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 challenge, 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.