blogitto ergo sum

June 4, 2011

#186 – iPAD or iDEAD, China made

Filed under: business buz,mmmmmmarketing,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 18:52
Tags: , , , , , ,

no one can ignore the hype, impact, revolution that the iPhone’s launch did to the mobile ecosystem;   gaming, connecting, living experience – everything.  the iPhone created a new standard for mobile phones, one that each and every OEM on the planet wanted to exceed and settled for “me too-ing“.  hindsight, the impact was limited to the mobile ecosystem, and to consumers already USING phones and able/willing to spend that much more on an iPhone experience.  and then came the apps with incredible business opportunities built on top of the device itself.

yet, by comparison, iPAD impacts users in practically every imaginable area of our life.   not sure?

here’s a random pick:

iPAD line in San Francisco, April 3, 2010. Source:

it goes on and on. and it’s great.  i love game-changers.

over the last few weeks, i was exposed to the experience  iPAD shopping.  standing in lines in ungodly hours to get a note that will allow one, hours later, to enter the Apple Shrine and buy an iPAD – i listened to 3 such reports.  it ain’t me, babe, no, no, no. it’s amazing marketing as well as manufacturing capacity limitations, and it works.

happy to support the Israel-based consumers who hate to pay the ~10-30% markup Apple products accumulate as they make aliyah, i placed an online iPAD order. [ordered MacPro too, but that’s a different story]

as the waiting begins, the $100K question is will iPAD make it here before visitors take off back to Israel?  contrary to Apple’s rep who said it won’t,  iPAD was delivered on Friday afternoon, just in time for shabbat.

Shabbat, sadly enough, is something that Foxconn DOESN’T allow its  Chengdu and Shenzhen employees, the ones who put iPAD and iPhone together.  if the name Foxconn sounds familiar to you, it’s because on May 20th, the explosion in the China-based factory manufacturing/assembling  iPhone and iPAD took place in one of their facilities.  forget shabbat, here’s how iPAD gets delivered ahead of committed delivery date:

  • employees put in up to 98 hours of overtime a month; almost three times the limit in Chinese law.
  • Foxconn insists they have to break the law to hit targets, even though excessive overtime is banned by international law and Apple’s own code of conduct.  “have to” is an interesting excuse to breaking the law.  maybe we should all give it a try.
  • in one factory, declining to do overtime at the level required is reciprocated with denying the person any overtime at all.  gotcha.  w/o overtime, salary isn’t that attractive. another response: system may “lose” track of your overtime…  gotcha again.
  • workers are banned from talking at work, have to stand up for their entire 12-hour shifts and are made to do military marching drills.
  • Half a million Chinese, many of them teenagers or kids work at these factories.  they have young stamina, they can do it.  they love it.
  • Employees sleep on-site, in high-rise dormitory blocks where hair-driers and kettles are outlawed.  it’s not camp here; we pay you [base pay $5/day] to work, not to blow dry your hair.  go do more overtime.

which brings me to iDEAD.  at least 14 employees committed suicide over the past 16 months.  several others tried.  the corporate response?  rather original.

One executive accused victims of doing it to win compensation payouts for grieving relatives.

Investigators said Foxconn reacted to the wave of suicides by calling in monks to exorcise evil spirits.  seriously? this is so the daily show material.  next we’ll be getting blessed iPADs with the double happiness character?

Foxconn forced new employees to sign pledges not to commit suicide before they were taken on.  repeat: staff seeking jobs were ordered to make written promises not to follow suit.  They had to vow that if they did, their families would not claim more than the legal minimum in damages.

so is this how it goes?  fictional scenario: an employee can’t take it anymore, commits suicide.  if he succeeds, his family gets the minimum compensation [if any].  Dead worker moves on.  if employee survives, they fire him for breaching employment contract.  no compensation due.  iDEAD indeed.

Apple’s own inspectors found fewer than a third of Foxconn factories obeyed overtime rules.  and WHAT did they do about it?  from what i could find, NOTHING.  Apple also found 91 children working worldwide last year.  i guess they didn’t look too hard, did they? only 91? or is it that Chinese people look so much younger than their Caucasian age group?

i could dive into an anti-capitalistic rant, preach for an iPAD boycott and sound very righteous.  I’m doing neither.  in the same way you cannot shove democracy down people’s throat, i don’t believe you can shove labor laws, respect and sensitivity.  changing centuries-old practices of emperors who treated people as disposables is not done over night.  it may take a century or two.

over dinner last night, MD [Taiwan-born] represented the Chinese, and not in a happy way.  “this is the culture, life has no value, if one dies, there is always a new employee to take his place… why do you blame Apple,” she wondered.  i don’t blame Apple; i want them to leverage the power they  have to force improvement of the conditions.  what is stopping Apple from including in their contract terms penalties for forced overtime, hiring kids, and sub-standard living conditions?  share-holder pressure?  greed?  auditing the factories is already included in these contracts.  i don’t expect China to become the country of model employment.  I expect Apple, who is all for clean designs to enforce some clean-your-act practices.

Foxconn has local offices here, in California, not that far from Cupertino.  one doesn’t have to travel to China to have a discussion.  here’s one: Foxconn, 1688 Richard Ave, Santa Clara, CA, 95050-2844. here’s another one: 1705 Junction Court, San Jose, CA 95112-1023.  need directions, Steve?  you got an app for that.

Due diligence: i don’t own an iPAD [or an iPhone].  it’s safe to say that the only way I’ll end up with one is if it’ll fall onto my lap.   got nothing to do with above post.  and yes, my inner child is alive and well.

Caution: this post heavily relies on secondary on-line sources, more than i usually do. i did my best to ensure accuracy.  if you know anything to be different from what is presented here, please let me know ASAP and I’ll update/correct as needed.

Netted dormitory blocks. Bosses have now rigged up nets on all the balconies to stop jumpers. Source:




  1. Hi

    Next time you get to see MD, ask her about the 2008 earthquake. Didn’t we saw pictures of crying people? Rescue teams? Let her explain both.

    In Mexico too we say “La vida no vale nada”. Just means there are bastards, like everywhere, probably.

    Comment by Cuihtlauac — June 6, 2011 @ 06:28 | Reply

  2. no shortage of bastards, i agree. interestingly enough, once MD read the blog, i got this email from her: “I agree Apple should do something to solve the mistreating employees problem, it is very inhumane.”

    not sure what’s the point re the earthquake.

    Comment by yael — June 6, 2011 @ 20:46 | Reply

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