Thoughts for dealing with Overseas (Chinese) flashlight dealers


I thought I might start a thread about how to deal with buying sight unseen, from thousands of miles away, with many language and culture barriers.

First of all, I will tell you, it's not what you think it should be and it's not going to be what you want, most of the time. It's a constant hassle fraught with many misunderstandings.

The language barrier - Go to a Chinese website like Taobao and view a page about a flashilight. Then use google translate and see what you get. Some of the text will be understandable, but some of it makes no sense. First off, you might say, "don't they know anything?" Well, yes they do, but it's in Chinese and the words do not translate into your language. There are many words and sayings that simply mean nothing from one language to another and it is very difficult. When you send PM's and emails to a dealer, it can be totally frustrating, because when they translate your language into Chinese, they are thinking "does this person know what the heck they are talking about?". It goes both ways, they don't understand you and you don't understand them.

  • When you contact them, try to be brief and try to not use any slang or short versions of words.
  • Use Do not, instead of don't, use will not instead of won't.
  • Do not bother using foul language, since they Will understand that and you immediately alienated them, so you will not get anything out of them.
  • Clearly state what you want and clearly state that you want a reply.
  • Try not to demand. It does not seem to work over there well. They do not respond well to demands. Instead of that, try asking for their help in solving a problem.
  • Be specific, but many times, technical terms will not register, since the people you deal with are not the bosses, but just people who answer questions and then have to go ask someone else. Just try to make it clear so anyone who has a hint about lights, might be able to understand. Examples might be: "I have a driver that only produces one amp output on high mode and your website states the light produces 2 amps on high mode, can you send me a new driver or a new light?". "The threads on the body of my light are damaged and I cannot screw them together properly" etc...
  • Tell them what you want for a solution. If you want a replacement, then state clearly, you want a replacement sent. If you want a refund, then state that clearly as well. Most of the time, a dealer cannot send you just a replacement part, since they deal with whole lights. They don't keep replacement parts and the hassle to get them makes it cheaper for them, to just ship out a new light or give a refund.
  • Have your "ducks in a row". Have your Order Number and the date you purchased. Have the SKU#. Have the original package and take a photo of the label. Have photos of the damage, if it's physical damage. If it's something like low amperage, take a photo of the amp meter reading. Try to have as much pertinent information as you can. It will make things go much more smoothly. I had a SRK clone that came to me with all kinds of damage to the body and I sent photos to the rep. I got another light in the mail immediately, since the damage was totally unbelievable. No problem getting another one right away, because they could not dispute the damage.
  • Continue to work with the dealer till you get to the 40 day mark and them let them know you intend to file a PayPal claim. See if that sways them. Sometimes it will, since it's a mark against them.
  • Save all your communication, in case you have to file with PayPal. It can help a lot if you add it into the claim.

Expectations - So you bought a $10 light and when you get it, there are problems with it? Did you really think you would get something great for your $10? Are you that naive? Seriously? Time to start taking some reality classes. I'm not trying to be an ass, but when you are dealing with low quality items that are cheap, please do not expect much out of them, or you will be disappointed. Sometimes you will be happy and get something that is really a deal, but many times you will just get cheap junk and that's what you get for trying to go cheap in the first place. Here's how it is, buy 20 of the $10 lights and get a couple you can live with, or go buy one of the $200+ lights from one of the major players and get a great light that works well. Better yet, don't buy from China, because they do not do quality control. They do mass production, for the most part and especially for the flashlights in the $50 and under range. The lower the price, the less concern there is for quality. It's the truth and it isn't going to change, so deal with it and live with it, or do not waste your money. All I am really saying is, do not have high expectations for an inexpensive item. It's a good way to get burned, if you expect great things. If you do get something good, then be pleasantly surprised.

That said, you still should not receive a light that has a broken lens, a totally damaged reflector, cross threaded, etc. There's a limit to where no matter how cheap it was, it's still should not have been sent out and that's when you start contacting the dealer with all your information and photos, to get a refund or another light.

Shipping - "Most of the time" - Dealers will ship out within 48 hours, unless it's their week-end. They work M-F and do nothing on S-S, so don't expect to order on a Friday and get any response till their Monday rolls around. My normal way of ordering is to place the order and then email the dealer to state that I just placed order# xyz123 and I ask for confirmation that they have the items and when it will ship out. I do that, so that they know I am serious and that I do not expect to wait a week for shipping the items out. Also, I do it, so that I know if the items are in stock, since many times dealers do not tell you. They do that, because they figure they can get the item from their distributor of manufacturer and they don't want to miss a sale.

Once it has shipped, it is "out of the hands of the dealer". Once it goes to the post office, it may go out quickly or it may take a week, or it may never leave the post office. That is just the way it is. If it does clear their post office, then your next worry is your own country's customs people, who may tie it up again, for several days. As a general rule, expect 15 days from the time you ordered, to the time you get the order. If it does not come in 15 days, alert the dealer and then monitor things until you get to the 30 day mark. Usually, if it is not there in 30 days, it is not going to get there and then you need to request a refund or a replacement. If the dealer does not want to do anything, then wait till 40 days and go ahead and file with PayPal. Try to always use PayPal, because they will usually get your money back... eventually...

A general rule of thumb - If it has "Fire" in the name, it's most likely going to burn you in one way or another. What I mean is, there are tons of lights out there that are just slapped together with no real concern for the quality or consistence of the light. Many of the "fire" brands are like that and there's no telling who really made it, since it's more of a generic name for anyone wanting to put out a ton of junk. They just call it ----fire. If you want a quality light, then do some research and go for a quality manufacturer. There are several out there that do better than the norm. They want more money for their lights, but again, "You often get what you pay for" and even though you may not like that, it's an age old truth.

If a dealer says you have to return the light, tell them that they have to pay the shipping. If they refuse, go to PayPal and file a claim. You might not win, especially if the dealer has it written down, on their website, that you have to pay return shipping, but you might win. Return shipping on any light that was less than $50 is just money wasted. Save the shipping and eat the cost of the light. Chalk it up to experience if PayPal will not get your refund. Sooner or later, you will loose money on a deal. It's the nature of the beast.

It's a buyer beware world out there and you just need to heed that fact and be prepared. Do not go out and buy that $7 light thinking it's gold. It's most likely junk and you may regret it, but don't get mad about it so much, as you have been forewarned and you went and did it anyhow.

Very good information and advice. I should reread this OP periodically as it's easy to get sloppy in following these, let's call them, "Best Practices".

This should be a sticky!

+1 Should be a sticky. Might even deserve it’s own link on the left panel like the “Site Rules” post.

Oh GOD those aweful painful conversations, Thanks for clearing a lot of things up OL that makes a lot of sense now actually.

I have no money for expensive lights.
I have many ——fires.
But I do expect to receive the item they describe / show, even if it’s cheap.
So I regularly have ebay cases for ‘not as described’…
But sometimes I’m not sure if I should complain or not.
I have been sorry when I did, and when I did not…

A general rule of thumb - If it has “Fire” in the name, it’s most likely going to burn you in one way or another.

OL, we know exactly what you mean by that statement of fact.

Well written piece of work, needs to be a sticky!

Good guide TY.

I ran afoul of some of this when I first started here (oh, so long ago (rolls eyes)) on a give away thread by using old sayings as light-hearted banter but I quickly figured out that he didn’t see the humor so I stopped.

“A general rule of thumb - If it has ”Fire” in the name, it’s most likely going to burn you in one way or another. ”

And the exception being Surefire. Are there others?

“Do not go out and buy that $7 light thinking it’s gold. It’s most likely junk and you may regret it, but don’t get mad about it so much, as you have been forewarned and you went and did it anyhow.”

Good old iron pyrite. :bigsmile:

Very good info. I never expect much and when I do get a light with an issue, I try to fix it myself.

One thing I noticed is packages from china usually fall in the 20-35 day range for shipping but I’ve never not received an order.

Well done OL! This has got to be the most detailed and concise Chinese flashlight buyers guide Ive ever seen. :bigsmile: So many scenarios of feeling burned and disappointed are learned the hard way, and you probably covered all the big ones and how to best manage them. Im just sorry that you had to be dragged though most of these scenarios like so many of us. Thanks for posting.

Excellent and concise “How to” for anything bought from China.

Aaaand — a bump.