It was over a year ago that I sat in on a lunch meeting with representatives from Pony/Jorgensen at the time of their choosing a distributor for the mainland. Even when an international manufacturer doesn't expect to earn much money in the mainland market, I suspect that it needs to support a presence with mutual financial interests if only to defend its intellectual property rights and trademarks. A local distributor is better positioned and motivated to pursue this legal challenge. That's the theory, at least.
The Jorgensen pipe clamps are both useful and easy to pirate. While they are long off patent, the distinctive orange paint is used to confuse consumers even when versions painted in other colors are often of a higher quality yet still of a lower quality than the original manufactured goods. Again, this is likely due to shanzhai workshops not understanding how these tools are used in practice and merely focusing on producing them as cheaply as possible.
|Can you find the authentic Jorgensen amongst the blackened piping?|
|Made in someplace|
As I've said before, black pipe is not a stock item in China. These pipes were bought as bare metal and painted black without any kind of lacquer coating. The Chinese don't bother threading both ends so it was I who stuck on the thread protector onto the end. Using these single example makes one easily appreciate how even small features can make such a noticeable difference. I'll point these out in the following counterexamples.
|a lower priced Shanzhai version|
Here are some other Chinese made pipe clamps which are slightly better and do not attempt to fool consumers with the Jorgensen orange paint.
|slightly higher quality clutch discs|
|rollpinned and failure|
The next style of clamps is both harder to manufacture and harder to distinguish from fakes. They were sourced from a Taiwanese retailer, which might or might not be a more reliable supplier for authentic items due to better enforcement of copyright laws in the RoC. But money is money.
All these clamps arrived in the same shipment so the differences were readily apparent. I cannot say whether there is any overwhelming performance differences, certainly not as evident as above. Yet it's clear that through rivets make a better connection. The handles without the rivets do seem to have started to slip against the threaded rods.
The beams of the clamps are both done in a way to prevent the sliding head from slipping off. The dimple is a far superior method in contrast with the dinged end that both looks unattractive and has the potential to mar wood pieces.It's hard to understand anything but a dimple is acceptable. I've since noticed from clamps of Amazon that
|stamped model numbers|
|Cast from different patterns|
These two details show that the clamps might likely be made in two separate production facilities. While the stamping differences are part of a secondary stage of production, the different heads were made from different patterns and, likely, poured in different foundries.
|riveted head into faulty casting|
The heads in some clamps lack a direct rivet connection. In the riveted sample is a casting that was likely rejected for international export. More on this below.
mishandled or peened rivet
In order to help resolve these issues, I sent an email to the manufacturer. Their website doesn't show any more products with maple handles, it seems. Is this a clue? Do I have new/old stock vintage clamps or something less?
After I got an automatic response informing that my question would be addressed promptly,
Thank you for contacting Pony Tools! We have received your email, and you can expect a reply within 24-48 hours.
Thank you for your business and your continued support.
Pony Tools, Inc.
Customer Service Team
I've heard nothing since. And even after the vice-president told me to let him know whether I needed anything. In my previous position.
Shanzhai culture is deeply rooted in mainland industries. On its surface it is simple counterfeiting of established brand names. A recent example was discovered and shut down. This article explains the economics for those involved. In short: the benefits far outweigh the risks in. It's about fats money, 'kuai qian'. There are many degrees of Shanzhai; these examples are of but one. Pony and Jorgenson brand tools have moved their production to China. While this does reduce their labor costs, it causes the stockholders much more loss of control than they anticipate, and often fail to recognize.
It's evident that the bar clamps fixtures were made in a foundry without any connection to the Ponytools company. The poor quality strongly hints that the shanzhai producers never assembled a product inspcted for export and more likely don't know anything about woodworking to evaluate their own products. As I have pointed out before and here, mainland Chinese don't think of pipes and anything but for conveying water or gas.
The smaller bar clamps reveal a different story. I believe that they were manufactured under contract to be sold as exports under the Pony/Jorgensen brand name. These clamps were either rejected by quality control or discontinued for export when the main office decided that plastic handles were the future. So what is a factory manager to do with rejected products, overruns, or an assembly line that doesn't readily accommodate the updated features? Certainly not miss out on an opportunity to make some fast money. There is certainly no allegiance to protecting the integrity of the brand name? Diluting one is so much more profitable than building up its market value.
This phenomenon continues for two main reasons. 1) Chinese consumers are often poorly informed in how to detect fakes, and even when they do raise a complaint, there is very little that is done by authorities to enforce copyright or IPR. The thinking is that even counterfeiters are employers and as long as the micro titans of industry are well connected, they have little to fear. 2) Chinese consumers are often exclusively motivated by price. Even when they are made aware that they are buying an inferior product, they often weight that against how much they can save and not how much frustration a shanzhai product might cause. They certainly have no qualms about perpetuating a system that hurts that nation's reputation as a whole. The flaws in most products are subtle and without a comparison to an original, it's impossible to distinguish wheat from chaff.
What's disconcerting is that these were purchased through a Taiwanese distributor. Is it possible that the distributor was in on the ruse, or were these products only handled to be sold back to the mainland? The fact that they were mixed in one order suggests that they don't care, don't believe anybody might notice with interest, or they were selling the last of their stock.
There's more to this phenomenon to be highlighted in later postings.