Inspection- When Schwinn is No Longer Schwinn

Flying down the steep stairs in our house Christmas morning in Nyack, NY, where we lived when I was a little kid, of all the gifts a Schwinn bike was the ultimate sign Santa cared. I think my brother Jim, or Ted, may have gotten one, but the old Ho Ho man missed me…

We pedaled home from school most of the year, first best friend Dell Setzer and I, on our Schwinns. Early 60s to mid-60s. I started with an old blunderbuss Schwinn from the late 40s owned by my oldest brother Ted. We finally sold it: tank that it was. Nothing could kill it. My final Schwinn from that era was a bright blue two speed: Bendix pedal-back I bought with money I had earned from mowing Dr. Stein’s lawn and working at Mrs. Nolan’s store.

About ten years ago I decided to buy my first bike in years. I planned on using it for exercise on the road since a back condition prevented me from jogging. I knew in short order something had changed: unlike that blunderbuss bike, or all our other Schwinns, past tense… it went to hell within a year. As did the next one I bought and kept at home because I thought, “Being on the road is too tough for these new bikes, I guess.”

Schwinn is no longer Schwinn. Hasn’t been “Schwinn” for years. The company quietly went bankrupt and the name was sold: produced by a Chinese company that merrily slaps all kinds of names on frames. If you buy any bike from, let’s say WalMart, chances are, no matter what the label is on it, you probably bought a slight variation on the same bike.

Isn’t that deceptive marketing? And why is it we have so much more of that than honest marketing these days?

Deregulation, in part, I believe.

If only our bikes were the only victim here.

Have you noticed that before the housing/mortgage crisis that there were hundred of ads offering special financing, encouraging refinancing, suggesting buying property was a great way to wealth through investment? And the more outrageous claim that your house is, essentially, a bank of sorts and you’re simply using “your money?”

Of course that’s a con game. It’s a loan, and often at no better rates than low life idiots used to get from Tony The Loan Shark, LLC.

Where’s a “Tony” to go these days now that loan sharking is perfectly legal? A revised song flows through that big, never empty, space above and behind my eyes…

Where have all da Tonys gone
Long time passing
Where hav all da Tonys gone
Long time ago…

Now legal, incorporated, “Tony” wannabes rake money in as they foreclose on those they’ve scammed, while the media has the public convinced it’s all the fault of stupid people who took out loans they couldn’t afford. Banks and those who loaned money used to make damn sure you could pay money back before you got a cent. Now they win either way, with deregulation.

Oh, I know Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton/the Evil Liberal Golem made a law that forces banks to loan money to any bugger who asks. No questions allowed.

Except, once again, that is a lie. Not true. Bogus.

Credit cards come to anyone: pre-approved. Dogs have gotten them in the mail. By now all of America knows I’m not making that up.

There’s always some new phone scam. I did phone work for years, mostly surveys and a few times sell. I never cared for the last and usually left quickly due to tactics they insisted we use, like a “Christian” security bar company that insisted I tell a potential customer that they must hate their dog if they expected a dog to protect them rather than buy their bars. I told them I would “bar” none of my contacts.

Those tactics have gotten worse, not better.

For some reason Nigerian E-mails that are obviously an attempt to scam folks are perfectly legal.

If a company offers to fix something and I get it back unfixed, we get to play this game over and over: bring it back, get it back, bring it back, get it back. Can I have the same deal? Offer to pay, take it home, get called back in, offer to pay, bring it back home…

We obviously live in an age when some businesses have far more rights and political power than individual humans. All they have to do is purchase them election time.

If medication has ill-effects, or might kill you taken with something else, they are allowed to read the caveat at the end so fast no one can understand it. In fact, working with digital sound, as I do on a regular basis, I can tell their newest trick: use a neat little feature that cuts out the silence between the words. They don’t even use it right, they set it so high cut out parts of words too, leaving all those warnings inaudible, senseless, useless. Gee, think that’s intentional?

So the next time your ibuprofen and your heart medicine makes you give birth to that creature out of Alien , as he explodes out of your chest and puts on his Mel Brooks hat to sing and dance… be thankful. Ain’t it grand to live in a country where supposed “free” enterprise trumps all: even safety and sanity?

Look folks, I don’t want to handcuff business. I have run my own one man biz for over 20 years. But there is such a thing as sane and necessary regulation.

No one should be able to skirt around safety issues for the sake of profit.

If I buy medicine I really need to know what I should do to prevent it from killing me, parents should know what might kill their children. Instead of using a pre-approved card for Gordie Carman: our semi, sort of border collie… or buying a house with unreadable print at the bottom of the contract, my parents had to go to a bank and convince them they could pay back a loan before they could get one. What the hell was wrong with that?

If I buy Schwinn, I want it to be made by the company that either made Schwinn to begin with, or let it be well known publicly who owns it now. Businesses shouldn’t be able to hide behind anonymity: pretend they’re someone else. I’m sure Huffy lovers (cringe) feel the same.

Sometimes we abandon old ways for a good reason.

But abandoning basic honesty?

I can’t imagine there being any good reason at all.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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