You Get What You Pay For | There’s Truth Behind This Age-Old Saying

The look-alike cell has undulating walls due to internal corrosion and rough print edges, while the genuine cell features smooth walls and a clear text outline

There’s truth behind this age-old saying, as Digi-Key Electronics explains

When purchasing power supplies, batteries, or electronic components in general, the axiom ‘you get what you pay for’ often holds true. Before placing an order with that cheap overseas shop, ask yourself if quality matters. Does it matter if you receive defective product? Does it matter if the product works for a time and fails upon reaching your customers?

Remember that low-cost suppliers will be making money somehow, often by sacrificing quality. It’s commonplace for low-cost suppliers to use sub-standard materials and construction techniques to produce a cheap and inferior product, often styled to look like one from a reputable manufacturer. The photos show a genuine product and an inferior imitation, which was bulging, leaking electrolyte and entirely unusable straight out of the supplier’s packaging. It’s a stark illustration of what you get when you do and don’t pay for quality.

Future failures

Not all quality deficiencies are immediately obvious; sometimes they only show up after being in service for a while. The ‘capacitor plague’ of the early-mid 2000s is a good example. Electrolytic capacitors produced by numerous low-cost suppliers failed prematurely at a high rate, allegedly due to widespread use of a stolen electrolyte formulation that was incomplete. Several major computer equipment manufacturers were affected, with one reportedly incurring direct costs of several hundred million USD, plus additional intangible losses. This, for problems that didn’t even pose much of a safety issue.

Bearing this in mind, it’s worth taking time to understand the effects of component failures, the impact of those failures on your customers and the potential risks to your business that follow. Then, make a decision as to whether quality matters. If it does, two rules of thumb go a long way toward achieving it.

Quality matters

The AAA look-alike cell is obviously inferior to the genuine cell

First, buy only from reputable manufacturers. If the company has been in business for over 20 years, invests in research and development and demands more than rock-bottom prices, there’s a good chance it makes a quality product. If it also has a corporate presence in a jurisdiction accessible to your legal resources, this is a good indicator that they’ll stand behind their product.

Expect the opposite from suppliers that imitate established brands; if they’re unethical enough to leech off the credibility of those whose business they’re undercutting, why would they bother conducting an honest business with customers?

Secondly, buy only through manufacturer-authorized sales channels. Franchised distributors are contractually obligated to acquire product directly from the manufacturer, to exclude counterfeit or subpar components and provide product traceability. No such controls exist in non-authorized brokerage channels wherein deficient product is known to circulate.

In summary, know what you’re paying for and pay enough for what you need. It’s not much fun when getting what you paid for proves to be a bad thing.