Sofa Analytics No. 229. A conspiracy of manufacturers against buyers in Russia


The scene took place at a pharmacy. An elderly woman interrogated the pharmacist and tried to find a medicine that was not produced in Poland, but necessarily in Switzerland. He sluggishly fought back from her and tried to convince that the medicine had not changed at all, and the plant had been located in Poland for the last ten years and other industries simply did not exist. The woman nodded, but immediately interjected, – “But Klavdia Ivanovna found this medicine from Switzerland and it is much better.” The conversation was empty and meaningless, each side remained with its arguments. When the woman left, never finding what she wanted, I asked how often such situations occur, the answer discouraged me – every day. And these are not only elderly people, but also those who did not find the USSR and it is difficult to suspect them of secret knowledge that everything Western is obviously better, tastier, more technological.

Probably the feeling of inferiority, and it is impossible to name it in any other way, appeared in the Soviet Union, when shortages became the norm, and the absence on the shelves of most products, both food and light industry, was converted into a constant search for them outside stores. The tacit ranking of things was simple and understandable, on the lower tiers of the pyramid there was everything domestic, then goods from the socialist camp followed, and things that were brought from the capitalist countries, the so-called “firm”, settled on the top. Any Western clothing gave the owner a hundred points to the perception and made him stand out from the crowd of compatriots, legends were made about the quality of such things. In the eighties, listening to my mother’s friend talking about a denim suit that will live for twenty years, no less, I admitted tactlessness due to my age and asked, why wear the same thing for so long? Don’t get bored? In response I heard, – boy, you do not understand, this is Levi’s, this is the best jeans in the world. I don’t know where these clothes were sewn at that moment, but the legend says that in New York on Fifth Avenue (“where none of us will ever be” – the opinion turned out to be deeply mistaken and today I know NY like the back of my hand) … Had this woman found out that the costume was made in Southeast Asia and disappointment would fill her entire being, it is possible that she would consider it a fake.

Sofa Analytics No. 229. A conspiracy of manufacturers against buyers in Russia

People are used to choosing this or that brand, manufacturer. This choice is due to many factors or nothing at all, just like the name and period. At the same time, many people still pay attention to where the goods were produced. There are “good” countries, and there are “bad” countries, in which factories drive waste, the quality of workmanship is obviously lower, as well as the materials used. In the 90s, Russia was filled with companies that necessarily had a sonorous name and exclusively in English. You call a friend, and the secretary abbreviates the loud Euro Business Trading to an abbreviation and, with an excellent Ryazan pronoun in the receiver, you hear, “Hello, Yopt!”. And those few who managed to produce something inside the country very quickly began to disguise themselves as Western companies, the Russian product at that time was synonymous with disgusting quality, regardless of its real properties. With a whoop, one size fits all, thrown into the landfill and things that were one of the best, and the Europeans happily bought them out on the vine. Russian business in those years was merciless, high-quality goods did not find a buyer inside the country, since they were their own, they were exported. With the money received, they bought obviously the worst goods, which were scattered with a bang. The usual adage in the store was: “Don’t offer ours.” This meant that a person was wealthy enough to afford imported goods. Of course, many exploited this denseness and sold our goods under the guise of imported goods, and this went on for more than one year.

But it was in those years that the exact knowledge was formed that our brother was being deceived and that they were constantly hiding something from him. Life in the West has always been tastier, more satisfying, and they kept the best goods for themselves, and they treated the Russian market as a third world country. Something like this, and today, many buyers think that they are looking for goods that are not officially available in Russia. At the same time, such goods may be obviously worse, but in the eyes of buyers it is exactly the opposite – they are the best simply because they are not available in our country. They are hidden from the buyer, hidden from him, and it takes an effort to find them.

A classic example of how capitalists fool our brother is a standard request to bring an iPhone from America. With this request I was approached more than once, sometimes there was a financial background behind it, in the early years the difference in price was noticeable. For a relatively short period of time, this difference disappeared and it became meaningless to take the iPhone from anywhere. At that very moment, my friend asked me to bring my iPhone from New York. In a nearby store in Moscow, it costs exactly the same (our people do not remember about taxes in the United States, 8.75% in New York, and the absence of Tax Free in the states). He showed the price, offered to order near the house, and then ran into a typical argument about what a “good” product is. I will give this dialogue:

– You see, I want an iPhone from America, real, of excellent quality.
– Listen, but they are all produced at the same plant, that in the USA, that we have them from the same line.
– You are a specialist, of course, but for yourself, for their native market, they clearly do it better than for us. We are a third world country for America, they will not supply us with good iPhones.
– They are the same to the cog!
– I had an iPhone bought in Moscow, it was constantly losing the network, but a friend brought it from the USA and it worked perfectly. If it’s a pity to bring and spend time, say so.

For the next couple of years, at every convenient and inconvenient occasion, I was reminded of my ignorance and the girl said that “my iPhone from the states is much better than those that sell here”. It was impossible to dissuade her that there was no difference other than her perception.

In many countries, they trust products that are produced domestically, but often the trust in unfamiliar foreign brands is higher. For example, in the UK at the beginning of the last century, most of the advertising necessarily contained a reference to German engineers who had a hand in the advertised product. Why? German engineers were considered more skillful, although in practice there was not much difference, it was solely the perception of buyers and nothing more.

Sofa Analytics No. 229. A conspiracy of manufacturers against buyers in Russia

In 2006, LG opened a factory in Russia. Washing machines, refrigerators, LCD TVs are the main areas of production. In the first years of the plant’s operation, shop assistants diligently avoided mentioning that the equipment was manufactured in Russia, this killed sales. They tried not to write the country of origin on the price tags, and buyers rushed for “good” equipment from previous deliveries, just not to buy similar models, but made in our country. This insanity continued for several years until it subsided by itself.

Do you think these are isolated examples? Ha! No, no. It is impossible to convince the fair sex that the shampoo that is produced at the same plant does not differ in any way in Russia (counterfeits do not count, they can be avoided) and in the USA. At the same cost, I have to carry the “correct” shampoo, as it lathers better, has a better effect, and so on. This is another example of the exact “knowledge” that corporations are slipping us a second-rate product, but they keep the best for themselves.

Do you think this only applies to shampoos? Ha! This applies to anything. For example, dishwashing detergent produced in the only factory in the world. It is also “different” depending on where you bought it. On one of the trips, a colleague said that he needed to make time to buy coal for the barbecue. We considered it a good joke, but the next day we saw this happy man dragging two sacks of coal (environmentally friendly! We don’t know how to do this! And how it burns, one lovely sight) to the hotel. I am still tormented by the fact that then I did not buy coal in order to compare it with what can be obtained in our area. Perhaps I would have joined the coal witness sect. There are a million such sects or even more, they concern almost any product.

Of course, this story is also signed by the fact that some products and goods are really different, since their properties change for different markets. For example, my favorite shirts for America are made of thick fabric, but in Europe they are much worse. At Harrods, when I was perplexedly wrinkling such a shirt in my hands, the seller said sacramental, “Sir, you are probably from the United States, so you are puzzled by the fabric, in Europe it is a little simpler. The composition of many food products varies from country to country, this even concerns the sugar content in soda, and in Asia it is completely different, more sugary, although it is the same package design and name. Such examples exist, but they relate to adaptation to specific markets, and often this production is distributed to different plants.

But this does not at all explain the holy belief that most of the goods sold in Russia are obviously of poor quality. And exactly the same goods on store shelves in other countries, higher quality and better. Someone preaches that this is a deliberate policy towards our country and is outraged by this fact. Someone is looking for the “right” product, which was not originally created for Russia.

Anyone who is in the slightest degree familiar with production can argue what a problem and a headache, change the technology at the factory, so that the conveyor can produce first and second grade goods on an industrial scale. There is a rejection, it is in every production, but the amount of scrap is always such that it will not be enough for a noticeable batch, no matter what we are talking about – about electronics or food. It is cheaper to set up a line so that it produces the same product, with the same characteristics. I will reveal another terrible secret – goods with a different quality are positioned by manufacturers a little differently, they are assigned different names or designations! Of course, conspiracy theorists give hundreds of arguments from life why this is not so and we are being fooled. But some of these arguments are related to the localization of goods according to the tastes of local buyers, and some simply do not stand up to any reality check.

I will give a few examples that can be used to support this theory, or on the contrary, it all depends on your view of this issue. Many TVs in Europe are sold without mounts in the kit, we are talking about large diagonals. Electronics stores prefer to sell their own mounts, make money from them, and order a very specific set of supplies. In Russia, this approach is also common, but all possible mounts (wall, floor) are also added to the flagship models. What’s better? The question is open, especially since prices can vary greatly depending on the delivery set.

In smartphones, the story is exactly the opposite – in Russia there are almost no models where a simple silicone case is included (Apple never had them, but all other companies add them). For retail, covers are an opportunity to sell an additional accessory and therefore they require that they are not included in the kit, and the price has been reduced by their cost. It’s good? Probably not, but this is clearly not a conspiracy of manufacturers, rather a market demand.

Behind each product is the logic of the manufacturer and the logic of the market (partners that sell it, as well as the perception of buyers). This logic is not always transparent for buyers, and from here there are fables and a firm belief that they hide the best from us, they literally hide it. And then the idea arises that it is necessary to find the same product, but not here, but in another country. And this product will be better. It often turns out that the product is not so good, but only a few find the strength to admit it publicly. Usually the legend continues to be maintained and spread, the product bought “there” is much better than the one we have.

Although, on the other hand, picking up a Gillete razor purchased in America, when I forgot my machine at home, I feel that the number of blades is increasing before my eyes, they shave somehow differently, softer, and the skin becomes silky. No comparison with the Gillete that is being snatched to us here! The only problem is that out of several identical machines, I do not know which of the states, so when I shave, I think that I chose the right one today. I advise you to do this too, then you will never have disappointments, and you will have the best product on the planet in your hands and no one will fool you.

But seriously, the very idea that a second-rate product is being produced for Russia (and any other country in the world), while it goes somewhere, but of a better quality, is a birth trauma of market relations. In the 90s, many were burned on counterfeit goods, but could not admit it to themselves. In fact, instead of saying that they were deceived, people began to claim that they were good fellows and chose original products, but the manufacturer of the bastard changes their quality depending on the country. This belief in people is strong, but it’s time to get rid of these myths and become realistic. You need to understand how the market works in order to understand what you buy and what quality these products have.

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