There’s a lot of contentious debate that sometimes arises when it comes to buying Chinese made products, whether they are from major retailers or through eBay. Many have a belief that if it’s made in China, it’s crap. The truth of the matter is that it’s virtually impossible to buy anything nowadays that hasn’t been made in China and, if you look back say 50 or so years, anything made in Japan was considered crap at the time. Some of it was and some it wasn’t, but now anything with a ‘Made in Japan’ label is considered a premium product. It took some time for Japanese manufacturing and quality control to reach what it’s now been for at least 40 years; however, in that time it very rapidly surpassed whatever was considered high quality Australian manufacturing. And so it is with Chinese products as more and more manufacturing is done in China and they also up their game when it comes to all manner of products.
Discussions about Chinese manufacturing have become very topical of late, given what’s going on with tariffs and supposed IP theft, but I don’t have a view on this as it’s not easy to find out the truth about what’s been happening. Certainly it does seem that China hasn’t been playing fair when it comes to trade but, by the same token, governments and manufacturers around the world have been quite happy for manufacturing to move to China. Australia used to have a thriving clothing, white goods, tools, vehicles etc manufacturing industry and these have all but moved to countries where labour costs are far cheaper. Though there are still niche companies like Rode that produce excellent gear in Australia. When the costs begin to escalate in existing countries, the manufacturers find a new developing country that offers cheap labour and other incentives to start manufacturing. The benefit to many of these developing countries is that it provides an increase in living standards to their populace and brings manufacturing technology to these countries, which can be further exploited.
And most notably in China, manufacturing quality has improved dramatically, regardless of the type of product. Simple things like machined products, say camera accessories like tripods, camera supports, lighting stands and their ilk are now of as good a quality as anything that you’ll find manufactured anywhere else. Of course there can be very cheap and nasty stuff as well, but any known brand will be very good indeed. Then of course more complex mechanical products have also improved and you’ll find accessories like those for 4WDs, winches, driving lights, roof racks, solar panels etc. Power tools and the like are also often of very good quality, though perhaps not quite the standard of the very expensive gear. And of course electronics have come a very long way, where many products belie their price. As I’ve noted before, I would not be able to afford much of the camera gear I have were it not for the ability to buy these products made in China. When you consider things, some of the most popular products in the world are from Chinese manufacturers.
Now of course you have to be able to buy this gear and this is where eBay and sites like Amazon have become (I suspect) a major influence and growth for some in the Chinese manufacturing and overseas sales market. Of course there are other online sellers such as AliExpress, Banggood, Alibaba and whatnot, but there is no doubt that eBay has become a boon for both Chinese sellers as well as Australian buyers seeking inexpensive yet reasonable quality products (though lots of brand name products can be bought as well). Sometimes eBay products aren’t the best priced, but more often than not they are (for the same products) and sometimes you can only find some products via eBay. But I do prefer to buy via eBay in most cases, as the buying process is so easy having an eBay and PayPal account. For some time buying online from a local retailer was a complete pain, having to input all manner of personal and credit card details, not really knowing how well these were being managed at the other end. Nowadays, the smart retailers have a direct link to PayPal in their checkout, if you want that option, making it almost as easy as buying via eBay.
So how is the buying experience? In most cases, I’d say at least 98% of the time, it’s painless and smooth. Rarely have I experienced a bad buy, but they do happen and in most cases I’ve been able to amicably resolve the issue and get a refund. But there are the odd cases where the retailer becomes intractable and tries to make things as difficult as possible. You just have to remain firm and push your case and invariably the seller will fold or PayPal intervenes. So far I’ve found eBay and PayPal very good when it comes to dealing with claims over products that weren’t as described. But sometimes the seller can be caught out, such as where very recently one seller contacted me saying that the item they had sent had been rejected by customs and they have refunded me the purchase price. Oddly, the item appeared in my mailbox a few days later and I paid the seller. It was only a few dollars and I could have ignored the whole thing, but I just don’t like defrauding someone, even if it’s over $1. For some in China, $1 means far more than it does to someone in Australia and, if the seller is being honest, I have no issue with reciprocating that honesty. This wasn’t the first time that I’ve done this.
Living where we do, we don’t have much of an opportunity to buy things that may be readily available in Melbourne, so many purchases have to be made online. Even products that may be available in the region at bricks and mortar stores often have a significant price premium compared to what’s available in Melbourne so, once again, online sales can offer substantial savings. And then there are the products that are simply not available in Australia, even through online stores, and so eBay is often the only place to buy and then it’s either China, the UK or the USA, the latter usually out of the question due to the exorbitant shipping fees. And despite the governments change in policy regarding import duties payable on overseas purchases, it’s made no difference to how and where I buy things. And I suspect that the same applies to most people. So when people bag products made in China, it makes me wonder where they think their products are made.