On Questionable Quality
Even though I spend most days sitting alone at a desk in a darkened room, there are some benefits to living a life on the Internet.
For instance, I hear from my buddy, Roohollah, just about every day. Roohollah is a heating-and-plumbing installer and he lives in Iran. He started writing to me about a year ago and he reminds me of many of the U.S. installers that I know. The trade is the trade, no matter where you live.
I got this from him the other day. I'm giving it to you word for word, and please don't laugh at the way he writes unless you can write Persian. This man is educated and he is learning our language.
Hello, deeply I am wishing you and your family, the best thing. It is my goal to appreciate from someone like you, who spends a lot of valuable times to teach and help me.
Here, there is a big problem with imported products. You know they manufacture all kind of things to export to all other countries, especially to Middle East. Unfortunately, most of our merchants that they are importing these things from other places have a just focus on the price not quality. They think how can make a money more and more.
In the field of heating, controlling is more important. However, all room thermostat and immersion thermostat and contact thermostat are manufactured by Chinese people with awful quality. We must monitor the systems by these products. I remember in one of my project I used one of the immersion thermostats. When I set up the systems on the 60-Celsius degree, the thermometer showed me 40-Celsius degree - twenty-degree difference between right and wrong set point.
By the way, is there any problem like this in the U.S?"
Over the years, as I've spent time at the big AHR show, I've marveled at the groups of foreign visitors that will spend time in a manufacturer's booth, taking close-up photos of the manufacturer's products with expensive cameras. The following year, there will be small booths in the lesser-traveled areas of the show, usually with two people on folding chairs. There's nothing fancy about these booths, just a small sign and samples of what looks like the exact products they were photographing last year at the show.
When I travel to the ISH Frankfurt show every other year, I am the foreign visitor. I have to go to the Press Office and get a pass that allows me to take photos. I have to prove to them that I'm a trade journalist. If I try to take photos of products without first showing my Press pass, the manufacturers will climb up my back and grab for my camera. Those folks have had enough of the copycat nonsense.
But there's something going on now that I think is even nastier.
An American manufacturer, a good company that makes a piping product, wrote the other day to let me know that they have been getting products back from contractors that were not their products. These were coming back to them through their wholesalers. Listen:
"They have flooded the market with products that leak, are misaligned, and sell for a very cheap price. They're threading metric pipe with NPT threads, which cut deeper into the pipe and are found to snap as they're tightened, but because of the low price, many supply houses jumped on that offer and purchased them, not knowing this.
"As the slow season progressed, plumbers were finding problems with the imported products. Unfortunately, what they don't realize is that not all products are the same. When they go to the supply house, unless they ask for a specific brand, they get the cheaper product, often for the same price as the quality product.
"How do we educate people so our product's reputation is not tarnished by bad quality products?"
Good question, isn't it?
I asked the manufacturer some more questions about the difference in the products and they sent me samples of their stuff and the stuff coming into the country. I look at welding as an art form, and what this manufacturer was producing was just that - art. What the others were making looked rushed, weak, and just plain sloppy. Side by side, the difference was glaring.
I asked the manufacturer what they did when the wholesalers returned to them the flawed products from the angry contractors. And if their answer doesn't make you stop and think, I feel sorry for you.
"We don't sell direct to the consumer or professional. We only sell to the supply houses and rest assured, they know exactly who they are purchasing these products from.
"Since we've been in this business we have always replaced our competitor's product with our own when their cheap stuff comes back to us. We want the professional to see what a quality product looks like. It's just our practice.
"There is the ulterior motive that we can cut the competitions product down the middle and look at their welds and examine the entire product. We learn quite a lot from that. We do inform the supply house that they sent us a return product that is not ours. Our products are clearly marked, and even if the label is removed, there is no doubt between an imported product and our product. Anyone can look at two and know which one is the import.
"Also, there is no patent for these because they are simple and basic products with so many shapes and sizes. They claim it cannot be done. You can, however, file for a patent and tie legal matters up for ten years. This has already been done by companies who sell the imports."
Another manufacturer friend told me a story the other day. One of his company's top guys was in a foreign land on business and decided to stop by a factory where they were having a part of one of their products produced. The guy was so appalled by the brutal and dangerous working conditions in this sweat shop that he cancelled his orders right on the spot.
A few months went by, and the foreign supplier invited the guy back to see the changes they had made. They had upgraded their factory to a point where the American now found it acceptable enough to do business with them once again. He saw this as a small victory for human rights, and I suppose that's true.
I thought a lot about that guy recently when I was in Michigan, where Americans used to make things. I thought about it for days.
Think about the way it goes on most days when everyone is in a hurry. Someone behind the counter may grab something of a lesser quality and just hand it over to a contractor, hoping he won't notice that he's holding a fistful of potential trouble. This could be an honest mistake, or it could be that the wholesaler is passing off the cheap stuff and charging the price for the better stuff because, well, that's just the nature of the times in which we live. You know, business is off, so it's okay to screw people. Quality is damned and who cares if it leaks?
That the new American way?
I can't wait to tell Roohollah.