Vape shop owners are finding themselves in a tough position as the popularity of vaping skyrockets. There’s rent to pay, inventory to purchase and employees to keep happy. And in an industry where competition is fierce and profit margins are slim, they often have to make a choice between offering authentic, brand name vaping gear or lower cost mod clones and cheap knockoffs.
Providing low cost alternatives isn’t necessarily a bad thing; especially considering the extremely high price tag on some authentic vaping equipment. Whether the decision to carry clones is based upon a business strategy, or GREED, cloned vaping products are the answer for many vape shop owners, and there are pros and cons that each vaper must consider when shopping for a device.
Vape Clones Vs. Knockoffs
For those new to vaping, or unfamiliar with the terminology, a clone is a copy of an original (higher priced) mod, tank, RDA, or other piece of equipment. With clones, it’s tough to tell the difference from the authentic version, and it could operate just as good, or perhaps better than the original. In many cases the same factory that produces the original, also produces the clone.
But there’s another type of copy out there, and it’s a bit harder to define: THE KNOCKOFF. While at first glance a knockoff device may look similar to what it’s intended to duplicate, once you take a closer look it’s obvious that the design, materials and quality are different.
It’s a fine line that’s gotten at least one vape shop into hot water. In April of this year, Homeland Security agents raided A Plus Vapors of Battavia, NY for allegedly selling fake products from China. But why would they even think about selling a knockoffs? Increased sales… more profits!
The Best Clones Aren’t Cheap
Knockoffs are big business for some vape shops – and on sites like eBay and elsewhere around the Web. Lets use Flawless’ popular Tugboat Mod as an example. From Flawless itself, you’re looking at upwards of $100 through an authorized reseller. eBay, though, has pages of significantly lower cost clones and knockoffs available: I was able to find Tugboat mod clones for less than $30! Chinese supplier Fast Tech has them for even less. That’s a big difference in price, and it’s certainly enticing for anyone on a tight budget.
Cost is one of the biggest factors in the decision making process, myself included. I for one prefer a good quality mod clone. One of my favorites is the Grand Vapor Private V2 Clone, and you can’t tell much difference between it and the $140 real deal. It was half the price, and it’s such a good copy that I have most of the same problems that authentic users have, right down to the firing button issue.
But there are plenty of awful knockoffs of the Grand Vapor Private V2 mod out there as well, including one that sells on Fast Tech for less than $12. I saw a similar knockoff mod first hand at a vape meet, and it was pretty atrocious. The construction was horrible with lots of imperfections and poor quality materials, and there is no warranty on the device at all, except for a vague return policy.
These shady online sellers get vape shop owners enraged, especially since some customers expect the same low cost deals on the higher quality mods found in their vape shops. Jason Dellen, owner of Lancaster Steamworks in Lancaster, PA had this to say about the subject:
My frustration is people trying to price match an unauthorized third party vendor of products sight unseen with voided factory warranties and lackluster return policies, with that of a business who buys through authorized distribution channels, preserving the factory warranty, with much looser return policies and tangible in-store displays.
How to Buy a Good Mod Clone
Jason illustrates some valid points to consider when shopping for a device. So what should you keep in mind when looking for a quality mod clone or other cloned product?
- Clones aren’t a bad thing. As mentioned, I own several myself. If you have the opportunity to see a mod clone in person, do it. Although you may not be able to compare it to the real thing at the same time, just feeling it in your hand and giving it a once over will prevent headaches later on. Clones are a cheaper way to get the mod you want without breaking the bank.
- Touch it, feel it, take it apart. One of the best things about buying in a vape shop is the fact that you can see what you’re buying before you hand over your money. Don’t be afraid to take it apart and inspect the components. I’d also suggest getting familiar with the authentic mod before stepping into a store. This way you’ll be able to spot the differences and potential problems before you get stuck with it. If they won’t let you do this, go somewhere else.
- Know your seller. Don’t let my previous tips discourage you from buying from an online vape store. There are legitimate online retailers offering high-quality authentic and cloned products. With that being said, do your research. Does the website list them as an authorized reseller? What is their return policy? Do they offer warranty service should something go wrong? Can you easily give someone a call? Read reviews about the seller, and their products.
- Price is not everything. There’s an old saying: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. This definitely applies to clones. I’ve already given you two examples above of some pretty dramatic differences in price between authentic mods, clones, and knockoffs. There’s no way to get around it, a good APV or mechanical mod clone is going to cost you a bit, depending on the model. Plus, the first things to go in a cheap mod are the warranty service and/or returns.
Don’t get me wrong, you can buy the cheapest mod clone available, replace it multiple times… and it will still cost significantly less than the original; but is it worth all the hassles? Personally, I would prefer to pay a little extra and avoid the headaches associated a cheap knockoff. Some of the most reputable vape clone companies include: EHpro, Infinite and Tobeco. Any vendors selling these products will proudly display the maker’s name, otherwise it’s probably a cheap copy.
And then there’s the moral dilemma about buying a clone at all. Although I can certainly see why this is an issue for some, at the moment I just can’t justify paying $100+ for an authentic mod.
What do you think? Are clones OK? What do you look for and where do you shop? Please share…