The iPad Clone Hunt: Greed Does Not Equal Good Karma
by David Parsons
I tried to buy an iPad from China; buying it from the same factory that makes them for Apple. I assumed that they are just slipping a few hundred out the back door and selling them for a higher (retail) price than Apple’s wholesale price.
What I really wanted a Windows 7 tablet, but there aren’t any available for a decent price, or a decent clock speed, as of this writing. There are a lot of promises, but I want/need it NOW. I am self-employed as a third-party vehicle inspector. I offer my experience and expertise to buyers of mid-to-high end used luxury vehicles that find their vehicles here in the hot, sunny, rust-free Phoenix, Arizona Metro area. I use Win XP at home, and use MS Word for my 5 page report that I email to my customer. I could really save a bunch of time and money by eliminating the paper form that I fill out at the dealer’s lot, not to mention the printer ink, wear and tear on my old printer, and the additional time required to transcribe the written notes to the desktop. I really don’t want to have to relearn a bunch of new commands and the intricacies of iWork or Pages. But, with the iPad becoming readily available, I thought I would look around on the Internet to see what kind of deal I could find. Maybe learning something new wouldn’t be that hard.
After performing the de rigeur Google search, I happened upon the Alibaba website. In just a few minutes, I discovered a veritable plethora of iPad clones. Plus a few that claimed to be real iPads, just cheaper. I sent emails to several of the companies, asking questions about the truthfulness of their advertised claims and inquiring about sample prices and volume discounts. Not that I have the money to buy more than one (the car business SUCKS right now), but thankfully the Chinese don’t know that. I received several replies, each successive email getting cheaper and cheaper. Finally, I got the email I was looking for.
Dear David Parsons,
Thank you for your inquiry. I am Amanda from
. We are professional supplier for electronic products at competitive price. Now I will tell you some information that you are [interested in]:
Original IPad Wi-Fi 64GB—-95usd/pc
Our price is depended on your quantity, more order more discount: if you buy 3 PCs, the price is $90/PC + 2 PCs free gift + free shipping fee. If you buy 5 PCs, the price is $80/PC + 4 PCs free gift + free shipping fee.
International warranty time is 2 years.The delivery time is 1-2 days. We will send goods to you as a gift box and we can write less declared value for you, then you needn’t pay tax .
We have many advantages:
1. No limited order. We accept mixed order, sample order and drop shipping is available.
2. Oayment method: Bank Transfer and Western Union / Money Gram.
3: Door to Door shipment by EMS /DHL/UPS /FEDEX/TNT. You can received the products in 3-7 days.
Well good news! Single unit prices had shrunk from $400/unit to just $95/unit. Bingo! Sold! Reading the small print, I noticed that the company, Shenzen ai ling bai Electronics Technologies Co, Ltd, was based in Shenzen (red flag!). They did not accept payment through PayPal, only bank transfer or Western Union (red flag again!). To further fuel my greedy appetite, Ai ling bai offered me an incredible deal. Buy 3 of their iPads, get 2 more as a free gift, plus free shipping. Or, even better, buy 5, get 4 more for free and free shipping (need I mention 3rd red flag?). And they will write down the declared value of the items, to lower taxes. Who wouldn’t fall in love with such a great deal, eh? But, I thought I would be cautious. They have a simple website, but the icons along the bottom don’t work, especially the PayPal icon. Hmmm, I kept digging. No negative entries in a Google search for their name. The pictures look like they were lifted directly from Apple’s website. Their email address is a Hotmail account. Hmmmm. I dithered for 2 days, hosting an internal debate over whether to pull the trigger on this deal. You know the one, white angel on one shoulder, saying “No, no, don’t do it,” while the red angel on the other shoulder is urging, “yeah, go for it, dude. It’s what you’ve been wanting, right?”
The total is $95 USD + $30 USD (shipping fee)= $125 USD
Give me your address, full name and telephone number and we can send the goods to you.
I went for it. Sent the money through Western Union, sent the email alerting them that their USA sucker had sent the $135 (with WU’s fees and shipping). I wasn’t going to potentially buy several of these units until I got one in my hands for evaluation. Next, I got my confirmation email from ai ling bai, thanking me for the business along with my tracking number. It wouldn’t show up in the system for 2 days, though (I’m swimming in red flags at this point).
I received another email with my tracking number and the contact number blotted out. They sent it EMS (China Post)? Damn it. I specifically asked for FedEx. That’s what I thought that I was paying for. I’m sure that FedEx operates in Shenzen. It seems stupid to send the package EMS, then hand off to FedEx, where, at the port?
So, now I’m 3 days post-scam. I’m out $135, no iPad/iPad clone, and furiously, mentally kicking myself in the ass for doing such a stupid thing. I sent another email to Ms Amanda, gently reminding her that I paid for an item that didn’t look like it was on its way to me. I didn’t want to start hurling epithets quite yet. Not until until I was sure that I had been taken for a rube.
David L. Parsons to Amanda
I’m not getting an iPad, am I? I trusted you, and you failed me. Now I see why I was told not to conduct business with Chinese companies.
Ms. Amanda ignored my next two emails.
I decided to email the US Embassy in Beijing — perhaps someone there would know of the reputation of companies in the Shenzhen area — and politely confirm that I screwed myself out of my money by being greedy. After my short explanation, I asked if someone there in the Economic Section might make a courtesy phone call to the company on my behalf. Perhaps the knowledge that the US Embassy was aware of their little fraud would be enough for the company to give my money back?
Nice day. Yes, you will get [it]. You can check online tomorrow (June 30) because these days here rain heavily so EMS delays the time. Sorry,
Evidently, rickshaws don’t have four wheel drive. Or operate well in the rain.
Now, I am on Day 6 of ”As My Stomach Churns,” a melodrama of my own making. Hmmm, their quoted shipping time of 3-7 days is quickly running out, like sand through the hourglass… time to check the tracking number one last time and hope that the iPad Fairy will sprinkle magical pixie dust on my shipment to make it appear.
Day 7 and no dice. Tracking number still appears to be invalid and no response yet from the US Embassy in Beijing. Wonder if there is a consulate, or junior embassy, closer to Shenzhen?
Now it is Day 8. After going to the movies (Grownups, hilarious!) to help forget about this, I return home and check my email. Before I sign off for the day, I figure I will check the tracking number just one more time. I’m already resigned to the loss of my money. I guess I am just hoping against hope that the iPad Fairy came through…
Unbelievably, the magic pixie dust works. The tracking number pops up. My package has been received by EMS and has been sent to the sorting facility. The mind reels! Now I am glad that I didn’t send a kiss-off email, full of nasty epithets that, had my mother heard me say them, would have gotten my mouth washed out with a case of Lava soap. Now, I am ignoring emails. I want to wait until the iClone arrives in my hot, sweaty hands before I say or do anything more. I’m just praying that they haven’t sent me an Eken M003. Although, at $135, I’m paying less than most people have paid. Locally, a guy on Craigslist is selling them for $260. He’s using a picture of a real iPad, probably copied from Apple’s website, to represent it. If a buyer did his homework, it would be pretty easy to see that the Eken M003 has a white border, not a black one (in all of the pictures I’ve ever seen).
Ok, Day 9 of the soap opera “As My Stomach Churns”. Except that my stomach as settled down quite a bit. According to EMS, my package has passed through customs. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
Day 10. The package has been stuck at the “despatch center” for two days since it was released by Customs. I wonder what the holdup is? Probably just the enormous volume of shipments. I’m guessing that the package will be trucked to a port that serves Hong Kong, which is nearby. Once it gets to Hong Kong, it will possibly be shipped by cargo plane to the USA.
I don’t know what to do now. Email Ms. Amanda? Nothing she can do now as the package is out of her hands. Guess I will just have to exercise some patience…
Now on Day 15… I figured that EMS wouldn’t have anymore updates since they handed over the package to Customs. Well, I was wrong. EMS still has tracking, all the way to the US Port of Entry — most likely Los Angeles.
Well, perhaps my wait is about to end. If the package was sent to the port of Los Angeles, then it should be only two days to Phoenix. I’m betting that EMS has handed off to the US Postal Service. Originally, I asked for FedEx, but I guess I can’t whine now. If this turns out to be a real iPad, I’m going to buy more. But I’m going to insist on payment through PayPal, first off. It feels kinda scummy using Western Union. Besides that, PayPal offers some protection for my money. Secondly, I’m going to insist on FedEx or UPS. It’s worth the extra money for the accountability.
Day 16, and an unpleasant surprise has arrived from China.
Instead of the expected Tablet, I received a European Nokia 7260 with a European charger! Very useful in the USA. Now I’m really ticked. I’ve gone from euphoric, to disappointed, to hopeful, to ticked. I still haven’t heard from the US Embassy in Beijing. They probably have too many other problems to futz with my insignificant drivel.
Here is my email back to Ms Amandaamanda:
I have received my package and I am very disappointed. I received a Nokia cellphone, instead of the promised iPad WiFi 64GB Tablet PC. The cell phone came with a European charger, making it unusable in the USA. I choose to believe, at this time, that this was a communications error within your company. However, the thought of fraud has entered my mind. Since your company has made this error, I believe that you should pay for the shipping to return this unwanted item. I also strongly request that your company send me the item i paid for. I have copied the email that you originally sent me as proof that the miscommunication was not my mistake. I have attached three pictures of the package that I received as proof of what I erroneously received. I strongly request that you send me the Tablet PC that I paid for. If your company cannot comply, then please refund my money, except for the shipping charges. Your website displays an icon for PayPal; please refund this way. My email address is my PayPal address. If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at anytime during your work day. Shenzhen is 15 hrs ahead of Arizona, but it does not matter. Use an English speaking person to talk to me. Thank you for your immediate attention to this serious matter.
I used Google Translate to also send this message in Simplified Chinese, so that there is no excuse for a language barrier. I am still refraining from hurling epithets, visions of Lava soap or not. I retain the right to hurl at the very end, when my money is not being returned, and I have basically been told to kiss off, that’s all I am getting. I will issues updates as they become available. Stay tuned, if your stomach can handle it, to the next installment of “As My Stomach Churns”.