The Great Firewall of China constrains their businesses like a too-tight bra, and one day, I expect everything’s going to spill over, or the whole thing will pop off. I think it will have to. It does not fit their ambitions to compete in the global market.
I only know the fake names they use in their emails to me- Suki, Charlie, Mandy- for some reason, there’s a lot of Chinese workers that take the name of Mandy.
The reasons they write me vary, but primarily it is to ask for my opinion of a product that they are either hoping to sell, or are actively trying to sell to the American market. Usually they are all business, but occasionally our communication will continue and I’ll get a glimpse of the person I’m communicating with. For instance, last week Suki wrote me about being excited over Chinese New Year, and going home for a long vacation.
I can’t help but wonder about their lives. One Mandy in particular was hoping to sell undergarments to US women on Amazon, and confided to me that she would like to see her garments have the perfect sizing and quality to maybe be sold at ‘Nordstrom’ and big US stores ‘on the street.’
Sizes really confused her though. I had sold lingerie myself as a hobby business for years on-line, and, really hoping to help the American consumer get better merchandise, I thought I’d try to help.
There are, of course, obvious and constant issues, at least to most women, of the Chinese underestimating the size of Americans. They often consider their largest size, a 3x, as being actually smaller than our average woman, or about a US size 12! She seemed to have no concept of a cup size past a D being anything that might sell. Of course all this was easy to advise her on. She was really confused about how our 34B bras are not really 34 inches on the under-band, and that’s pretty hard to explain. (There’s some old convention still widely used in which they’d add 3, sometimes 4 inches to the measurement, but then elastic content matters too.)
I sent size charts, and found a wonderful blog that explained all this. I sent her the link.
I got an email back from her, and if it is really possible to see a face fall across the world though an email, I did. She wasn’t able to access the content. It was blocked.
I asked her if I could send her the information in the charts, but she said it might be a problem and probably best not to since it was blocked. She wanted to stay within the set limits.
Really, what an awful shame, though. The information was strictly about the bra market and industry standards here in the US for bra sizing- just the information she needed. The Chinese want to compete in a global market, and we often see the business advantages of them doing so- they often have cheap labor, and locally sourced materials, and subsidized shipping. But it is also clear to me that they have a very large disadvantage when it comes to competitive intelligence and product development. They can’t get the information they NEED to research what US customers expect, or to research quality improvement.
A free and open Internet brings the best of information with it. Yes, there’s lots of drivel that can be found on-line too, even accidentally, but at least Americans are empowered to decide for ourselves, and really, that’s what open access to information is – it’s empowerment to anyone that takes advantage of it. Watching her struggle to understand something so vital to her business as sizing has made me feel even more committed to an open and free Internet.