slice-of-thai.com Silliness Don't buy the cheap Chinese one

Buying any hardware in Thailand, particularly computer hardware, is always a challenge. Prices for most items are higher than those in the US (including laptops, hard drives, memory, etc., many of which are manufactured in Thailand and Malaysia!), and you also have to contend with the fact that neither brand authenticity nor quality are enforced in any way, and all parties involved (manufacturers, vendors, and customers) are drowning in a sea of misinformation and disinformation about the products themselves.

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I wasn't quite aware of the scope of the problem until I picked up this little adapter for 100 Thai Baht:

It's supposed to convert a PS/2 keyboard connection into USB (despite the product name, which suggests that it does the exact opposite!) so that I can plug my old, expensive ergo keyboard into my new laptop.

I brought the adapter on the tortuous 4-hour bus ride back to Pai where my keyboard and laptop were waiting, plugged it in, and nothing happened. Nothing at all. The computer does not even recognize that a new device of any kind has been plugged in! It looked like I had purchased a piece of plastic with three connectors and nothing inside.

Based on my experience with other local products, I figured that that the manufacturer of the unit is aware that it does nothing. But they're back in some factory deep in the Chinese countryside. We'll never find them, and they're probably laughing with joy that they were able to unload their crap merchandise to some Thai distributor for quick cash. Perhaps it was part of a huge defective lot, originally manufactured for a first-world customer, that they decided to pawn off on the unsuspecting Thai market instead.

A few months later, having written this off as a 100 baht mistake, I returned to Chiang Mai and asked another vendor for an adapter. He reached into his drawer and pulled out a 100 Baht adapter with a bubble/cardboard package that said "USB to PS/2," "Windows/Mac/Linux," and "Made in China." I quickly responded, "I already tried that one, it doesn't work."

To which he confidently assured me "No, no, you tried the copy one. Copy one no work. This box longer, taller than other box. This one work, sure sure."

This sounded like yet another sleazy Thai vendor line ("My friend, Grand Palace closed today. I take you to gem shop, you want nice suit?"). But when I looked around the mall some more, I was shocked to find out that he was exactly right:

Not only did the Cheap Chinese company copy the name, packaging, certification logos, connector colors, and presentation of, well, the other Cheap Chinese company, but they also copied all of the description on the back word for word, including all of its English grammar errors, introducing several new spelling errors in the process:

The only thing that differs is that the two PS/2 connectors have the generic PS/2 logo on unit number one, and keyboard/mouse logos on unit number two:

And Cheap Chinese unit number two actually did work. I am typing with it now!

I was feeling all elated and satisfied that I had found a working device and impressed that, for once, some Thai vendor had actually told me the truth. My Western longing for clarity and closure was satisfied: I could happily believe that unit number one was a fraudulent hoax and unit number two was a rare gem, a fine piece of engineering.

...Until, that is, I decided to bust open unit number one:

One of the conductors was simply hanging loose. I happened to have a soldering iron so I connected it, plugged it in, and it also worked. Well, actually, it didn't quite work—if I held down any arrow keys until they would normally auto-repeat, other random characters would appear. I switched back to unit number two and, lo and behold, it also demonstrated some of the same incorrect behavior and some creative new quirks of its own.

Aah! I could feel my hard-earned sense of clarity and closure slipping away again. Do any units actually work? Did they guy at the shop actually have any clue which unit would work better, or was it just a line? After all, he has a 50/50 chance of becoming a hero.

This is an absolutely typical hardware buying experience in Thailand. I don't know of any way to lessen the pain, except maybe to bring all necessary testing hardware to the shop (not possible in my case).

If you live in the West, you might wonder why the crappy products would not be pushed out of the market by the good ones. The market here is so utterly flooded with crappy counterfeit hardware that not even the vendors can keep track of which one of their products work, and expectations are set so ground-scrapingly low that nobody holds the vendors responsible for anything.

You might also wonder why I didn't go back and return the first one. This is not how it works in Thailand, not for cheap products like this and not for expensive ones either. Thailand has never had a sense of "the customer is right;" it's more like "if you're a good businessman, you'll rip your customers for every penny you can and don't ever spend a single Baht to help them after you've gotten their cash. If you're lucky, then when something goes wrong, the customer will forget where they bought it." All sales are final. If you are extremely lucky, the vendor might lower himself to offer you the special privilege of an exchange. If you ask for a cash refund, you will instantly ignite furious ire in the vendor, as if his most basic right has been violated. And this is not just a case of the Thai cultural preference for calm-headedness: the vendor will get indignant regardless of whether a Thai quietly and calmly asks for a refund/exchange or a Westerner screams and yells for one.

Thai vendors feel it is their birthright to sell you broken junk. This is even true when there is a "guarantee"—none times out of ten, the vendor will find some ridiculous excuse not to take responsibility for the piece of junk you have purchased. The vendor from whom I had bought unit number two scribbled "If cannot use, return 100B" on the back, but I didn't have much faith in that.

I even had one UPS which literally burst into flames, nearly burning my house down. The vendor took the unit back, and sent it to the manufacturer, who proudly claimed that they would neither repair the unit nor give me my money back, because they don't cover the case where the unit bursts into flames.

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get the best thai-english phrasebook app
Experience Thailand richly with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app.
get the best thai-english dictionary app
Learn Thai with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS, Android, Windows.
get a cool thai-english paper dictionary
Don't leave home without the Thai-English English-Thai Compact Dictionary I co-authored.
get thailand fever
I co-authored this bilingual cultural guidebook to Thai-Western romantic relationships.
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Visit China easily with my Talking Chinese-English-Chinese Phrasebook app.
get books or almost anything
Pick a Thai learning book from my list or buy anything at all from Amazon.
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