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Lileks: When China thinks you’re in the market for panic bars

September 30, 2018

Once a week, I am reminded that someone in China thinks I am an industrial-supply executive. Here’s the latest e-mail:

Dears,

The is Vepin from Tybonder Co., Ltd of china.

Tybonder main business panic bar, door hinge, piano hinge, door closer, lever handle etc.

“Dears” sounds like some great-aunt addressing a family reunion, except if she continued to say “Tybonder main business panic bar” someone would take the glass from her hand and add some ice.

Vepin from Tybonder sounds like a science-fiction character, doesn’t it? Seven feet tall, forked tongue, lizard skin, yellow eyes. “I am Vepin from Tybonder! Take me to your hinge procurement manager!”

Another missive from last week:

Dear Sir,

Nice day.

I am sorry to take you time!

Rubber magnet and fridge magnet with good quality from China. Do you have any project use magnet? If so, shall we to talk details?

We shall to not.

The best one came from a hoist manufacturer. They made enormous motorized cranes that lift huge payloads and carry them to the other end of the warehouse. This one I’ll have to quote from memory, but it went something like this:

Hello, sir,

Pleased to your day.

We are in supply to lifting cranes, placing cranes, top motor. Fail to hesitate if you dont, but we can be happy about talking to details.

Of course their English is better than my Cantonese; I wouldn’t know where to start if I had to draft a letter to someone in Chinzan prefecture, asking them to subscribe to the Strib. To them, it would probably read like this:

Saluting, Hurrah!

Love all you.

Everyone us, to make story paper for the news! We can deliver story paper to houses of the alive, daily to your wishes. High quality service, story paper never sink in bush. Also to internet for not of the money so much. Would you be lusting for subscribe?

This is why I’m not in the promotion business. But here’s the thing. I don’t believe that they really think I’m in the market for a crane or rubber magnets. I think they paid someone who said they could send the e-mail to every address they had. It’s possible the e-mail was sent to a billion people. It might be the most widespread message ever sent that didn’t involve religion.

I can imagine the meeting:

VP in charge of sales: “So, Vepin, what’s our marketing strategy?”

Vepin: “I’m sending a sales message to a billion people.”

VP: “Great! Someone will want panic bars.”

A week passes.

VP: “So how many orders did we get from the billion e-mails?”

Vepin: “I have one order from a Nigerian prince who wants us to send him $4,025 so he can bribe an official who has possession of all his gold.”

VP: “A prince, you say? Wonderful! We’ll corner the Nigerian panic-bar market!”

Vepin: “I do not trust this man.”

VP: “Oh, Vepin, you’re just biased against Earthlings. Send the nice prince some money.”

Then again, it could work. Say there’s a guy in a construction firm in charge of machinery. One day his boss stops by his office, and says, “Great news, we won the bid to build that new fulfillment center in Eagan. Remember that hoisting system we did on the Rose­ville warehouse last year? The client saw the pictures in the proposal, wants one of those. Just a heads-up for next month’s meeting.”

The manager smiles and nods and feels sweat pooling at the small of his back. He remembers how he took over the Roseville project while it was still under construction. His predecessor had ordered the hoist. Where do you get something like that?

He does some googling and looks at pictures of hoists. They’re big! Amazon won’t deliver one of these! He goes to the waiting room, pokes through the magazines on the table, then asks the receptionist “Say, where do we keep the hoist catalogs?”

She doesn’t know. He goes back to his office and closes the door, puts his head in his hands and despairs. He’s about to be revealed as a fraud.

Ping! A new e-mail. He can’t believe what he’s seeing: It’s an offer to sell him a giant hoist! What an unbelievable stroke of luck.

So, he buys a hoist, and the firm that provided the original e-mail list uses that as an example to pitch their services to every other factory in China. And, as a result, I get a letter every week that somehow makes it past the spam filters and ends in my “Focused” inbox.

On a related note, I’m starting up a service for people who are sick and tired of e-mail, don’t like Facebook and disregard every unfamiliar phone number or text. Targeted person-to-person communications from people you trust, written on small sheets of paper, delivered by pigeon. If you are interested —

Hold on, a pigeon just landed on the windowsill; it has a message attached to its leg.

It’s from China, offering to sell me bulk cheese graters.

Never mind.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks

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