What about China ?
This is where we talk about China..... Give me a minute to get out my soapbox and get on up there for this discussion.... ok ready set go ....
Soapbox is READY !
Ok you are all smart people , right? You have access to the web and you can go on Alibaba and see more stuff than you would ever imagine at prices you think are a mistake. You can find exactly what you want and probably 50 versions of it for crazy prices that just don't make sense on how it can be that cheap. Well my friends .... Welcome to China ....
If you think it is as easy as ordering socks, and a new pair of headphones like from Amazon, and they will be in your living room tomorrow before 6 tomorrow night be prepared to be surprised.
Chasing that DOLLAR
China is a crazy place where 99 percent of the factories that are making what you are looking at where not in business 2 years ago. If they were I bet you a dollar they were making something else like brooms perhaps? (There is a broom factory near our old crane factory). The China world shifts to chase the money. One day they are making one thing and then the market gets hot in another industry and they are making that. Everyone claims to be an expert and everyone is the direct factory. If funny, now as I write this many of the factories that i have known for 15 years or so that make games are now making masks to combat the COVID 19 virus. Are the masks good? Do they prevent anything? Who know , they have the label n95 on them and that's good enough for China. When the next hot item comes out (Think spinners or those silly bands from a while ago) you can bet everyone is going to be making those.
When you look on the internet to start a dialog with someone. They will always say they are the factory. They will show you photos of the factory. They will tell you everything you want to know. Who knows the real story. You wont know unless you get on a plane and go there. Even then unless you can read Chinese you cant read the sign and know if its the same place you spoke to anyway. Maybe they put up a sign with the logo of the company you are going to see a few minutes before you got there .. True story ... Good book to read that mirrors many of my experiences in China. Check it if you want .. its called Poorly Made in China.
Alibaba and more fun on the web
Most of the people on Alibaba and other internet sites are agents . Look and see what else they sell online. If they sell everything you can bet they are not a factory just an agent selling anything and everything. If they are selling only , in this case games looks at the variety of games they are selling . Are the specializing in anything ? Probably not . They are showing that they make everything in games. In reality they might make a few things . I mean really make them but the rest of the stuff they are getting from other factories nearby. In my experience everyone sells everyone stuff. Now there is nothing wrong with that except when it comes time for help later on. If you need technical help or parts you now have to hope the place your supplier got the games from is able to go and get what you need from the place they got it from. There are very few factories in China that really do make everything you see on their website . The few that do have huge minimum orders for each item. They are not going to bother selling you 1 to 5 pcs or even 30 to 40 pcs..
Its BROKEN... now what !
I am really pushing on the issue of service after the sale . What good is your $500 crane you got from China that doesn't work on a Friday night, and the location is screaming at you to get it working. You have to get online and hope there is someone to help you. When you do get them they will have to go translate what you are asking for to the technical department (if they have one). Most of the time they are going to tell you to do some BS troubleshooting (like check the plug , make sure the claw is up/down / sideways). In my opinion hopefully to get you to go away . Because of the time difference from China to the USA , this will go on for a few days. When you are working on the problem they are sleeping and vice versa. If you are lucky enough to figure out the problem, and you need parts the good news is the parts are most likely going to be FREE .. YAY FREE PARTS but wait a minute cowboy ... the shipping ! You have to pay the shipping. EMS ( which is like US Mail ) is cheap but it will take 3-4 weeks. DHL or Fedex is great but a minimum of $75 for shipping and it usually takes 4-6 days. If you need parts a few time this can get expensive. Don't expect anything you can find here in the USA to fit correctly . A few things might with a little modification.
Are you a beginner or a pro ?
Lets go back to the price again. You see online a $500 crane or some other game. Are you buying a whole container of them? That's about 45 pcs or so . Are you able to invest $22,000 plus the shipping cost? If you are BRAVO ! We'll talk about how we can help out on that later too. Most of you are just getting started. Shipping 1 or 2 machines from china is a pain .. a royal pain. You can figure $300-$500 each machine for shipping cost . Then customs fees , tarriffs , insurance, and a million other little charges that add up fast. Time frame about 30-50 days depending on where you are. You might have to go to a warehouse to get your stuff or you can have a truck deliver it to you ..more money . Weather you buy a few games or a full container you will pay up front. No credit card ,no send them a check and mostly never paypal . You'll have to go to your bank and do a wire (costs about $45). I know some Alibaba sellers use Alipay but i am not too familiar with that but I know it does cost a few points. If you buy something at your local Walmart or on Amazon and you are not happy you just complain and get a refund ...that's the American way ..Not with China . No refunds. Period. Cry all you want - money going into China is a one way street. There is almost no legal system there that deals in anything like this so don't even bother mentioning your brother in law is a lawyer. No one cares.
Am I smarter than a 5th grader ? Nope
I am not trying to scare you but i have been doing this for 20 years. I travel to China 3-4 times a year (1 million plus miles flown on United ) , and have devoted a good deal of time and money to learning the culture , making long lasting business relationships, and learning to navigate the amusement industry there. I am not perfect. I still make mistakes today. Just when I think I have all the things taken care of to make sure something arrives here needing the least amount of prep possible to have it ready to go .. something changes and we are left with tons of rework or problems to deal with here. I spend almost every night online chatting with suppliers in China to try and make sure everything is going smoothly. Most of them are as curious about our country as we are about theirs. Mistakes and problems 10,000 miles away are difficult and costly.
I am smarter than a 5th grader ... bring it on !
If you are ready to make a significant purchase in China and want some guidance I would be happy to help you. If you need help to have your things inspected before they ship (this is a must - and most people don't bother to do it its money well spent) let me know. If you just want to get some insight let me know. I'm happy to compare war stories too or just some funny experiences in doing business in China ... Due to some legal restrictions i am only able to discuss, and help in certain parts of the industry for a little while . When that time is over I'll post it here and then we can talk .
You really want to go see it in person? .. Cool. LETS GO !!!
If you want to go to China and really see what goes on. I am planning on putting together some group buying trips in 2021. We can go to some trade shows see some REAL factories, and some not so real factories and have some fun too ..just wait till 2021.
OK almost over now ...
Back to " I am not trying to scare you " , My stories are real and true. Ask anyone that has done it and I'm sure our experiences are similar. We are here to sell you things are a reasonable price where you can make money too. We are not selling $5000 or $10,000 machine with your ROI (Return on Investment) is years away. We like to sell things where your ROI is less then a year. Many of the people that started in this business back in the late 90's with my old company have learned enough where they have imported their own games by the container load and continue to do so. I'm sure they had some bumps along the way too but its nice to know that they started small with what my old company had to offer. We are going to be here to support you with parts and service to keep you going. We operate games too and we treat you like we would want to be treated.