Bad Quality China Products Beyond Your Worst Nightmare

China employment law

One of the things our international manufacturing lawyers always tell our clients that source product from China is to be specific. Always. We talk about how China has levels of quality five levels below anything most would even think possible and for Chinese manufacturers, those levels are normal.

We mention how you can buy shirts (unbelievably cheaply) in China that are pretty much ruined after one washing. We tell them of the company that sought our assistance after receiving USD $500,000 of computer bags whose handles broke pretty much every time they were used to tote a laptop. Or we tell about the company that contacted us when its massive order of Christmas tree lights would not be delivered until mid-December. In both cases, the US companies had failed to be specific. In the laptop bag case, the Chinese manufacturer essentially said that if the US company had wanted the bags to have been strong enough to hold a laptop, they should have paid more for them.

We talk about the Spanish company that reached out to our international dispute resolution attorneys after discovering its Chinese manufacturer was selling its rejected and unsafe product around the world and it had no contract or trademarks that might stop this.

I thought of all those things today after reading Documents Unsealed in Chinese Drywall Lawsuit. The article’s first paragraph says it all:

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. LTD, a major Chinese drywall manufacturer, urged one of its main U.S. customers, Banner Supply, to sell thousands of sheets of foul-smelling drywall “overseas” after Banner complained about the tainted product, according to documents and depositions unsealed Friday by a Florida circuit court judge in Miami-Dade County. A Banner executive said the offer was refused.

If you are outsourcing the manufacturing of your product to China and you get bad product, the first thing the Chinese manufacturer usually claims is that the product is good enough. When that does not work, the Chinese manufacturer usually then suggests you simply sell it for less. When that also does not work, the next suggestion is usually for you to sell it somewhere other than in the United States.

The best way to avoid these sorts of problems is to always be clear on your quality standards and on the penalties the Chinese manufacturer incurs for not meeting them. It is not really this simple, but this is the minimum you must do if you are to have a good shot at avoiding problems and of having real solutions if problems arise. .

For more on what should go into your China OEM Agreement, check out the following:

For more on maintaining quality control with your China-made products, check out the following:


3 responses to “Bad Quality China Products Beyond Your Worst Nightmare”

  1. lol. The Chinese manufacturer’s suggestions sound quite sincere. I can just hear them ridiculing the stubborness of those buyers who complain that the products are not good enough. “The Chinese market has always accomodated this level of quality. A lot of domestic companies have gotten rich on products of this quality. So don’t expect me to believe that this is not good enough just because you dumb-looking non-Chinese-speaking big-nose say so!”

  2. Great post. On the subject of drywall, I understand the root cause is the fly ash used comes from Chinese power plants burning high sulfur coal. In the USA, pollution control devices in the power plant would scrub the sulfur out so the fly ash is safe to use in drywall.
    I’ve had the same experiences first-hand in China trying (and sometimes failing) to convey Western quality standards. In all those cases, the local market had a similar product that the supplier was using as the benchmark. That it was piece of garbage that would never sell outside of China and other developing markets didn’t matter. Think Chinese motorcycles versus a Harley-Davidson or a BMW.
    In cases where there is little or no local demand for the product (I’ve never seen drywall used in China that I can think of), it should be easier to overcome these issues if you actually document your requirements, but as you point out, Western buyers often don’t. In my experience, Western buyers are part of the problem because they might not know the technical requirements either!

  3. I supposed there is a reason why savy U.S. and European companies source form Taiwanese partners with manufacturing operations in China. Why would anyone bother with a pure Chinese ODM when the likes of Lenovo even source from Taiwanese companies?

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