I’m sure by now we’re all pretty well-versed in the upside (e.g., cheap electronics) and downside (e.g., Maytag workers losing their jobs) of globalization. So it was somewhat refreshing to see a couple of articles in a recent Economist on globalization’s odd-side.
In one, I learned that Yemen is home to a number of (successful, despite all) Baskin-Robbins franchises. I doubt I’ll ever get to try one out. For one thing, who wants to go to Yemen? If ever there were a country that’s right up there on my Not-on-the-Bucket-List-List as a place I’ll never visit. It may not rank dead last as a destination of desire – that sweet spot is taken by Somalia – but it is most assuredly on the list.
And if I were to find myself in Yemen – as the victim of some weird kidnapping or as someone suffering a mental health crisis that prompted me to start seeking out danger zones – I’d have to be pretty hard up for an ice cream cone to swing by a Baskin-Robbins for a Rocky Road.
As an ice cream lover, I’m fortunate to live in an area where there are lots of good ice cream options. Who needs a bad one?
There used to be a B-R on Charles Street, just around the corner, but it’s long gone. I like to think that the collective Beacon Hill palate is too sophisticated for Baskin-Robbins, but I will note that the nearest B-R shops are in Lexington and Wellesley, two affluent suburbs that are the sort of towns that Beacon Hill-ites move to when they’ve had kids and had it with urban life. Anyway, I am decidedly not a Baskin-Robbins fan. It’s been decades since I sampled any, so maybe it’s improved, but my recall of it is that it had a gummy texture. Whenever I ate it, I was reminded that Elmer’s Glue All began life as an attempt to make a dairy product. Yuck.
For me, the ice cream nightmare is living in a place where the only ice cream store choices are Baskin-Robbins and Carvel.
Still, if you’re a Yemeni, I guess inferior ice cream is better than no ice cream. And with temperatures that can rise as high as 50 degrees Centigrade – that’s 122 degrees F to you, bub - how globalization-y odd that there’d be Baskin-Robbins there.
Air strikes can interrupt business, sending Yemenis rushing home, but they have grown less common. Of eight outlets in the rebel-held north, only one has had to close, because it lies close to a military base. (Source: The Economist)
Things are a bit trickier, ice-cream-wise, in the also war-torn south. Still, one of the bombed out B-R franchises in Aden has been rebuilt.
“Business is business and fighting is fighting,” explains a Yemeni magnate.
Yes, and ice cream is ice cream. And, I grudgingly admit, that includes Baskin-Robbins.
As for less wholesome products that have found new manufacturing homes thanks to globalization, we now turn to Pakistan (a country that’s just a notch above Yemen on the Not-Bucket-List).
Pakistan, it seems, has been benefitting from the demand for sex paraphernalia:
Inside a small, gloomy factory in a provincial city in Pakistan, two young men huddle over a grinding wheel. They believe they are making surgical instruments. But like many of the small, local firms manufacturing steel and leather goods for export, their employer has a new sideline. The nine-inch steel tubes whose tips the men are diligently smoothing are, in fact, dildos. “It’s just another piece of metal for them,” says the firm’s owner, who picks one up to show how his worldlier customers—all of them abroad—can easily grip the gleaming device. (Source: The Economist)
There are 64 sex-toy manufacturers in this one provincial city, and indications are that the profit margins on kinky wares (sold through Alibaba, because Pakistan’s way too prude-y) are far in excess of what they can make on, say, a leather wallet.
The article lists a few of the other items that are made in Pakistan. Some I could figure out from the name. I mean, a padlockable penis cage – although I’m not quite sure how and why it’s used – can only mean one thing. But what’s a gimp mask? Gimp to me has one of two meanings: it’s either a totally non-PC word for someone who limps or has some type of physical handicap; or it’s the plastic “thread” (or “string” or whatever the right word is) that’s used to craft bracelets and lanyards. So, just what might a gimp mask be? A mask made out of brightly colored woven gimp? Huh? I guess I’m just so lacking in sexual imagination that I can’t think of what a gimp mask might be used for. All I can envision is a big old lanyard in blue and green. And as tempting as it would be to google the term, I really don’t want Alibaba ads for sex-toys popping up on my screen. Bad enough I have to view at least 50 cute tunic tops from Zulily every day – each and everyone cuter than the one I bought on Zulily a couple of weeks ago.
Yemeni Baskin-Robbins, Pakistani sex toys. Who knows what else is lurking out there among globalization’s odd by-products.