Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.

chinese_burlwood_cabinet Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.

I am noticing a trend where just about “everyone and anyone” is now selling so called “Chinese antique furniture” (or some variation of this) and misrepresenting it as any number of different things. Items made just yesterday (antique reproductions) are falsely labeled as genuine antiques and the real antiques are often completely misclassified. I recently saw an antique Tibetan sideboard cabinet labeled as coming from Mongolia. Sometimes, this is just the result of the importer not having access to good product history and background information (and thus the purpose of this specialists blog). But in other instances its pure marketing and the low-end/mass-produced is being promoted as high end/hand-made. There is an interesting article in the New York Times about this entitled “Look-Alikes Draw Lawyers’ Stares” and one quote from this article seems to really sum it up in a nutshell:

At a time when awareness of good design is spreading, industry insiders suggest that the number of lower-priced imitations, or knockoffs, of classic designs is also on the rise. As a result manufacturers are renewing efforts to curb the practice.

Lets look at this perfect example of a China Burl Wood Cabinet from a major online retailer’s Worldstock Handcrafted product line:

burlwood_cabinet-from-overstock2 Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.

Apparently this piece is:

  • Cabinet hand-finished and hand-carved by a family of Chinese artisans
  • Cabinet features antique hardware
  • Handcrafted in the Guangdong region of mainland China
  • Represents three generations of Chinese woodworking craftsmanship
  • Kiln-dried mahogany with hand-rubbed lacquer protects the wood for a long-lasting finish

All for just $249.00 ? Wow!

How can this be possible? Actually, its not – its all just a slight of hand. But what brings this seemingly unrelated into focus, is when your retail customer walks into your store or shop and tells you he likes a certain piece, but feels it’s too expensive because he saw the same thing down the street for one-third of the price. Giving customer discounts (along with good service) is sometimes in order and closing a sale is the end goal, BUT first you must get on the same page and make sure you are both discussing roughly the same product. Otherwise you are “comparing apples to oranges.” Otherwise, how can you compete against this amazing bargain? Lets do a quick Google to see just what DOES a burl wood cabinet look like (and what do they really sell for)?

linden_dynasty_burlwood_cabinet Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.

This wonderful Chinese Black Lacquered Armoire decorated with burl wood is from Linden Dynasty. There is no price (the item was sold) but I am guessing it went for at least around $1200 based on other cabinets on their site.


burlwood_cabinet_from_shimu Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.

Here is a large 2 door Cabinet in Burl Wood selling for £1,250.00 from in the UK.

So we are comparing apples to oranges here after all and you get exactly what you pay for. There is no such thing as getting a great quality product at rock-bottom pricing. In fact, scrolling down to the bottom of the page we see that at least one buyer was able to see the difference (unfortunately AFTER he paid for it). Here’s what he had to say:

review_burlwood_cabinet-from-overstock1.thumbnail Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.


“The description of this product is false. It is not made of wood and antique hardware but of press board and laminate, with cheap reproduction hardware. I was shocked and disappointed by the blatant misrepresentation of its quality, as well as by the price in comparison to what the product is. Save yourself the hassle of having to repackage and return the cabinet as I have.

It is no different buying product in the east as selling it in the west: junk is junk. No matter how much you pay for it, it’s still junk.

4 Replies to “Do you know what you are selling? Because your customer might not.”

  1. Looks like great minds really do think alike! These guys have a similar posting on their own blog.

    Check it out:

  2. This was an excellent article Roger and it is a problem not only with your specialty but throughout the antiques industry. I do a lot of vintage jewelry and some time I will get the “way too much” and they could buy something similar somewhere else. What they do not seem to understand is that the item across the street truly is inferior.

    I like your solution and one I think I may figure out how to incorporate into my specific situation. Thanks!


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