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#1 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 October 2015 - 03:43 PM

I have had this sort of conversation several times recently. Let's say I'm talking to SuperCo, a large, international manufacturer of Widgets. Let's also assume that I'm several steps into a phone maze and have waited a few minutes while listening to a poorly-synthesized rendition of Greensleeves, and am already slightly irritated. I get put through to the product specialist for the UltraWidget, and begin the same conversation the same way, for the third or fourth time.

 

"Hello, I read on your website here that you're the manufacturer of the UltraWidget."

"Yes, that's right."

"OK. I need the phlebotinum count of the UltraWidget - it isn't on the datasheet. Could you let me know?"

"Do you have a part number?"

 

This is a surprising question, as I've given a verbal description of the product that's sufficient to uniquely identify it. Keen to be cooperative, however, I scrabble among my desktop notes, and click around to see if the tab is still open, but I can't find it.

 

"...not to hand. It's the UltraWidget. That's the only thing you sell by that name."

"Uhh, I'm not very familiar with that product."

 

What was your job title again?

 

"Is there anyone there who'd be more familiar with it?"

"Uhh, not really..."

"Well, why don't you just go and get one off the shelf and look at it?"

"Well..."

 

I begin to suspect the truth.

 

"Have you ever actually handled one? Is there actually an UltraWidget in the building you're currently sitting in?"

"No, they're manufactured in Kuala Lumpur, and we order them on request."

 

Oh, screw this.

 

"Fine, order me one. I'll risk it."

"Uhh."

"What now?"

"Wellllllllll, the system says the last time we ordered one was May 12 2012 at 10.37am."

 

Of course. You can ISO-9001 your way around the world and back, but you have no idea what the damn thing actually is, it effectively went EOL three years ago, and yet you're still shouting about it in printed, trade-show product literature. Surprisingly, things then look up, although the person on the phone sounds suspiciously enlightened and excited, as if this is the first time they suspected of the UltraWidget's existence.

 

"But I found it!"

"Oh, good. How many phlebotinums does it use?"

"Hang on."

 

I listen for a few seconds to the sound of mouseclicks, but my patience is worn to paper-thin transparency.

 

"You're scrolling through the PDF of the datasheet, aren't you."

 

Then I'm distracted by a buzz in my pocket which announces the arrival of an email from Zhang-Min "Rachel" Wang from Super Golden Widget Company (Shenzhen) Limited, complete with a close-up photograph of a competing Super Golden Widget on her desk, which she's clearly just taken a photo of on her cellphone. The language barrier is high, and it'll take ten days to get here, but the question is answered and the thing is half the price. The job goes to China.

 

So.

 

Just this sort of thing has happened three times in the last week. It's one thing for a big corporation to hire put interns on the phone. It's quite another for them to be comprehensively outdone in the most basic fundamentals of customer service by someone who speaks English as a second language, and not well. There's no use complaining that the Chinese keep ripping off western designs then behaving like this. If the western world is on a one-way trip to mediocrity, this sort of incompetent, idiotic complacency is a big part of why.

 

P

 

 


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#2 Keith Walters

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 10:55 PM

I can't get over the service I've been getting buying electronic parts from China on eBay.

Apart from the fact that they cost next to nothing (eg NE555 timer chips; $1.50 each locally or 50 for $3 including postage from China) they're always extremely well packed and usually get here within 10 days.

Other ridiculous purchases:

2 Amp switchmode power supply modules: Input up to 37V, output 5 to 15 V adjustable; 10 for $7.20 including postage.

Step-up converter modules:  Input 5V to 15V output up to 40V; (perfect for USB powered gadgets) $1.39 each including postage

1,000 Surface Mount LEDs, 5 different colours, $6 including post.

How the hell do they do it...?

And before anybody asks, they're all prime quality merchandise.


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 05:06 AM

I have used many of those little converters - they're very handy for dimming things without risking PWM flicker. I would hesitate to call any of them prime quality, but I haven't had too many DOAs or abrupt failures.

 

How do they do it? Well, they don't treat their workers terribly well and everything's government subsidised, particularly postage, often to the point where it's not worth returning comparatively high value items because they're not worth the real cost of postage. Whether this is morally correct is another matter.

 

P


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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 05:18 AM

Not far OT, but gifts for a ladies' weekend- fashion watches £3.50 or whatever. presumably cost 20p to make.

Order one as a sample and it comes from Brighton in a couple of days. Fine.

So I order the other 49 and they take an extra day. By Fedex. From Shenzhen. Extraordinary. Result: 50 happy ladies who don't have to take home another handbag, vanity set or cheap scarf.

I'm reassured by the thread, before I wouldn't have ordered anything that plugged in the wall and might kill me or burn my house down.

But 72c for a PSU is something.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 06 November 2015 - 05:18 AM.

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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 06:25 AM

Well, to be fair, that's 72 cents for the PCB for a PSU. It's a module, not a finished product.

 

P


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#6 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 07 November 2015 - 04:48 AM

 

...How do they do it? Well, they don't treat their workers terribly well and everything's government subsidised.....


Interest rates may be very low. I don't know what they are for growing a business, but Chinese investors in NZ property are, I read somewhere, paying 1% on money from the mainland.
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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 07 November 2015 - 07:28 AM

I can't get over the service I've been getting buying electronic parts from China on eBay.

Apart from the fact that they cost next to nothing (eg NE555 timer chips; $1.50 each locally or 50 for $3 including postage from China) they're always extremely well packed and usually get here within 10 days.

Other ridiculous purchases:

2 Amp switchmode power supply modules: Input up to 37V, output 5 to 15 V adjustable; 10 for $7.20 including postage.

Step-up converter modules:  Input 5V to 15V output up to 40V; (perfect for USB powered gadgets) $1.39 each including postage

1,000 Surface Mount LEDs, 5 different colours, $6 including post.

How the hell do they do it...?

And before anybody asks, they're all prime quality merchandise.

 

i think it's call "dumping".  Your right, how can anyone compete?  They drive the competition out of business, like they did with the US steel industry.


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#8 Keith Walters

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Posted 08 November 2015 - 07:20 PM

I have used many of those little converters - they're very handy for dimming things without risking PWM flicker. I would hesitate to call any of them prime quality, but I haven't had too many DOAs or abrupt failures.

 

How do they do it? Well, they don't treat their workers terribly well and everything's government subsidised, particularly postage, often to the point where it's not worth returning comparatively high value items because they're not worth the real cost of postage. Whether this is morally correct is another matter.

 

P

By Priime Quality I meant that they seem to be standard "off-the-shelf" products, such as would be used my manufacturers, not factory floor sweepings

 

Well, they don't treat their workers terribly well

 

I've spent more hours than I care to remember going over Third Party  Ethical Compliance reports for Chinese Factories for my previous employer, and based on those, current generation Chinese workers seem to be working under a lot better conditions than our parents or grandparents did. In fact one of the reasons manufacturing is moving away from China to places like Vietnam is the increasing cost and scarcity of skilled labour. But certainly, the workers in the places where the work is going to don't have terribly good conditions. Probably the worst violations are in places like Bangladesh, where much of the World's clothing is now made, and ironically, they do a much better job of it than the average Chinese factory ever did.

 

In fact, in China one of the biggest causes of audit failure is so-called "excessive working hours", where the reality is that workers want to work more overtime than local labour laws allow. The official government policy is that if you constantly need worker overitme, you should be hiring more workers.

 

Also in western countries, it's seen as admirable that schoolkids get part-time jobs after school to earn some of their own money; in China that's not quite a criminal offense but is very much frowned upon.


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#9 Keith Walters

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Posted 08 November 2015 - 07:30 PM

Not far OT, but gifts for a ladies' weekend- fashion watches £3.50 or whatever. presumably cost 20p to make.

Order one as a sample and it comes from Brighton in a couple of days. Fine.

So I order the other 49 and they take an extra day. By Fedex. From Shenzhen. Extraordinary. Result: 50 happy ladies who don't have to take home another handbag, vanity set or cheap scarf.

I'm reassured by the thread, before I wouldn't have ordered anything that plugged in the wall and might kill me or burn my house down.

But 72c for a PSU is something.

Basically the same thing: My wife is a residential care worker and she wanted a "nurse's watch", the type with an upside-down display  that pins to your shirt or blouse so you can see the time without needing to move your arm, and safely out of the way of water or other contamination.

They were $24.95 in a local chemist's or $2.20 from China including postage! At that price, if you were concerned about contamination, you could just throw them away at the end of your shift. Anyway, when they saw it, the people she works for bought 50 as Christmas gifts for their staff, which were very well received.

I got her 5, they all still work about 1 year on.


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