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Poisonous wheat gluten, unsafe tires, adulterated toothpaste, lead paint on toys, and poisonous cough syrup...? Apparently, misrepresented electronic devices aren't the worst products being exported from China recently. I should consider myself lucky, I guess. Anyway, here's my tale of woe...
12/16/10 update: 8GB "Spy" Pen
I took advantage of an offer from IceMonkey.com for an 8GB "Spy" Pen.
This is a cute device that looks like a pen, but incorporates what's supposed to be 8GB of
flash memory, a pinhole video camera, and audio recording. You charge it up via USB, and
then it supposedly records up to 90 minutes of medium-quality video from a pinhole just
above the pocket clip. Plug it into your USB and there's the file, sitting in a supposed
8GB flash memory drive. Very cute. Only $24.95 including shipping.
11/7/09 update: SDHC memory cards too!
I am sad to say that the fraudulent memory situation remains the same in late
2009 as it was 3 years previously. I purchased a 32GB card from an eBay vendor in
mid-October 2009. It arrived earlier this week. The eBay listing, from a seller
in China, claimed that the card's memory transfer performance is
supposed to be "50x: 8.2MB/sec read rate - 7.7MB/sec write rate".
This is shameful. The moral? DO NOT PURCHASE UNBRANDED FLASH MEMORY DEVICES OF ANY KIND, PARTICULARLY NOT FROM SELLERS IN HONG KONG OR ELSEWHERE IN CHINA!
I am awaiting the receipt of one more memory card from a vendor in China. We shall see if the pattern continues. No, I'm not a fool. I'm just curious, and I'm willing to risk a little money to find out what's going on.
As for the user id of the ebay seller who provided the fraudulently formatted card -- I'm not sure there's much point in disclosing it. eBay has proven that they don't care. You should assume that ALL flash memory sellers in China or Hong Kong are likely to be selling fraudulent merchandise. There's no point in focusing on one particular thief.
What you should know:
1. Virtually ALL unbranded
MP4 players being
sold on eBay during 2006 and early 2007 were fraudulently manipulated to report more storage
than they actually have. These devices are coming out of China, and
appear to have been purposefully manipulated by Chinese manufacturers
or distributors with the intention of misrepresenting their value and
functionality. I have to wonder whether the government of the
People's Republic of China understands how much this practice is
damaging the reputation of their electronics industry! As of October 2007, I
don't know what proportion are still hacked -- you should still be concerned.
(And just to prove it: On April 26, I was contacted by yet another
defrauded buyer: An Aussie customer was ripped off by eBay seller
red-vision, buying an 8GB device, but receiving a hacked 1GB device.
And again, on July 4, 2007, I heard from a Cypriot buyer who was apparently
ripped off in exactly the same way by the no-longer-registered eBay
2. These players are, in my opinion, not worth the price (assuming you can get past issue #1 -- that most of them are hacked). I have no axe to grind on this: I eventually got an unhacked player and used it for 5-6 weeks before it broke after very light usage. These devices are badly designed and very badly manufactured. See my review below before purchasing one!
If you are contemplating the purchase of an unbranded
player from eBay, I would strongly recommend against it. Unless you are extraordinarily careful,
you will end up with less than you bargained for.
For your information, all evidence to date suggests that eBay user
COLORDRIVES (Yong Kim) is selling mostly
MP4 players, and is then replacing them
(usually with hacked and/or broken players!) only
when customers catch him at it.
How can you test your player, to see if it's legitimate?
You now have TWO choices:
Can I still use a hacked
|G||MLC normal (i.e., a chip rather than a flash card)|
|08||word size is 8 bits, i.e. 8 gigabits = 8 bits x 1G = 1 gigabyte|
|U||2.7 to 3.6 volts|
Want more information on this? Go take a look at
MP4 playerson eBay
Oh, and remember the wonderful feedback system that's supposed to protect you on eBay? Well guess what happens if you give e-britain negative feedback for having defrauded you? He automatically gives you retaliatory negative feedback -- which doesn't do good things for you if you plan to sell on eBay. And it's darned difficult to get improper feedback withdrawn -- something I'm probably going to have to learn about pretty soon...
I filed a claim with Paypal's Buyer Protection Program. Paypal's exposure is pretty high on this one, and it's climbing all the time that eBay continues to allow e-britain and ugoole to sell bogus merchandise!
Here's the upshot: As of January 9, 2007, my Paypal "Buyer Protection" claim was resolved in my favor. Big surprise.
And the bad news? To get my refund, I was required to pay to ship this device back to the thief (Wong Shuk Hing, 1225, Tsuen Wan Post Office, NT, Hong Kong) at my own expense. And of course, unless I care to trust a thief, I have to use a shipper that can provide proof of delivery. I haven't found any that will charge less than $19. Looks like the bad guys win, and eBay and Paypal continue to profit from the scam, along with the direct thieves.
For international sales, eBay's rating system and Paypal's Buyer Protection Program are utterly illusory.
Next development: As of around 02:00 GMT on January 10, e-britain
was no longer selling MP4 devices by auction. He was only listing them
via "Buy it Now", at a high enough price ($86) that they won't move.
He's probably just putting his eBay id (and 98.5% feedback rating)
into suspended animation, until things cool off a little.
Later the same day, e-britain stopped listing ALL merchandise.
...and finally, e-britain made his feedback private, which prevents people from seeing why buyers have been complaining. Anyone who buys from a seller with private feedback deserves what they get -- or perhaps I should say, what they DON'T get!
Well, for my fellow suckers who decide to ship their item back to
ScamLand, the least expensive trackable way to do it is with
Postal Service's Global Express Mail service.
DO NOT try to buy your label from Paypal Shipping. There are two good reasons:
Updates: My returned item was delivered to the specified address on 1/22/07. And my $60 was refunded. So I only threw away $19 and several hours of my time (so far). I'm not finished with this, though. I continue to contact eBay members about this still ongoing fraud. And I've been trying to get media involved, to look into why eBay allows this to continue!
10/6/07: What's the Cantonese equivalent
of chutzpah (yiddish for "temerity")? Starting in July, 2007, I started receiving
monthly emails from e-britain, using the alias "Store724(XU)" (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Believe it or not, this sleazebag wants to start selling on eBay again, and he wants me to help
him improve his feedback rating. After all, he says he
"refunded" my payment. I reminded him that he did not refund my payment. Paypal Buyer
Protection refunded my payment. And he gave me retaliatory negative feedback, to boot!
Dear victim (ok, he used my eBay id),
Consider all these aliases to be the same thief: e-britain, store724.com, ugoole, XU
There seem to be plenty of others from Hong Kong (some of whom are probably the same guy) who are selling what are probably the same hacked devices.
The only strategy I've come up with, to try to cool off this
thieves' market, is to use most of my daily eBay member contact quota
to warn buyers of 4GB
MP4 players to test their devices BEFORE
providing feedback -- and I explain how. I could use some assistance,
though. You can only contact 5 to 10 eBay members per day (eBay is
now limiting my daily contacts to 5). Here's what I've been sending
to new "winners" of 4GB MP4 devices purported to be coming from Hong
Beware: I see you purchased an MP4 player from COLORDRIVES. Be very careful. Check out my website on the matter, http://www.schnapp.org/colordrives/
I purchased a 1GB MP4 player from COLORDRIVES, and it turned out to actually have only 1/2 GB -- but it had been hacked to report 1 GB.
Nearly ALL unbranded MP4 players currently being sold on eBay have been hacked in this manner, no matter where the seller resides. (Very few sellers are shipping legitimate merchandise.)
Please see my website for instructions on how to verify the capacity of your MP4 player. If it turns out that your player really does have the claimed memory capacity, could you please let me know?
If you're selling or gifting this device, please verify it first, to avoid getting a bad reputation!
Thanks, and good luck!
PS: I exhaust my daily allotment of eBay member contacts with messages like this. If you want me to reply, email me directly or don't hide your email address.
And I noticed a different scam going on today: A lot of these guys are now selling their items for a dollar or two (sometimes less), with $40 shipping. So what? So not only do they evade eBay auction value listing fees (eBay take note: now they're finally starting to rip YOU off, too!), but when you discover their fraud, they can immediately offer to refund your purchase price upon return of the "defective" merchandise! Not what you paid for shipping, you understand -- just the pittance you paid for the item. Cute, eh?
If you have just purchased a 4GB or larger
MP4 player from a vendor
in Hong Kong -- DO NOT just haul off and give them negative feedback
before you've had a chance to verify that you've been defrauded! At most,
if you're concerned, you might try contacting the seller and ask them to
cancel the transaction due to your concern about the product. Feel free
to point them at this web page, in your request.
If they cancel the transaction, give you a full refund, and refrain from giving you negative feedback, leave well enough alone. You dodged a bullet.
If they ship the product to you, please verify whether it really has the advertised capacity. If it does -- well, you should be very pleased. Let me know if you actually have received a 4GB player, and from whom you purchased it (I finally managed to buy a legit 4 gig player from a Hong Kong seller -- see below). If (as is more likely) you received a 1/2 gig, 1 gig, or 2 gig player instead of the 4 gig in the listing, your headache is about to begin. If you're satisfied with the price you paid versus the product you received, then leave things alone. You can decide whether to ding them with negative feedback. You might, at least, file a Paypal Buyer Protection dispute. They will usually offer a pittance (often around US$15) to placate you. Otherwise, expect to pay for trackable shipping back to Hong Kong, and you will generally get your full purchase price back -- assuming Paypal has reserved enough of the thieves' funds.
If you want to discuss this further, you can email me at russ.mp4 at schnapp.org. Of course, you'll have to manually reconstruct my address in your email "to:" field. I get enough spam, as it is!
As I mentioned above, I decided to try purchasing a 1GB player from a seller in the U.S. I bought my player from eBay user colordrives, whose name is Yong Kim, and whose business address is 1725 S. Nogales St #108-7, Rowland Heights, CA 91748, near Diamond Bar, California, in Los Angeles County. Just like the 4GB player from e-britain, this one reported capacity per the eBay listing: 1 gigabyte in this case, with 976 megabytes available. So I stored 960 megabytes on the device, and then sampled some from beginning, middle, and end. Imagine my disgust. Lots of the files weren't working. And of course, here's why:
Outside aspect of another hacked player (this time, 512MB hacked to look like 1GB)
Guts of the hacked player. NAND Flash is a Hynix HY27UT084G2M, which according to the Hynix flash part number decoder is a 4 gigabit part, i.e., 512 megabytes -- NOT 1 GB as listed on eBay!. Oh, and there's a quality problem with this product design, as well. The discrete passive components at the lower right come covered in a few layers of hastily plopped-on masking tape of all things, to prevent short-circuiting against the metallic back cover.
...sigh... According to this web page
the address of the seller is what appears to be a Korean remittance
shop. When I call the shop (626-581-7799), I'm told that this address
is a mailbox, rented by
a customer (presumably, Yong Kim). The
polite person I talked with on the phone indicated that he doesn't
really care what kind of business, honest or otherwise, is conducted
by his customers. He didn't even want to know the box number
involved. Interestingly, this gentleman did recognize the name
colordrives, so he may be more aware of what's going on than he lets
UPDATE (Feb 21, 2007): I have been sending 5 member contact messages per day to buyers of COLORDRIVES'
players. So far, my responses have mostly fallen into two categories:
MP4 playersfrom this guy, and are probably reselling them to other poor suckers. None of the "works for me" bunch has ever told me they followed my instructions to test the devices. They just say that they've had no problem with the product, and that it reports the specified capacity when they plug it into a PC.
MP4 playeris bogus. And of course, they're now stuck. (Apparently, Mr. Kim knows the difference between hacked players and good ones, as he seems to be shipping replacement (sometimes good, sometimes bad) units IF you complain about having been sold a hacked one.)
Late on February 20, I received ONE response from a COLORDRIVES customer who claimed that his test of three 1GB devices succeeded. For reference, here's the current tally from customers who have actually tested their devices:
|As of date||# customers receiving hacked
|# customers receiving good
Note that in over a month of contacting COLORDRIVES'
MP4 customers, I have only found two who tested their
merchandise and found it to be legitimate! (*While another customer
claimed his players "were as described", he never confirmed
that he actually tested them, rather than just
plugging them in and seeing what they report. Two other customers
reported that their 2 GB players did check out. The 1 GB
drives seem to have a much greater chance of being hacked. In fact, if I
only reported on 1GB devices, I don't think I'd have ANY confirmed
good devices to report.)
And furthermore, I got a report on March 1 from one COLORDRIVES customer who complained about getting a hacked player: Yong Kim had the customer ship it back, but he then proceeded to ship that customer YET ANOTHER HACKED PLAYER. And on March 3, I learned of another COLORDRIVES customer who complained, paid to ship back the bad merchandise, and was also shipped a defective replacement (and was not reimbursed for postage).
Based on these reports, I now advise everyone who gets a hacked player to go through Paypal to demand a refund from COLORDRIVES.
Do not waste your time and money trying to get Mr. Kim to do the right thing. He seems to have a severe deficit in either competence or ethics (probably both).
It's hard not to reach the conclusion that COLORDRIVES is selling mostly bogus
MP4 players. He appears
to have been ripped off by his distributor, and seems to have been
knowingly passing along the misery to his customers.
For what it's worth, I did eventually find a
legitimate 4 gigabyte
MP4 player from an eBay seller in Hong Kong. I
got mine from eBay user
He assured me (prior to bidding) that the device really would
have 4 gigabytes, built using two 2 gigabyte NANDFlash chips. I got a
great price for it, and it works properly (although I'm not enamored
with the user interface that's common to all of these unbranded
players -- and of course, there's still the irony that none of
these players are actually capable of playing MP4 media (thus the quotes I
always place on the name of this category of device), despite their
descriptions!). I put 4 gigabytes of images and sound files on the
player, and sampled files from all over the file system. Everything
checks out as it's supposed to!
Note that this is no guarantee that your purchase from this seller will be satisfactory. I have a certain level of trust in him, but there's always a risk. The funny thing is that when I tried buying my device from local eBay seller (COLORDRIVES), I got ripped off. I had to go back to Hong Kong to get a legitimate product!
After having used my 4GB MP4 player for a month or so, I've come to the conclusion
that in this case,
Conclusion: There's a lot of functionality packed into these
cheap little devices, but it's just not worth the hassle, and these devices
are designed to work only long enough for you to buy them and get past the first
month or so. These
I recommend that if you STILL (despite my review)
really want to purchase an unbranded
MP4 player via eBay,
contact the seller first. Ask the seller, via the
"ask seller a question" link, whether he will guarantee that the
product will provide a full X gigabytes of storage
-- and not that it merely says it has that capacity when
-- plugged in to a PC. Refer them to this web page in your contact,
-- so your seller cannot claim not to know what you're talking
Any advertising for
MP4 players or vendors thereof that you see below are
NOT endorsed by me!
Feel free to investigate any of these vendors (in fact, I get a few pennies whenever you click through
to their websites!), and to check them out -- keep
in mind that they are as likely as any others to be selling questionable