How to Buy Legitimate Electronic Goods in China

How to Buy Legitimate Electronic Goods in China

With the ingenuity of Chinese minds and their technical nous, China is one of the world’s main manufacturers of electrical goods. This has implications both positive and negative. China is a producer of components for high end electronics products and is increasingly the ground from which innovative home-grown companies spring from. Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s ThinkPad branding and the success and growing popularity of Taiwanese brand Acer are just two tide marks of the ever rising popularity of Chinese brands.

On the downside of this exploding production, is that the ubiquity of cheap components and mind boggling technical skills have enabled those less observant of the finer points of the concepts of intellectual property to flood markets with daoban (counterfeit) goods. So convincing are some of the goods in their authenticity, that consumers can easily be taken in and be left high and dry with a device that has not passed a quality control check, has no warranty and is in fact not even a product of the company which its packaging and branding claim it to be.

The following is a quick guide to how you as a consumer can avoid the pitfalls of buying electronic goods in China and getting stung by sheisty dealers.

Do your homework – check online

There are a number of ways that the internet is useful for guaranteeing that you don’t find yourself to be on the receiving end of a lemon. The first and most rudimentary course of research is to check is that the product’s name and model number actually exists. This may sound like a real no-brainer, but for the less initiated it can be the first hurdle at which to fall. Besides, when planning to buy something costly, it is always a good idea to have a look online and decide which product most suits your needs even before you step foot in a store and are at the mercy/in the capable hands of sales assistants.

In China, there are varying levels of piracy at varying levels of sophistication. It is quite common for counterfeit goods to be exact replicas, meticulously made so that only the well trained eye can spot it as a fake. The product of lesser, more slipshod bootleggers may simply bear the logo of a well known company and no resemblance to any existing product of the copied manufacturer. Some “copies” are obvious to a person even remotely familiar with a brand from a mile away. For example, a fake gold-plated Blackberry encrusted with diamante screams tacky in a way that should make it obvious that it’s a fake. Other fakes maybe be more convincing and require closer inspection. If unsure you should always go on to the web, find the official website of the manufacturer and check the model number and its picture online.

It is worth noting that this line of investigation may need to be taken further with some products. Due to the fact that legitimate products sold in China may be equipped with modified keyboards, and possibly operating systems and software, brands may give a product different model names and numbers for machines available in China. This problem can be solved by having someone proficient in Chinese check the brand in question’s official Chinese language site.

First impressions count but are not foolproof

It is tempting to go to the cheapest vendor in the electronics market. This might seem like a good idea at the time, but can lead to endless headaches, heart break, wasted journeys and loss of money in the long run. Although it is not a catchall rule, a vendor or store that can provide legal fapiaos (receipts) with tax details and a lotto scratch card-style panel on them (as opposed to hand written tickets with very little information) will be a vendor that is supplying bonafide products (more on fapiao here).

Of course, using this rule you are subject to overlooking bargains provided by smaller vendors that cannot provide such a receipt. If in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and only buy from larger more official looking stores.

When dealing with a smaller store, the easiest way to sniff out a purveyor of fake goods is just to mention the two magic words: service centre. If a salesman clams up or balks at the mention of taking goods to a service centre to be authenticated, then you know that he is aware that his products are not legit. Service centres are commonly located in and around electronics markets; their authentication services are fast and free, plus any legitimate dealer will allow you to take a product there before buying, should you be concerned about a machine’s origin. If possible, you want to choose the service centre yourself to avoid any kind of deal the salespeople may have worked out with the authenticators.

The ‘holy trinity’ of serial and product numbers

To make sure that a computer is exactly what it claims to be, the serial number and product number of the machine are written in three separate places. Should you want to make sure that your laptop has not been monkeyed with in any way, you need to check that the serial and product numbers on stickers on the warranty card, the underside of the computer and on the box all match. For the purposes of the warranty, you are also likely to want to register your product online; the details for this procedure are always provided on the warranty card or literature included in the packaging. The sticker on the warranty card should also be partially covered by a second official sticker of the brand, bearing a either a hologram or an official logo of a company

More than a sum of its parts

It is worth a mention that in the case of some computer brands, not all of the components contained within a machine are produced by the manufacturer whose name is on the box. For example, a Toshiba laptop may not produce its own hard disks and therefore your machine may contain a Samsung branded hard disk. The best way to check up on this is to go online, look at the official manufacturer’s site and check the specification of the machine. If in doubt, as always, consult the service centre.

Electronics markets in China can be zoos, full of overeager salespeople tugging you towards their wares and shouting at you. In this environment it can be all too easy to be swept up in the moment and get pressured into buying something just so you can escape the madhouse. Prior research and patience will go a long way towards helping you avoid this trap. Keep in mind too the basic rules of bargaining. Electronics in China should usually be more expensive than they would be back home due to import tax. If you’re quoted a figure below the product’s official price something is likely fishy. If you’re having doubts and can’t take it anymore, walk away. It’s cheaper and faster to go back another time then to be stuck with a thousand dollar lemon.

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