China has been accused of a lot of bad things, lately. Donald Trump believes the Chinese started climate change. The recent discovery that Lumber Liquidators has been selling cacinogenic wood flooring from China has been all over the news. Added to that is carcinogenic drywall being sold throughout the US. What few people talk about, though, is China’s relentless march toward world dominance by selling products on eBay. This specifically involves products like swimsuit skirts and silicone potato peelers.
Life in the Boomer Lane is an eBay devotee. She has purchased any number of items on eBay, like cute cat socks (human socks with cat themes, as opposed to socks for cats). These are 36 cents a pair, free shipping. It’s unclear to LBL how any country can produce cute socks and ship them free, by charging 36 cents. But she buys them, wears them and accepts all the compliments she gets from them.
Some purchases are not as successful. Several months ago, LBL ordered a cute swimsuit skirt from China ($5.99, free shipping). She wore it to Hawaii. After about 30 seconds in the hotel pool, the skirt began slipping down. When it arrived at her ankles, she reached down and flung it to the side of the pool. Every man staying at the hotel rushed toward the pool and waited patiently. They were all disappointed to discover that, when LBL got out of the pool, she had (luckily for her, not them) been wearing her regular swimsuit bottom under the skirt. LBL bent down, picked up the swimsuit skirt and tossed it into the nearest trash receptacle. The men took turns staring into the trash receptacle, then eventually went back to their spouses, grandchildren, and poolside beverages.
A close friend of LBL, whom we shall name Joyce because that is her actual name, ordered a silicon potato peeler from China, sold on eBay ($1.99, free shipping). After awhile, when the peeler had not arrived, Joyce wrote to the company. The following is the actual (well, not quite) sequence of emails between Joyce and the company in China:
When will my potato peeler arrive?
dear, so sorry to be causing you any inconvenience do not worry it,i am here to solve your issues anytime please chick your shipping adress firstly,we have shipped the item on Jan12,2016 normally the delivery will cost 1 month to you Please we check it,then contact me,do not worry about,i am here to servise to you forever
While Joyce was gratified that she now had lifetime servicing from someone in China, she still wanted her silicon potato peeler. She confirmed her address with the company.
Dear，so sorry for causing you any inconvenience if the address is right,i think the item will get to you soon,We have already sent the package out on Jan 12, 2016,it is come from china,normally the delivery coneed 18-28days,maybe the item was delayed by customs
I have stayed up for several days to search the tracking information and it shows that the item you ordered is on the way.the item were delayed some days by customs Could you please wait few more 6 days?there are some people who bought the item as same as you on Jan 6, 2016,said have not receive the item a few days ago,but today they told me,have receive the item If you still not receive the item after 6 days,please contact us，we can resend you new one or give you full refund immediately. Or we can resend you one and still give you a full refund. Or we can send you a check each month forever. Thank you for your understanding.
We will do our best to servise you forever.
Now, Joyce was becoming concerned. In addition to producing a peeler that sold for $1.99 (free shipping), China was also employing someone who was spending a lot of time answering her inquiries. This seemed to her as translating to no compensation for workers. She waited patiently. Finally, she wrote:
I still have not received my order. Thank you.
Dear, so sorry for not sent to you the item successfully,we will try our besr to service to you
if the shipping address is right,the item must lost on the delivery please give me a chance to compensate to you,We can resent it from Hong kong ,it will takes about 18-25days to arrive your area usually .is it ok? hope to receive your reply soon Thank you.
Have a nice day !! We are not having a nice day and will never have a nice day until you get your peeler.
Again, Joyce waited, then wrote:
The order has not arrived. Please advise.
Dear, so sorry. We have fired all factory workers and replaced them with more diligent peoples. We have also fired all transport peoples. The Chinese government has suspended all diplomatic ties with Hong Kong. I, myself, has been replaced by a more competent worker. Your peeler will arrive. Have a nice day!!
Joyce has received no further communication. She has also received no potato peeler.
In a related event, another friend of LBL purchased an outdoor umbrella from China. Within a couple weeks, the fabric began to dissolve and hung from the umbrella frame in colorful stips, reminicient of prayer flags that Tibetan monks create. He brought the umbrella back to the store. The store employee examined the umbrella carefully and pronounced, “You shouldn’t be leaving it outside.” LBl’s friend said, “But it’s an outdoor umbrella. Isn’t it supposed to be used outside?” “That’s the problem,” answered the store employee, “would you like another umbrella?” LBL’s frend declined the offer.
Unlike buying directly from China, no one was fired (or worse), and no diplomatic ties were broken.