I got a great question from a massage chair shopper this morning about imitation massage chairs out there that look a like but are from different distributors. Here is the question and my answer:
Massage Chair Question:
I have really appreciated finding the information you have provided in your blog during my journey of discovery educating myself on massage chairs. I am interested in your experience about chairs out of China. I have read your articles about the Osaki OS-7000 and your view that for the price is quite impressive. It is interesting that I have seen a number of companies trying to sell a chair that looks and reads exactly the same, under a different name! Do the Chinese factories send the same chair to any importer, or are they simply replicas that do not perform the same way? By way of example, here is a website of a company in China called Life Power that sends an identical looking chair to an Australian importer. http://life-power.en.alibaba.com/product/486151823-212080271/2011_new_zero_gravity_LP_6100.html. I am interested to get your perspective on the Chinese practices and if they are undermining the Osaki product by selling the same thing under a different badge, or if it is just copying of a good product.
My Massage Chair Answer:
Thanks for your insightful email. Great questions. Here is what I know based on industry knowledge and my own experience with massage chairs…
1. Most, if not all, chinese-made chairs come out of three major manufacturing plants in China. Many companies around the world then buy the chair models from these “big 3” and then white label them under their own name. For example, Osaki does it, Fujita does it, Omega does it, etc. So, if you see a model somewhere else that looks just like another companies model, then you can be pretty sure that the chair comes from the same plant in China. I believe that most of the look-a-likes function the same, with maybe a little feature or design twist to make it look vastly different from another importers white label product from the same plant.
I get emails all the time from Chinese companies wanting me to buy chairs directly from them that are “just like” other models that I already carry. And why, you ask, don’t I import them to increase my profit margin? Well, it all has to do with the kind of warranty support I am willing to give (or not give). That leads to this point…
The primary thing, in my mind, that would differentiate one US importing distributor from another is not just their warranty (they ALL claim to have great warranties!) but how good their customer support is after the sale. Can you get a hold of them by phone or do you always have to leave a message? Do they get back to you promptly when you do leave a message? Do they say one thing on their warranty before you buy, but then the story changes after the purchase when the need is there, but the legal terminology in their warranty contract is just nebulous enough that they can get out of servicing your chair.
Those are the primary reasons why I went with Osaki over other chair companies…because I trusted their customer support department and they have taken good care of my clients. Any problems which have arisen, they have taken care of them for me. Plus, I can reach a live person almost every time I call…and that means a lot to me, as well.
2. My experience with massage chairs have led me to believe that the Japanese-made chairs are of a better quality build than the Chinese-made chairs. I say this only because of the number of breakdowns I have witnessed in my own chairs in my showroom as well as the feedback I get from concerned owners who often will call me first when there is a problem with their massage chair.
3. Although the Japanese-made massage chairs are better quality products, they are also more expensive as a general rule. That is why I have said in other blog posts that chairs like the Osaki 6000 and Osaki 7000 massage chair are a great bang for the buck. You get a lot of features, a good warranty and warranty support, and a screaming price. If you are looking for a good bang for your buck for a Japanese-made chair, I might suggest the Sanyo 7700, the Inada Doctor’s Choice 3A, or the remaining Panasonic 30007 stock, which is still Japanese-made (manufacturing moving to China after the current Panasonic stock runs out).
I hope this assists you in some way with your massage chair buying experience. Please feel free to contact me anytime with more questions. I am also reachable via telephone at 801-651-2026.