The word imported triggers very different feelings depending on what exactly is being imported.
French wine? Sign me up.
Italian loafers? Yes please.
Egyptian cotton? Sure.
Chinese LED signs?
One of these things is not like the others.
That “Made in China” label is a red flag for most consumers. It seems like Chinese manufacturers are capable of screwing up everything from baby toys to computers.
LED signs are no different. Let’s take a look at some of the key issues you’ll face purchasing a sign manufactured in China.
Inattention to detail will be a recurring theme here.
Leaking sign cabinets expose the vital electrical bits to the elements. Cabinets that refuse to open or close due to faulty hinges. Locks that don’t lock. Odd layouts that make little sense from a human’s perspective, but might look good to a robot.
Signs infested with hornets (OK, I made that one up).
Point is, buyers in China have different standards than in America. Usually these standards are lower.
Have you ever read a mangled phrase or sentence and immediately thought “this was translated from Chinese?”
English and Chinese are notoriously incompatible when it comes to translations. You see it in restaurant menus, user manuals…and soon, coming to an LED sign near you!
As we discussed already, LED software is absolutely critical for operating your sign. Without it, your display is just a soulless, empty box. Well, imported signs certainly come with their own software, but you’re sorely mistaken if you think it will be user-friendly.
Not every Chinese manufacturer has a handful of dual-citizens with English degrees sitting around, waiting to make your life easier. That costs too much money.
Instead, your software will ship as “almost good enough,” sort of like a half-finished crossword puzzle.
Remember, software is something you’ll be using for as long as you own your LED sign, so usability is vital.
There’s good news—while complicated technical translations from Chinese to English are still hit-or-miss, Chinese companies almost all employ at least one customer service rep with a solid command of English.
Bad news? That rep is half a world away, both geographically and according to my clock.
So what does that entail?
Well, say you have a question. Any question will do, but let’s imagine it’s an urgent question.
You spend 30 minutes trying to explain your problem. The customer service representative goes to check with her supervisor. She calls you back 2 hours later, but by then you’re asleep (time difference and everything).
You call back in the morning. It’s a different representative, and she can see no record of your call. She goes to check but, sorry, it’s almost time for them to close.
Try again tomorrow.
Call back again the next day and get the first woman again. Now we’re getting somewhere! But this issue requires her manager’s insight, and he is on vacation until tomorrow, which is also Saturday. So can you call back on Monday?
I rest my case.
These issues are separate from the design mistakes we talked about in the beginning, in that cutting corners is one of the biggest ways companies in China are able to pass savings along to you.
Maybe I’m taking crazy pills, but it’s my opinion that complex devices like LED signs are one of the last products you’d want to buy without its “corners.”
What does that even imply?
Obviously, that means using cheaper, less reliable components. That means having a bare minimum of features, using the worst LEDs on the market, cheating at certifications, et cetera.
There are just so many intricate parts in LED signs that you shouldn’t trust rock-bottom prices, because that price is a product of all the stuff you aren’t getting.
That’s not even a patriotic plea. That’s just the common-sense approach any business needs to take when considering an LED sign.
Yes, signs manufactured in any country can malfunction. But at least with American-made LEDs you can be more assured of their quality and reliability, where we have tighter manufacturing standards and stable customer service and warranty programs.
Of course, you’re welcome to pay for the shipping cost to return your Chinese LED sign back to its supplier in Beijing once you’re fed up with it.