Beware when buying ebay led lamps

 

You honestly wouldn’t believe the amount of e-mails and calls we get from people who have bought Ebay LED lamps and ended up with terrible experiences.  Well to be honest, this comes as no surprise to us at all as, on the whole, these two selling platforms have a huge amount of seller manipulation evident and offer very little protection to buyers.

I shall explain.

 

Ebay

 We all know that thousands of products are bought and sold successfully on Ebay, on a daily basis. In fact I personally sell unwanted items from my home and office (usually under orders from my better half) on Ebay and it works very well. Where I don’t think a platform like Ebay works very well is for products with incredibly long lifespans, such as LED Lighting.

The global nature of Ebay means that a person in say China or Korea can sell LED light bulbs to consumers in the UK pretty much anonymously. They can make claims about their products performance, lifespan and guarantee and mix this with a very low price. Very tempting for someone looking to switch their traditional lighting to LED isn’t it?

The problems that consumers who buy these products face are:

a)    Often the performance is nowhere near the claimed figures.

b)   The lifespan of the product won’t be accurate and in the majority of cases will probably fail within 2 years (actually you’d be doing well to get over a year)

c)    The guarantee is pretty much worthless. If you have a problem with the product within the guarantee period, you try getting the person in China or Korea to honor it.  If Ebay gets a lot of complaints, they will shut the seller account down, but they just appear again with a new seller account. It’s almost impossible to police.

d)   It’s cheap. Yes, it is and it’s cheap for a reason. It’s made of poor quality materials, put together by unskilled workers working in terrible conditions (or it’s the products that failed quality control from another factory), and there is no R+D, no design and no testing of the finished product. That’s why it’s cheap. With a product like this, honestly, it could fail at anytime.

e)    Ebay seller feedback. This is a big one for me. I was explaining the above points to someone recently who told me the seller they had bought from on Ebay had nearly a 90% positive feedback rating and how could I explain that. Very easily I told him. All the smart sellers needs to do is make sure the buyer is happy with the brightness of the light and make sure the product works for a week or two. That is all that is required for someone to issue that person a positive feedback rating. What happens after that, (quick drop off in performance, failure of units, flickering) goes largely un-reported, such is the nature of buying and selling process of Ebay.

Now I am not saying that all sellers of LED products on Ebay operate in this manner. What I am saying is that you wouldn’t believe how many sellers on Ebay do operate in this manner and that when looking at buying an LED product on Ebay, you should take extra care and do more due diligence that usual.

 

GROUPON

 Groupon is very different from Ebay. You still get exaggerated performance and lifespan claims but this is actually a problem within the entire industry rather than just Ebay + Groupon.

The biggest problem with Groupon is price manipulation. The way I’m led to believe the Groupon model works is that the retailer is effectively discounting their product or service by 75%, the consumer gets 50% off and Groupon takes 25%. Now that’s a huge mark down that very few companies can afford to do and those that do are usually making a significant loss in order to acquire new customers.

This system can however be manipulated into a seriously profitable strategy. Let me explain;

Say you are an online LED retailer, you find a new LED Spotlight you would like to sell. It currently doesn’t have a retail price, as you haven’t set one. So an opportunity arises to make the retail price of this LED spot artificially high, say 80-85% higher than the buy price of the product. You then advertise it on Groupon by discounting it by a whopping 75%, appearing to give away the deal of the century, yet you pocket 5-10% off every bulb you are selling. With the selling power Groupon has, that can add up to a huge amount of profit for the LED retailer. Some retailers have claimed to sell between 50,000 and 100,00 bulbs through Groupon.

But it doesn’t finish there, a lot of the time, the LED retailer has T&C’s saying the products you ordered through Groupon can take between 1-2 months to arrive. Why you might ask? Well that’s because the LED retailer has no stock of the LED Spots they have sold. Why should they tie their money up in stock when they can make an order for the exact amount of stock they need, after their Groupon promotion has ended and use the customers (your) money to fund it. They then simply repeat this process over and over.

Chris Stimson

 

4 thoughts on “Beware when buying ebay led lamps

  1. Hi Chris
    Whilst It is true that a lot of products from the far east are cheaply made.
    And this is achieved with some of the reasons you suggest but mainly theft of IP
    It does raise an interesting discussion.
    Very often the products look well made but inderneath that facade there are some dangerous electrical items.
    However these are usually in the ” they are so cheap they must be rubbish” price bracket.
    Take a Huawei phone its cheaper and better than an Iphone or a Samsung
    But its still a relatively expensive product.
    When you pay a little more you get something comparable to an expensive brand for still a relatively cheap price.
    Some of these are using identical parts to the expensive brand so the material cost is the same.
    Maybe if the sellers of the expensive brands were more realistic in their retail cost people would not be tempted to try cheaper brands like the ebay offerings.
    I would usuallyopt for a branded product until the price differential makes it impossible to justify.
    I’m only here after buying some H4 led headlamps super cheap off ebay that are also supercrap
    but at 10-15x cheaper than a branded product you have check it out.
    I can assue you there was nothing wrong with the construction and material quality and yes they work.
    The problem is its a knock off design and they got it wrong. believe it or not unlike household lamps car headlights have a precise measurement of where light is produced and reflected.
    That measurment is so critical that a fraction of a milimeter off will render the whole thing useless.
    I have had Osram Halogen Nightbreaker (one of the most expenive h4 lamps for a car)come out the box defective with the beam scattering everywhere when fitted. And that passed their QA.
    The problem is in the West we like to sell this idea of a little wooden shed with some yellow kids being whipped to produce sub standard items at a phenomenal rate.
    It simply is not the case many of the factories are state of the art facilities

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. Theft of IP is one of the biggest problems, i agree. The cost of design, development and then protection of a unique product is substantial and 9/10 it will get copied by Asian manufacturers. There is not a lot you can do legally as factories can shut down and reappear over night with a different trading name. So yes, thats a huge problem and one we are facing more and more.

      Not all cheap products are rubbish, i’ve never said that. However nearly all very cheap products i have seen in my industry have been rubbish IMO. You only have to look at reviews for western companies who sell this type of stuff to see that it really is rubbish.

      I see prices for GU10 Spotlghts now at £1.50 each. Someone will have to explain to me how you and buy a good quality LED Chip, design a proper heat dissipation, pay workers a fair rate and have a safe working environment, turn profit, pay for shipping from China to the UK, pay duty, UK copmany make 40-50% margin on it and then add VAT all for a couple of quid and think you’ve bought a good product.

      Not all expensive LED’s are worth the money. You can walk into a high end shop in London and find two brands, one selling a lamp for £30 and the other for £10, its the same product from the same factory, difference is branding.

      Most factories in China are in a very poor state, very few are up to date. I can tell you from experience that i have seen pretty horrednous exampples of the explotation of workers in these factories. It’s not rare either, it’s common place.

  2. Disappointed to find an article like this, on my search for tests and teardowns of smart bulbs. The article is not impartial, and its basically just generalizing and slandering your rivals. Who are you to speak about manipulation.
    Of course, there are bad products out there, as well as good products. some of which are expensive and some of which are cheap. You’re oversimplifying and misinforming “It’s made of poor quality materials, put together by unskilled workers working in terrible conditions (or it’s the products that failed quality control from another factory), and there is no R+D, no design and no testing of the finished product. That’s why it’s cheap. ”
    Let me guess, you never visited one of the manufacturers?
    And just to be clear, i do not have any personal gains/loses, i’m a Danish electronics nerd who works with IT.
    Definitely not going to support a dishonest business. Good luck with your methods.

    1. Hi,

      My team have passed this comment onto me to respond. My name is Chris Stimson and i am the co-founder of the company.

      The most disappointing aspect of your comment is the part where you say ‘I’m guessing’, as it appears your entire post is based on guess work.

      My background is supply chain, manufacturing and testing of LED products. Before starting my own company i used to vist and inspect factories and products in the far east on behalf of large companies looking for reliable suppliers.

      So my comments about manufacturing in Asia with regards to LED products is based on real experience of well over a decade.

      As a company, well-lit was nominated for ethical product of the decade by the Observer for our commitment to ethical and sustainable manufacturing.

      With regards to ebay, i have provided trading standards with evidence and information about illegal LED products being sold on the site by Asian companies. This mostly included falsified CE certificates and some of the products were dangerous, think exposed electrical wires near metal heat sinks. I’ve also witness some genuinely horrific staff working and living conditions in factories that supply to ebay and major brands.

      This article was also written a few years ago now although i still suspect the vast majority of LED Lamps sold on ebay from Asian comnpanies will be poor products devoid of regulatory requirements to be imported and sold in the EU.

      I also don’t consider ebay sellers to be competitors to my own company. It’s highly unliklely anyone looking at products on ebay would consider buying my products and visa versa.

      So i stand by my comments based on my experience and i would never let my own family or friends buy LED lamps on eBay.

      The article was never intended to be impartial but it is 100% my experience of over a decade of experience in LED manufacturing in Asia.

      I hope that has reassured you and i hope you will think twice before posting such strong comments based purely on guess work in future.

      Regards
      Chris Stimson

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