Challenge: How to differentiate between fake and real motor oil

Regardless of the extent to which any market is regulated or self-regulating, smart consumers don’t suffer from the illusion that some amorphous government official is “protecting them”. They judge and decide for themselves. Do they prefer to pay less and accept that they might get “fake” goods? Or would they rather pay more to get a higher grade product, and if so, how do they make this judgment?

Practically speaking, motor oil is a particular challengShell Helix HX7e, because we don’t eat it, we don’t feel it, we hardly even see it. If you happen to be looking for the real thing, this is the sort of product you definitely don’t want to buy on Taobao – though judging from the number of vendors there, presumably many consumers see matters differently.

As usual, our free market loving entrepreneurial friends are actively supplying the market with fake motor oil products. According to some online commentators, these folks pay ¥10-15 per can to repair shops for empty containers, particularly for the better known brands such as Shell (壳牌). Since I however do not wish to be their customer and I can’t tell the difference myself, I need to find vendors which I trust.

Buying from a repair shop certainly seems dangerous. Who knows where their stuff comes from. They may not even know themselves. OK, well, what about Jingdong? It is after all one of the biggest e-com platforms out there. Maybe, maybe not. There is at least one manufacturer (Motul) which has cast doubt on the origins of their third-party products. Motul claims that Jingdong doesn’t really care, as long as the third party vendor pays the 入场费 and deposit. Well, then what about a chain like a bricks and mortar chain like Metro? Perhaps, but they don’t have much selection.

In the end, I suspect I am going to settle on amazon.cn.

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6 Responses to Challenge: How to differentiate between fake and real motor oil

  1. bradwww says:

    you don’t consider gas stations? i would think their connections to the source are pretty tight.

    • Ponderer says:

      The question remains the same: Is the vendor likely to be a reliable source which cares about reputation? Or more likely a vendor more interested in short-term profit? Certainly for most franchisees I think I can guess the answer. Company-owned locations might obtain their goods via a centralized purchasing instance which cares about reputation, but they also might not. Moreover, even if they do purchase centrally, it’s certainly conceivable that the central purchasing departments might value profit above reputation almost as much as the franchisees do.

      • bradwww says:

        i thought the oil companies stations were all company owned, i was unaware the offered franchises. in that case i would stick with the car dealer, as it is his product and his interest lies in correct uses of their product.

  2. Ponderer says:

    Car dealers like repair shops are also almost always privately owned and run. I suspect that very few will put reputation above profitability. After all, even if the fake is discovered, it can be still be shrugged off. After all, fake goods are extremely common. They can always claim that they themselves were fooled.

  3. Shanghai Observer says:

    In the end it seems probable that amazon.cn sold me the real thing. Bought a 4L container of Shell HX7 for 198 RMB. Price for the same item at Metro was 348 RMB – a premium of 50% over the Amazon price. Pealing off the label on the cap reveals a unique number which can be checked via SMS or call center against their database. If that unique number exists and has not yet been checked, then the system verifies the item as authentic.

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