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#272 Benefit of the doubt

When a business proposal arrives from a stranger in China, the first instinct is to cut and run. But is a generic pitch necessarily a scam?

An email came to my computer machine just the other day from a fellow calling himself Peter Qin, who says he is sale(s) manager for a “big manufacturer from China.” The email subject line said “Looking for foreign dealer for our vehicles!”

Temporarily setting aside the resentment I felt at being called a foreigner, I read the details of his proposal. My first impression was that here was yet another variation on the old Nigerian Scam—a standard phishing expedition blasted into the worldwide ether with no known recipient in particular but just a general hope that the hook would hit and set. Nigerian Scams still exist because occasionally the fish is caught. Or as P.T. Barnum is famously credited for saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

But on second thought, the proliferation of Chinese-made product is essentially the main story of the current industrial revolution. Every street corner vendor, gas-seller, tire changer and backyard huckster is a “retailer” of made-in-China quads, scooters and bikes. To get to that point, Chinese entrepreneurs must be willing to take the kind of shortcuts that would leave the more hidebound Canadian business establishment askance. Perhaps one of those shortcuts involves risk-taking in the form of generic business pitches sent to complete strangers. The Asian version of a Hail Mary pass.

While Japan’s Big Four factories have elaborate contractual arrangements with their dealer networks that codify standards, ethics, and expectations of quality control, the niceties of that business model aren’t necessarily what you get when you start bringing in badged and rebadged Chinese vehicles. The impression is, you get what you pay for, let the buyer beware.

Still, there’s no question that Chinese manufactured goods arrive here in volumes never before seen by any generation of consumer. Even without any formal expertise in foreign trade it’s clear that some import deals are quickly expedited.
That’s not to say they lack validity. It’s just that urgency may be their prime virtue. If they make end runs around formalities such as quality assurance, their redemption lies in the rapid conclusion of a deal.

So, perhaps Peter Qin’s email proposal lacks the formality of business “best practices”, but does that necessarily make it a scam?
I wouldn’t care to take that bet, but in the interest of debate his email to me is presented below, verbatim.
I leave it to you to judge the nature of its intent.

Dear Sir,

I am pleasure to know you from Internet.
Thanks for taking the time to read my email and wish you have a nice day!

We are a big manufacturer from China for ATV (Quad) from 50cc to 800cc, UTV, off road motorcycle, Electric EEC Scooter, Generator, Diesel Generating Sets, Water pump, Mower etc General Machinery and all kinds of spare parts .

We have more than 20 years experience in the field,
Our engineers often develop some newest models to meet different market requirement,
We have capacity to complete your large quantity order and offer most competitive price.

If you  have interest in our dealership in your country, I wish to cooperate with you.

1.  I will send our website address with our detail products catalogue and our dealer’s price for your reference .

3. The date of shipment will be around 15 days to 25 days after we receive payment through T/T or L/C at sight.

4. The Warranty is 6000 kilometres or one year, we can offer all free spare parts in the period

Please tell me about your interest by email or online chat by my MSN .

I look forward to hear from your reply at early time .
Sincerely yours !
Peter Qin (Mr.)  / Sale manager
G14th,  April, 2011

ARLENE BATTISHILL IS THE PRESIDENT OF MOTORCYCLE clothing company Go Go Gear and first-place finisher in the 150cc class of the Salton Sea TT Endurance Rally in late-March. Technically Ms. Battishill placed third overall riding a California Scooter Classic in the 400-mile event, but on the podium she chose to pass her properly-earned trophy to fellow competitor Ryan Jeffries rather than accept it for herself. It was an extraordinary display of sportsmanship and camaraderie toward Jeffries who was in third place overall and leading the 175cc class when the drive belt on his Genuine Buddy motor scooter failed, sending him into a 180-foot slide less than eight miles from the finish.
The one-day event, organized by the Motor Scooter International Land Speed Federation consisted of three loops around southern California’s Salton Sea.

“Arlene’s approximate average speed of nearly 48 mph was nothing short of phenomenal,” said Alan Spears, the MSILSF event organizer. “Especially considering the 40-mph sustained headwinds on Hwy. 86 between Brawley and Mecca, and a splinted finger on her throttle hand.”

TORONTONIAN GIUSEPPE PINO Mileto has invented a device designed to alert car drivers that motorcycles are in range of their vehicles. Mileto says his Motorcycle Warning System could help eliminate thousands of accidents every year. A motorcycle equipped with a MWS unit will transmit its position, velocity, and a unique identification code to any automobile also equipped with a MWS unit, says its inventor.
If a motorcycle is in a certain specified area called the “Threat Range,” the MWS unit alerts the driver with a light/sound indicator that signals at a faster rate the closer the bike gets.

“Most motorcycle accidents can be avoided,” says Mileto. This could well be true, and the inventor’s efforts are to be applauded. One problem with the system though. It requires the involvement of the car driver, and in the real world that just isn’t on.


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