Buyer beware, cutting price means cutting corners

Having already signed the sole agency for South Africa and Namibia for the FLYBOYS I visited my supplier, the manufacturers of the Flyboys in China, where I had the most informative visit. When we got into the pricing discussion face to face, I learnt how others manage to undercut their pricing…

In doing my research into the Hoverboard/Segway/Flyboy/Smart balance scooters opportunity I had almost reluctantly settled on the most expensive supplier of the lot (There are really only four manufacturers but also a vast number who pretend to be manufacturers, be careful).

My supplier had bought a ‘smart scooter’ that sold for far less than theirs, and opened it. As you may know, cutting price means cutting corners. For example, the battery in the purchased example had 10 cells, not 20 cells. There were aluminum tubes to bulk up the space where the other cells should have been so it looked normal, all wrapped with heat shrink in the prescribed blue wrapping. No manufacturer label was visible but it did look like a normal battery in every other respect. So,  buyer beware.

Having not previously ordered the FlyboyXtreme to sell in the country (I was not aware it existed) I took one away with me in my luggage and ordered a fair quantity to be part of my next shipment.

The FlyboyXtreme … it’s a really quick machine. It looks the same though as the standard model but it has a few differences…mostly in the way it accelerates. Because of its superior power it can safely support a rider of up to 120kg.

Anyway, I digress…I knew that it was no longer possible to use airfreight as a means of transport to bring Flyboys into the country. The batteries are rated DG (Dangerous Goods) and they need to be sent by sea freight, even then with special documentation, permits, indemnities, insurance and so on.

With the prior knowledge that the battery will not be accepted on my flight I removed it from the Flyboy before leaving the factory (I had spare batteries in stock, back in SA).

So I arrived at the airport and insisted on X-rays to prove there was no battery. But the operator disagreed. He insisted there was one inside which I knew was not the case at all. Even with the help of Google Translate, I was getting nowhere convincing him, he seemed determined to confiscate my FlyboyXtreme. Just then an Indian fellow and his wife arrived at X-rays. He was carrying a canvass carry case… lo and behold, I immediately recognized the shape of the bag and knew there was likely a scooter inside. Now I could compare the insides on the X-rays and prove my point. Out of interest I asked where the Indian had bought his and he bragged about the low price he had paid. Jabber, jabber.

Anyway…The Indian was also interrogated by security mainly about the voltage of the battery (the Indian even came prepared with a fake technical data sheet for the battery, understating the voltage!) and he was eventually obliged to put his new wheels through the X-ray too. And, clear as day, the cells of the batteries were visible inside. But then the X-ray operator saw the difference with my X-ray image and apologized, sort of, and let me go with my Flyboy in my luggage. But he also later released the one to the Indian. Not sure why.

Later on I was near the back of the queue for boarding and I saw the same Indian coming towards me in the departure hall, but his scooter had been confiscated while he was boarding the plane. I offered to try help and ran back with him to security where I flashed my Flyboys business card and (speaking authoritavely) I insisted that if they would return the scooter I could remove the battery and make it safe for travel.  They retrieved the machine and I proceeded to open it.

Mini Segway opened by airport security

 

True as Bob, not even aluminum tubes to fake it! A true half size battery with plastic padding to take up the spare space under the plastic battery bracket. Not only that, but the printed circuit boards were not even sealed, a basic requirement.

I removed his battery and gave it over to the authorities. He closed the machine and was then allowed to take it on board. At least he saved the machine and would only need to buy a new battery now!

So the most interesting thing was to see direct evidence of this trick first hand and just a day after I had heard of the little trickery. Not only was the battery half size, but I could see that the PCB was not even sealed, a basic requirement. In practice, particularly if used near the coast, the circuitry would start corroding in a matter of months. All to save a few Dollars. Who knows what other corners are cut to save costs?

I recall an old sign in a shop…

The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the joy of a low price!

 

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