JanSport, a manufacturer of popular storage products (best known for their backpacks), has succumbed to the Wal-mart “manufacture-for-throw-away” attitude. Let me explain…
I have been a loyal JanSport customer for many, many years. Being a Senior Software Engineer, I have a tendency to need to carry a notebook computer with me when I travel (which is several times a year). JanSport has been my favored storage provider. Their notebook backpacks have been well padded, and of such construction that they can easily weather my frequent use and torture. Until recently, my JanSport backpacks have been made of thick material, well-stitched and containing lots of storage pockets and volume. They have also been made in Thailand.
I recently needed to upgrade my storage due to the purchase of a rather large 17″ notebook computer. I researched their offerings, and decided upon the JanSport Merit line, sporting some 2700 cu. in. (44.25L) of storage, and purporting to accomodate 17″ notebooks.
I paid about the same amount ($50US) for this new backpack as I did for the one I’m replacing. It arrived today, and not having been able to test-fit before I purchased, I was anxious to make sure I made the right purchase. Although it does indeed accommodate my new large-footprint notebook computer, its construction has just left me feeling disappointed. The material used in the construction is remarkably thinner than all the other JanSports I’ve ever owned, and the zippers feel like they are made out of aluminum. The side load management straps, detachable in all other past backpacks, are fixed and can only be loosened or tightened. On top of all this, the material used to construct the backpack itself generates static electricity as you slip it off your shoulder! Um…hardly something you want happening around sensitive electronic equipment.
The switch from Thailand to China as their manufacturing center seems to have had a corresponding decline in quality. The product feels cheap, where previous versions I’ve owned have felt like quality. The hardware I need to protect using this product was expensive, and is certainly not a “throw-away” like most other things coming out of China.
Admittedly, this is what I get for mail-ordering something that is, for me, fairly critical, but I had come to trust the JanSport brand. They’ve lowered their quality in order to boost their bottom line, and I will be considering other brands the next time I need a backback — which will probably be soon, considering the new “Made-In-China” construction quality of their products.