The new China Syndrome
AFTER ALMOST THREE YEARS OF DAILY LABOUR I eventually had to tire. Then within a little more than a year after tiring, I had to retire.
The reason was simple. The original tires (or “tyres”, a word my spellchecker deems incorrect) that came with my Korean car were excellent and I only decided to change them when they started to develop some bald patches. Had my wife used the same logic I, too, would have been retired.
However, with the rainy season coming on, the few cents I had saved for a rainy day went towards the purchase of a new set of tyres. I quickly found out that the dealer in Antigua who sold me the car does not stock tyres for it and that despite the number of similar cars on the road, Antigua dealers don’t stock the size I wanted. All of them were trying to sell me bigger sizes which, according to the experts, could cause problems with my brakes.
The only tyres of the size that I wanted were “pre-owned” or used and while I was not used to using used tyres, I had no choice since importing tyres or anything else in Antigua is not just costly but also time-consuming.
First, duty is charged on cost, insurance and freight and not just on the item cost. For tyres, this works out at about 55 per cent plus ten dollars on each tyre.
You cannot clear the shipment without an entry prepared by a broker and that costs extra. Then you have other delays as you try to process the entry and eventually get to a customs official who may or may not be on lunch or some other break.
The used tyres retired in days but before doing so they nearly cost me my life. The young man who put them on forgot to tighten the wheel nuts and the car started to wiggle and waggle on the road like a flag woman in a carnival band.
Then I heard that the local franchise of a Trinidad auto supplies company had brought in a batch of tyres of the size I wanted. They were extremely expensive, several times the price in the United States or elsewhere.
Believing that the company and its offshoots would have the “automotive art” down to a “t”, I overcame my skepticism about the brand name of the tyres, bit the bullet and left myself on the brink of bankruptcy praying that the gods and variabilities of climate change would cause unseasonal weather and the rainy days would not arrive until I had a few more bucks stashed away.
Neither the dry weather nor the tyres lasted. Within less than a year they started to shred like grated coconut.
My car will be five years old in June and has averaged 6 500 miles a year. It means that the first set of tyres did more than 25 000 miles and this set has not lasted even 8 000 miles.
In Trinidad I would have driven 8 000 miles in less than four months.
What I am tempted to do is take the steel belt from the tyres and use it on them but given its fragility I doubt that belting them with it would have any effect at all. In fact, they will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.
My tyre experience is becoming increasingly common with almost any purchase of any commodity anywhere in the Caribbean. The country of origin is generally China where “quality” is not in the dictionary and where even the dictionary has problems.
Our neighbour gave us a Chinese-made “NEW LED SAVING-ENERGY LAMP” for Christmas which came with the caution “For prolong the life of lamp . . . in case dry battery corrupt damage the lamp Please make a attention the marker of “+” and “-” when change the dry battery.”
A blogger wrote about trying to set a bicycle alarm using the following instructions, “Sensitivity just. When the unit not work, press ‘C’ and hold on until you hear (you should loose your hands after you hear each sound):” Instructions for assembling a baby-stroller advised, “. . . invaginate the wheel into the coupling.”
I believe the label I saw on a Chinese clockwork toy is really the key to the whole thing. It said, “Guaranteed to work during its useful life.”
A so-called “unbreakable” toy lasted only two days in the hands of my son. Even America, once famous for the resilience of its products and the strength of its manufacturing sector, has fallen victim to the new China Syndrome.
The last word on this belongs to comedian Jay Leno: “Chinese President Hu Jintao had dinner at the White House with President Obama and first lady Michelle. They were going to exchange gifts from the two countries, but unfortunately everything in our country is now made in their country, so they couldn’t do any exchanging.”
• Tony Deyal was last seen acknowledging the truth of the observation, “Love is like products made in China . . . no guarantee”.