4 GB MP3 Player Shipping from London

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I've had problems with a firm that regularly sells '4 GB' Mp3 ipod look-alikes on e-bay: mp3_exp

One of the reasons I bid for my player was the fact that it came from London. Much safer than buying from Hong Kong, no risk of getting stung for import duty, no postal delays, covered by the distance-selling and trading standards laws.

Except that it's a lie. The firm is based in Hong Kong and that's where the goods come from: that's why they ask you to wait for two weeks before complaining. So, no useful legal protection and the risk of being stung for import duty.

The next problem is the manual. I'm sure it made perfect sense in its Cantonese form, but the translation software it's been put through has produced some real gems.

'   the this fells the gram text, gram Luo a second text, Hungary text'

'Support each catalogue most support 99 recording documents' identify.'

'In the stop interface, the concrete operation is basic to sow the operation of play music the stop interface together'

Mildy amusing, but no use when you want to know what the technical limitations of the device's file system might be, or whether it will charge when switched on, or off, or both? Who knows. Experimentation is the only way forward.

Now you might wonder what the fuss is about. It's an MP3 player: what's to know? You plug it into a USB port, copy MP3s to it, play them. easy. Sadly, not. The device behaves like a 4 GB drive, until you start to populate it heavily. Hit the 2 GB mark and, suddenly, unrecoverable disc errors start to crop up.

The manual seems to make reference to partitioning software (although it might have been advice about neutering cats) and one of the utilites that comes on the 'driver disc' does appear able to partition the disc... I ran this once and ended up with a 2 GB disc and no way of getting the thing to behave as either a pair of 2 GB discs, or as a 4 GB disc again. But the device did start to behave normally.

Since the company that sold it won't answer my questions, I can only guess that this is a 4 GB chip that is being controlled by firmware that only sees 2 GB correctly. Unless a 2 GB device has been incorrectly formatted to report itself as a 4 GB model... but that cannot be the explanation. That would be fraudulant and wicked.

I ended up paying £35 for what appears to be a 2 GB player with an FM radio. The string that holds the player to the headphone wire wouldn't go through the hole and snapped. The output jack is a 2.5 mm Sony type, not a standard 3.5 mm socket, which is annoying but not fatal.

I did try to get a 50% refund (since I've got half the player that I paid for) but PayPal's instructions are to return it to the vendor, in Hong Kong, for a replacement. Great. I get to pay for tracked postage back to Hong Kong, have no guarantee that the replacement will be any better and can still be stung for tax and duty.

In the UK, duty is 10% for an MP3 player that has an internal radio: then VAT at 17.5% is charged on top of 110% of the value of the item. If the vendor has lied about the contents of the package YOU the purchaser are liable, because you are deemed to be the importer. Nasty, isn't it?

There are lessons here about cheap goods, shady sellers and the usefulness of PayPal's 'protection'. I've learned quite a lot.

I don't think this product is a complete rip off: £35 for a working 2 GB MP3 player with FM radio is reasonable, but I do feel that I've been let down. It appeared to be a working 4 GB model until the disc problem became manifest after a few hours of use... and by then I'd left positive feedback. The sellers now have no interest in answering my technical questions and are very quiet about where the missing 2 GB might be. I wanted 4 GB to fit a reasonable choice of rock and classical music to listen to. Now I have to limit my choice.

I'll probably end up giving the thing to one of my children to play with and buying a myself a bigger player from a reputable company. In the UK.

( Post Script: it is only fair to add that after a lot of vociferous complaining, Paypal did eventually refund half of my money, as a goodwill gesture. This molified me somewhat: it doesn't remove the risk for future purchases.)

A last PPS: the MP3 player has now died, after about six months of use. It simply stopped playing, went blank and refused to recharge or to talk to a USB connexion. It was playing The Rolling Stones at the time, so I suppose it died happy. The Hong Kong sellers are still at it: some of them are honest and admit where they are - but there are still plenty who pretend to be in London, Birmingham, or other UK cities. A useful tip is to look at the "meet the seller" part at the top-right of the listing page. If it says "Member since xx/yy/zzzz in Hong Kong" then your MP3 player is not going to be coming from the Midlands. Caveat Emptor!
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