I’ve bought many things in several countries and there is almost always a one-year guarantee. Recently, when you buy an electrical product in Japan, the store offers an extended guarantee up to five years. For example, in the town where I live, I buy my electrical products in a store that offers a free five-year guarantee for any purchase of 5,000 JPY or more. This means I can make my purchases knowing that I’ll be able to use them for at least five years. Even with just the manufacturers one-year guarantee, since an electrical product that is faulty is likely to malfunction in the first twelve months.

During my first trip to China (Beijing), I bought a mobile phone. Since Japanese mobile phones aren’t SIM free, I wasn’t able to use a local SIM card. So, other than buying a Chinese mobile phone, my only choice would be to use the roaming service of my Japanese mobile phone provider, and that is extremely expensive both for me and anybody in China making calls to me. I opted for a low-end Motorola model as I only needed to make calls and send text (SMS) messages.

During the first two or three days of using it, I realized that the power was being turned off automatically. I’d send somebody a text message and be waiting for the reply, but the reply didn’t arrive. When I took the phone out to check, the power would be off. Strange! So, I took the phone back to the store where I had purchased it, but they said that they only sold the phones and that I would have to have the phone checked by the manufacturer which was on the other side of Beijing. They explained that if the manufacturer gave me a report stating that the phone was faulty, I could exchange it for another one.

A friend took me to the manufacturer and they did their checks. However, they said that the phone had passed the tests, and that it was OK. It was the typical Chinese “No problem!” Even though I explained (via my friend’s interpreting) that it worked fine for a while, but the power would suddenly turn off, they just said, “But, it’s OK now!” It was obvious that they weren’t going to give me the paper I needed to exchange the phone, and equally obvious that the phone was useless as it was, so I left the phone with the people in the shop and asked them to keep an eye on it as it was going to turn itself off, and then they’d see what I was talking about. They agreed to this—probably just to get us out of the store. At the time, I wanted to leave the box, manual, charger, etc. at the store (I had no use for any of it), but they were adamant that I just leave the phone and take the rest with me, so that’s what happened.

The next day, we all had a trip planned to Sichuan Province, so I went without a mobile phone. The day after we arrived in Sichuan, my friend got a phone call from the shop saying that I was right after all, and that there was something wrong with the phone causing it to turn itself off for no reason. That part was all expected. What I didn’t expect was that I had to return to the store the box, manual, charger, etc. within a week to be eligible to exchange the phone for free. After that the phone could be repaired for a price. Since the store had refused to allow me to leave the box, etc. with the phone, I had it all with me in Sichuan. Our only choice was to have the box express couriered to my friend’s wife in Beijing, and for her to take it to the store for me. She did that, and arranged for the phone to be exchanged for a new one.

So, the guarantee period was just one week! Plus you needed to return the box, charger, manual, and everything else in order to be eligible to have the phone exchanged. It seemed very strange to me that they would want the box for a faulty phone. However, after spending some more time in China, all became much clearer.

… To be continued . . .