the fact that switching factories for a technology company is no trivial task. Making a computer or other electronic device is not like K-mart or Target switching where clothing is manufactured. The machines to make electronics are highly specialized and a factory like Foxconn’s has to be completely retooled in order to produce a different products and that cost runs into the millions of dollars. Add to that the fact that you are ignoring recent reports of Apple ramping up production in other countries such as Brazil (but don’t you worry, Wall St. analysts also seemed to have missed these reports, so you are not alone)

    Since you are so certain that the components of your home-built PC didn’t come from “suicide-riddled factories”, as you so eloquently put it, please tell us which components you have and which factories they came from so we can be just as well-informed and high-minded as you.

    Some of us like Apple because their products are generally reliable and do what they are expected to do and don’t require a lot of configuration tweaks to get to working reliably. Some of us even void our warranties and open up our Apple products (*gasp*) to upgrade with off the shelf SSD drives and RAM or replace the EFI firmware or install UNIX/Linux programs on them (built from source, even!) or even run Windows on them. My Apple computers are the most versatile tools I have because they can run OS X, UNIX or Windows programs. Sure, I have Cygwin installed on my (home-built, probably suicide-tinged) PC running Windows 7 but it’s not the same as a native Unix-compatible environment. Out of the box, I can write Perl or shell scripts, run an Apache webserver, and even have basic support for Python, PHP, Ruby and other common scripting languages without having to install anything additional.

    Some of us buy Apple products because they are the most affordable, value-conscious products on the market. Sure, a Kindle Fire is cheaper than an iPad but it doesn’t provide the same features and is a smaller device. Most tablets that could be considered true iPad competitors are the same price or more expensive than the iPad (until they don’t sell and the companies desperately slash prices to sell unsold inventory). And just try buying an “ultrabook” style laptop for cheaper than the MacBook Air but can provide the same performance.

    The fact of the matter is, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, Apple is making some of the best consumer devices today and at very competitive prices that other manufacturers are struggling to meet.

  21. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Lived in China for a few short bursts. I saw what looked like bags of concrete being transferred from one train car to another… by hand. Shenzhen is a clean city, where foreigners are welcomed and contrasts sharply with most the rest of China. In most cities, people just toss their trash into the street and workers with witch-like brooms sweep it away almost daily. There are areas designated as impoverished zones with huge billboards forbidding photography. Everything is done by hand.

  22. scoopjones says:

    Yes, he can watch the 300 workers up on the roof threatening suicide over unpaid wages. This is serious. Read below:

    m.kotaku.com/5874706/report-mass-suicide-threats-at-xbox-360-plant

  23. thomwithanh says:

    “I was designed by Apple in California”

  24. Purplerhinoboy says:

    This is not news. You only get hits on the link because Apple is in the title. Other manufacturers do the same thing. People didn’t stop buying diamonds when African blood was spilled, and no cares if the Chinese make iPhones.