Video: Chinese Factory Workers Stuffing Playing Cards At Turbo Speed

Every wonder why so much stuff is made in China? This is why. Look at these guys, stuffing playing cards in boxes at a superhuman rate. This video has not been sped up. No wonder China is going to kick our ass.


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  1. freshyill says:

    What do you want to bet that these guys get paid based on how many they do, not hourly?

    • semanticantics says:

      The same $0.05 / hr that they get paid.

    • satoru says:

      Here’s how it works

      1) You get paid a flat salary per month
      2) You MUST produce x amount per day
      3) If you don’t you get fired

      No one pays by output because then people would abuse that to get more pay. Employers want to pay you less, not more.

      • trentblase says:

        As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado.

      • Megladon says:

        this is exactly how it is, if they’re lucky they make 100$ a month, and amazingly they’ll manage to save about 50% of it and send that home to their family.

      • esp13 has a pony named Steve says:

        Not necessarily… my dad used to be a foreman picking peaches. His crew each got paid according to the number of huge crates they picked in total. They always made sure to get an number evenly divisible by all workers in the crew. Granted, that was 30 years ago, but I’m sure it still works similarly nowadays. I imagine that if these workers are getting paid based on a crew’s total output, there is less chance of dishonesty. If they were working solo I can’t imagine a guy stealing 100 finished packs from the next guy and making… what? an extra $0.25?

  2. ihatephonecompanies says:

    That’s pretty amazing. These guys could be making way more money stacking decks.

  3. Angus99 says:

    I was about to comment that doing this 8 hours a day would drive me nuts, when I realized they’re probably doing it 10 hours a day.

    Also can’t remember the last inside job I had where it was so cold I had to wear a jacket and gloves.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Gloves are probably for protection.

    • guroth says:

      Sometimes I think the same thing, and of course the quality of life is lower than it is over here… but sometimes I think it would be nice to have a simple autonomous job that I could do with my eyes closed without devoting any brainpower; instead of a brain-power hungry job that doesn’t necessarily end when the clock does.

      • ktetch says:

        Yeah, when I was in university, I had an evening job on a production line in a condiments factory. 5 hours a night, I’d stack items as they came out a filling line onto pallets, although the 5 of us on the machine (the loader, the filler, the lidder, the labler and the stacker) would switch around fairly often. The medium size ones were easiest (1litre containers) – the big ones (say 2gal buckets) were a pain because of the weight, and the small ones (tabletop jars) came out too fast for easy stacking.

      • bennilynn says:

        Yeah, you might like it for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, the mind-numbing boredom starts to do strange things to your brain. I worked as a telephone operator for about a year, putting through collect calls for people. I said the same phrase and pressed the same buttons over and over again for eight hours at a time (up to 12 if I could swing the overtime).

        People working there got really weird, really fast (myself included). Suddenly, the littlest things would set the entire center a’twitter. Somebody stole somebody’s lunch? Hoo, boy, you bet you were hearing about it for the next three weeks. People would get paranoid about other employees to the extent that entire rivalries were formed over something as mundane as a missing pen cap. It was the lack of anything interesting going on. You had to find interesting things to compensate for it. We weren’t allowed to have books, puzzle books, writing supplies, or cell phones out on the call floor. It was work, work, and nothing but work.

        Eventually, it got to the point where I’d actively imagine running through the wall, leaving a me-shaped hole and a trail of dust as I escaped, Wile. E. Coyote style. Break times were often spent with me leaning up against that wall, waiting for freedom. I spent 40 hours a week wishing I was anywhere else doing anything else. It sucks the life right out of you.

        I went on lunch break one day and never went back. Best decision I could have made. It took me about a month to be able to really feel free of that place. That kind of drudgery is killer on the mind, not to mention the hands (ugh, carpel tunnel from typing and a tweaked back from sitting all day). I was happier being unemployed and eating rice and beans for a month until I found another job.

    • smo0 says:

      They keep the a/c on at full blast here… I see people occasionally bring blankets to work at my job.

    • satoru says:

      It’s probably winter in that factory so they’re wearing gloves to keep warm. But they have the ‘fingerless’ types so they can still work efficiently.

      This is a factory, they aren’t pumping a/c in there, since that would be a waste of energy. They’re probably freezing their asses off.

      • redskull says:

        Many homes in Southern China don’t have furnaces because of the near year-round warm weather. On the rare occasion it does get cold, they end up wearing their coats inside their homes. It’s conceivable that factories are the same way.

  4. cosmic.charlie says:

    The MBA that came up with that procedure for stuffing playing cards should be given a bonus!

  5. bullymom2 says:

    I think they are going so fast to keep warm. They are wearing jackets, gloves and hats. This is so sad.

  6. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Bunnie’s Blog also shares some interesting insight into highly skilled Chinese workers (the meat is around the posts from 2007).

    Dirty Jobs also occasionally featured factory line people making little trinkets at crazy speed (I remember the one with drain grates the most vividly). It’s clearly an application of practice and not of nationality. If we still had factories in the US you’d probably have some really amazing showcases.

    • Rachacha says:

      Absolutely, When I was in college, I had a summer job working on a production line. Fortunately, I was given the job of “break man” where I would do several different jobs on the production line for 15-30 minutes at a time while my co workers took a break or lunch. One of jobs was pretty fast paced and involved placing products as they came out of the packaging machine at about 2/second into a plastic basket to be shipped, and then placing a new basket on top of the first once it was full. There were 2 machines side by side (usually one person at each machine doing this job), and I got to the point where I was able to keep up with 2 machines at the same time.

      On my last year there, they tried to install robots to do the job, but they were having problems because the robots were too slow, and the products were somewhat irregularly shaped and would twist when they came out of the machine which confused the robots.

    • Doncosmic says:

      You should see commercial crab pickers or oyster shuckers sometime, those women are scary fast.

  7. Miraluka says:

    They need to work in a refrigerated warehouse because when the cards get warm they expand, thus making the decks harder to stuff in the boxes. (No, I’m not serious.)

    • Framling says:

      They have to chill the factory to compensate for the tremendous friction generated by the high-speed packing.

  8. cmdr.sass says:

    In the US, this is done by machines.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      Desperate rural chinese people ARE machines.

    • TVGenius says:

      Cost of insanely fast Chinese worker

      You’d think they could at least separate the decks for them somehow. That seems to be one of the slowest parts.

    • LastError says:

      It is done here by dedicated machines costing perhaps millions of dollars just to build and install. And all it can do is one to perhaps a few different products without refitting. It might even do only one thing, period, and take decades to pay off.

      In China, they can hire somebody for pennies an hour and teach him or her how to do many different tasks or work different product lines and switch between them in an instant if needed. If and when the worker complains about anything at all or wears out, they can get another one for pennies an hour. If the demand dries up, no worries. The workers can be cut loose instantly. If demand soars, get more workers instantly.

      So if you are making playing cards, do you spend millions for machines and robots that can do one thing, or a tiny fraction of that cost for a disposable workforce that can do anything?

      Before you answer, think about what your competitors going to do. What costs will they have to make their product? What price point will they hit on store shelves? How much profit per item sold will they generate for the store?

      Now, answer. Robots or cheap labor?

      • jamar0303 says:

        Pennies? Believe it or not, they’re already starting to see a brick wall in front of them on that one. The younger generation isn’t satisfied with lower wages, and due to the residence registration system in China, some factories without the means to cut through the red tape of hiring non-local workers are just rolling with it. Especially with the Foxconn and Honda incidents.

  9. Mackinstyle1 says:

    That would be an enjoyable job if they were allowed to chat and have some fun. But no.. 5-10% faster production is worth the misery and suicides? In the big picture.. that 5-10% isn’t worth the effect it has on their society and how they look in the eyes of the International community.

  10. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    (Also, I have yet to meet a Chinese manufactured playing card that beats the feel and handling of United States Playing Card Company’s cards still made in the states: Bicycle, Bee, and some of the really amazing cards targeted towards magicians (Bicycle Ghost, Split Spades, etc.))

    • KJR52 says:

      +1 to this. While the quality of cards by USPC has declined a bit in recent years and their QC isn’t as good (you’ll find more rough edges and off-center cuts than you did 5-10 years ago), but they’re still worlds better than most inexpensive cards you’ll find, and they’re made right here in the good ol’ USA.

      And yes, some of the magician-geared decks have some stunning artwork and quality. Ghosts and Split Spades, the ones you mentioned, are 2 of my favorites.

    • DH405 says:

      Ever tried Kem cards? Amazing.

  11. DariusC says:

    Seriously guys, isn’t this getting over the top?

    “10 hours a day”
    “$.05 an hour”

    I seriously doubt it is QUITE that bad in china… Seriously, they have to be living somehow and I don’t think they make a living off of joining the Triad or Yakuza (partly because those are japanese gangs?).

    Please cite your dang comments so people don’t think china is the next africa!

    • satoru says:

      Well considering that Foxconn, which is probably one of the highest paying employers, pays their employees about 2000RMB, which averages out to $1.22 an hour

      ‘Official’ numbers for minimum wages aren’t much better

      The 10 hours a day isn’t surprising at all at any manufacturing facility in China, heck it’s even a bit on the low end. The 0.05 cents per hour could be off, but it might not be. For example it’s well known that, officially, you can’t work more then 40-60 hours a week (depending on the region in China). But many people are forced to work 80-100 hour weeks but only get paid for the ‘official’ 40-60 hours. Again you don’t have a choice, since if you complain, you’re fired and replaced by the hundreds of other people lining up for any kind of job.

      Although the wages are rock bottom, they have very few alternatives. Agriculture and fisheries are getting destroyed with all the environmental damage and urbanization. So the huge numbers of rural farmers, many who can’t read, write or have any other skills, have no other way to earn a living. Earning 400rmb a month is still better than earning zero.

      Manufacturing is still a better bet. At least you’re not in the coal mining industry. Where they don’t give you any safety equipment. Then when the mine collapses and kills you, they just bulldoze over the entrance and pretend nothing happened.

      China is truly that bad.

      • Bunnies Attack! says:

        Jeez. Listen, why does everyone insist on translating payment to US dollars? I was in Beijing a couple months ago and aside from certain touristy things, the prices are still ridiculously cheap. Generally, cost of living items are similar from country to country without taking exchange rates into consideration. IE a $1 US burger has a 1RMB equivalent there just like there would be a 1 pound equivalent in the UK.

        We had a huge breakfast for 4 at a chain restaurant under my in-laws apartment for about $25 RMB, a meal that would cost about $25 in the US. We went to regular but nice sit down restaurants where the dishes were about $12 each, similar dishes are available in chinese restaurants in the US for about $10-12.

        Also, whats not taken into account is that for a lot of jobs you get a salary but also certain living expenses, either food or lodging or transportation in addition to your salary (my brother in law gets all 3 for example, working in a tech job).

        • alSeen says:

          I lived in Beijing for 7 weeks a number of years ago.

          8 of us at a meal, ordering about 10 dishes (put on a huge lazy susan) and 1 liter bottles of pop and it would cost each of us about $2 USD.
          A quick breakfast from a walk up shop of meat filled pastries and a bottle of juice was under $1 USD.

      • evnmorlo says:

        In the US you need to work 80 hours at minimum wage to have a survivable income. A Chinese worker is probably worse off, but expenses are lot lower, so life is not that terrible.

        • shepd says:

          Also, in the US you don’t get room and board included. Not that room and board at a Chinese factory is of a high standard, but with that out of the equation, money isn’t as important.

          It may be that, in comparison, a bad minimum wage job in the US is actually much worse (life-wise) than some such jobs in China. Although it is likely safer.

    • semanticantics says:

      5 cents might be low, but then again, so is 10 hours.

    • MrsBug says:

      Okay, how about $1.14 an hour? Based on the claims at this article, they make about $220 a month. Based on a six-day work week at 8 hours a day (which I doubt they’re working – probably more like 10-12), this would give them a $1.14/hr.

      The sad thing? This is about 10 times the national average of $200/year.

      Note: This was a quick web search and thrown together figures. Someone may have more accurate numbers.

    • nova3930 says:

      Not to mention the fact that even at the actual wages, they can’t beat workers off with a stick, because the alternative is working longer and harder in the fields, subsistence farming for less equivalent $$$….

  12. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Have you ever watched an episode of How It’s Made or something similar? I remember when they visited the Smith and Wesson factory and the worker did a 60 point inspection and it was almost a blur. Once you do something repeatedly, you get the muscle memory and you can just do it sometimes without looking. When I was working a cash room, my 10 key speed was real high, not so much now that I haven’t done it in awhile.

    • mandy_Reeves says:

      lol you are correct…my husband i data entry for 7 years and he was up to 90 WPM at one time.

      I myself am up to 60-65 depending on how long I am working for…my fingers cramp up.

  13. nwgray says:

    My first thought – amazing speed. I’ve seen Americans do repetitious factory work just as fast though.

    Second thought – these kids should be in school instead of working.

  14. smo0 says:


    • shaleoil24 says:

      “communism” where your boss drives a $150,000 Mercedes and dates 20 yr old models while your grandpa waits 3 months to get health care for some ailment. Yeah, works great

    • DrunkenMessiah says:

      China is not a communist country. Communism is a type of economic system, Capitalism is another example and is what we run on here in the USA. China is technically is a Capitalist country as well. The difference is they have a Socialist form of government, where we have a Constitutional Democracy. For all intents and purposes China operates on a “free” market which is how these kinds of factory jobs get created in the first place….

  15. MrsBug says:

    If your paycheck depended entirely on you stuffing 5,000 boxes of cards a day, knowing there were a billion people in line for your job, you’d get really fast too.

  16. lvixen says:

    I worked in a factory that made christmas balls. In addition to keeping their hands warm, the gloves can also protect your fingers from the cardboard of the boxes. I put covers on the boxes and once you’ve done it enough times, it starts to cut into the creases, really painful. It was also fast like this, the clippers (people who put the ring with the loop for the hook) rocked back and forth to keep a rhythm going. The older women were amazingly fast.

  17. CookiePuss says:

    They can make a fortune here in the US with all those envelope stuffing jobs I see in the paper.

    • pf3 says:

      I would rather die than spend another minute stuffing envelopes. Only job I ever quit by just walking out.

    • pf3 says:

      I would rather die than spend another minute stuffing envelopes. Only job I ever quit by just walking out.

    • LastError says:

      Forget stuffing envelopes. There are (and have been for decades) machines that are QUITE capable of stuffing envelopes in all sorts of sizes and shapes.

      My company has one. It’s 30 feet long and can stuff 10,000+ envelopes an hour. That’s ten thousand. Not a typo.

      Are you that fast? No. Bloody nobody is. Unless they have these machines. We barely use ours. I am told there are places that have 10 or 15 of these things running 24/7.

      The whole concept of hand-stuffing any sort of mass mailing died in the 1970s.

  18. Wireless Joe says:

    Sure, they’re fast, but how long do they last at the job? Do their fingers permanently curl up or fall off after two years? Guess it doesn’t matter as long as you have an inexhaustible supply of desperate human capital lined up.

    They’ll probably keep pushing employees until they get that hellhole running so efficiently that all the physical labor is done by a single Australian man.

  19. Sean says:

    This reminds me of my observation of the striking difference in speed and efficiency when I go to a pharmacy drive-through in Florida (where the pharmacists are African-origin) and in California (where the pharmacists are born in Asia). In Florida, there is a long line up, the prescription is often not even filled even if called ahead and it takes at least 5 minutes to be “processed”; in California, after calling the Rx in, you drive directly to the window and the Asian pharmacist almost immediately hands you your packaged Rx and there is nothing to sign for refills since they used your credit card on file. In both cases, the chain store were the same — Walgreens. One Asian clerk seems to process the work of 5 Florida workers! Why? P.S. This is not a racist writing — I am simply stating an objective finding and would like to know why there is such a dramatic, striking difference in productivity so that one can improve and compete.

    • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

      I’d say that it is cultural difference.
      Stories and reports about far east nations (China, Japan, etc.) shed light on the fact that people over there feel the “need” to excel at what they are doing – often regardless of whether it translates to better compensation. And it actually matches my personal experience with Asian co-workers.
      I always speculated that it has something to do with a shorter time-span between now and the feudalistic past, where the individual meant nothing, and excelling at your “job” was pretty much a survival tactic.

      • mandy_Reeves says:

        yes, my husband works for suhshi/chinese/thai takeout place, and he says his head spins at how fast and efficient the Asian staff are. They are also very impatient…when a customer takes too long to order they guy gets all huffy and blames my husband for not telling them to order quicker.

        They also give my husband pop quizzes every day about menu items.

        I notice the eastern asian(indian pakistani) run franchises are mind blowingly speedy too. They also tend to try to think ahead about what you are ordering…like I will tell them a large coffe…they hurry me by saying yes with cream and sugar and start making it….without letting me tell them i want skim and equals.

      • Sean says:

        Interesting observation but the “feudal system” was prevalent in most of Asia until the end of the 19th century, at least a few generations AFTER the last emancipation of African Americans from slavery. So, I think it’s really a case of something else.

  20. HoJu says:

    There really isn’t a machine to do this mundane task?

    • weave says:

      Simple equation. When the machine can do it for cheaper than a human can, then the machine will do it. So these people are cheaper than a machine right now.

    • Rachacha says:

      Think of it this way.
      Using manual laborers, you can hire 50 unskilled people and pay them $1/hour, each completing 10 packages a minute and those 50 people work in 10 hour shifts. If someone is sick, you simply bring in the next person in line and you will be back to normal, so you can truly work 24/7 365 with 100% uptime. Your total daily labor is $10 x 50= $500/day or $182,500/year.


      You can purchase a machine to do this for lets say $500,000. It can complete 20 packages a minute, can work 24/7, and you need 10 of them to keep up with the workload. You need one skilled operator/five machines to make sure raw materials are available and to fix any jams, and you need a mechanic on hand to fix the more serious failures. Each machine is down for maintenance 4 hours a week. The skilled laborer and mechanic each earn $2.00/hour. Your total daily labor is 3 (2 operators and 1 mechanic) x $2 x 24 = $144/day or $52,560/year, but you needed to purchase $5,000,000 in equipment meaning that you would break even in 38.48 years in cost savings, on a machine that has a life expectancy of 30 years. These figures do not include the downtime for the machines.

      I used to work in a place where they brought in a machine to replace a human, not because it was more efficient or cost effective, but because the 2 guys who had been previously doing the job for 30+ years retired and no one could do it as fast as they could without damaging the product, so they brought in a robot, and had to hire a machine operator for each robot to keep up with production.

    • redskull says:

      You’re forgetting that a machine can generally only perform one task. If tomorrow the factory decided to switch from making playing cards to something else, they’d lose weeks while the machine was altered for its new task. A person can switch tasks instantly.

  21. xamarshahx says:

    they won’t kick our ass since they probably use a machine to do this in the US. that’s is like when i saw a guy in another country staple papers together at a copy center since the owner said that was cheaper then buying a multi-function. over here labor rates are higher so you get a multi-function, but that creates more high tech jobs…

  22. OnePumpChump says:

    Eventually, China will run out of people without crippling repetitive motion injuries.

  23. teke367 says:

    When I worked at Sam Goody years ago, I got pretty fast at putting CDs into those protective cases. They let us smoke in the back room as well, so I managed to do about 20 CDs a minute while smoking. Granted, I’m sure my working conditions were a little better than this.

  24. 3rdUserName says:

    “They took er jobs!”

  25. madmallard says:

    people seem to forget, a skilled task takes time, there’s plenty of examples of this work pace everywhere in the world. Its just people expect too much pay to do this in the US.

  26. donovanr says:

    If you watch how it’s made you might notice that they don’t use people for most jobs; they use machines. Where the Chinese rule is where it is cheaper to get a bunch of people together instead of building an expensive and specialized machine. This is why short term manufacturing like cellphones or happy meal toys is almost always done there. Your cellphone would be out of date before you assembled the first one if you had to build a special machine. But in the US something like playing cards probably is made by a machine that is 40 years old and has been tuned to go faster and better during that entire 40 years.

  27. PanCake BuTT says:

    We need this guy in our IT dept, i’m pretty sure he can put computers just as quick, or anything else for that !

  28. Shen says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned the lack of worker protections in China yet. My dad was telling me about my cousin – age in early 20s – trying to find a job as an unskilled laborer. Wages are usually a few weeks behind, like a lot of places here in the US. But in the US if your employer promised one salary and then ended up paying you just half that, there would be some report that could be made. In China, though – there are enough people who don’t have jobs that you wouldn’t dare complain, because it’s much too easy to replace you. And if you end a job because you found something better – well, say goodbye to your last few weeks worth of wages.

  29. menty666 says:

    Is it just me or did it look like they were just grabbing random numbers of cards?. IOW, if they were grabbing full decks to put in each box, they should have had the same card up each time they did a grab.

  30. al says:

    someone is going to get whipped and beaten for fooling around with a video camera instead of stuffing cards in a box.

  31. banmojo says:

    I was amazed, living in S Korea, at how dexterous the locals there are. Turns out they play some games as children which teach them this dexterity, and they continue to practice drills (like twirling their pens) in adulthood. Nothing extraordinary – anyone can develop that way if taught too.

  32. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    They could come to America… or Canada and be fantastic card dealers, I bet.

  33. sumocat says:

    The embarrassing part is that you think that was “superhuman”. They were speedy, but I watched the clip waiting for the part where I’d think the video was sped up.