Inside a Chinese playing cards factory (Video)

(Video link) I wonder what goes through this fellow's mind as he packs cards all day?


  1. I worked in a factory (in the U.S.) for four years while I went to college at night. The per-hour quotas for some of the jobs there were as fast-paced as the card packers in this video.

    What went through my mind? “I’m glad I’m going to college.”

    However, there were plenty of people where I worked that had been there for 20-30 years. Many seemed perfectly content doing this kind of work…with their biggest fear being a slow-down of work / reduced hours.

  2. Before seeing this video I never would have guessed that this is not being done by a machine.

    Their dexterity is pretty amazing, but what really gets me is how precisely they can cut the deck. It took me nearly a year to get competent at splitting a deck precisely in the middle with any kind of regularity, and I still mess it up a lot.

    The fact that they can do it a thousand times a day without ever missing a beat makes me jealous.

    1. Perhaps you haven’t spent at least a thousand hours doing this!

      I note that so far nobody suspects that any worker has cut the deck incorrectly.

  3. >I wonder what goes through this fellow’s mind as he packs cards all day?

    Probably something to the effect of “Kill me now!”, over and over again.

  4. I wonder what goes through this fellow’s mind as he packs cards all day?

    “Ouch, the paper cuts, the paper cuts!”

  5. I imagine it would be something like…
    “99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall…”

  6. Probably nothing.

    I’ve done repetitious assembly line work before. It’s fine. You either have a mindset where you can ignore the nature of the work or you don’t.

  7. People will get into this awesome mindset of optimization. They’ll play games in their head to see if there is any movement they can eliminate, like playing the shortest possible game of chess, every movement is studied and removed if not necessary. When I did this type of work I was lucky that I would be done in a few days and move on to another aspect of the project. I hope these guys and girls get to shuffle around the factory and do other jobs from time to time.

  8. The most repetitive thing I’ve done for a living is adjust 2700 bandpass filters for a radio telescope spectrometer I built, but I got to design and build the spectrometer as well. (I paid a company with machines to assemble the filter PC boards.)

    It was a bit mind-numbing, but I got pretty good at it after a while. Of course, I also designed the test software to display the desired bandpass response template with the actual response on my computer.

    No, I can’t imagine what goes through this guy’s mind. Probably not playing-card design.

  9. What caught MY eye, was that these people were working in an unconditioned space. Manufacturing usually has space heaters, but apparently they must cut into the profits of the card makers.

  10. They probably aren’t thinking anything at all. Also, this:

    ToMajorTom: “However, there were plenty of people where I worked that had been there for 20-30 years. Many seemed perfectly content doing this kind of work…with their biggest fear being a slow-down of work / reduced hours.”

    The third chapter of Peter Hessler’s “Country Driving” addresses a situation similar to this one. The author spends a few months in a factory in southern China, and the grim reality is that the people who work in these factories don’t want anything beyond stable (read: long) employment hours and a paycheck. They’re just surviving, because that’s what the poor, migratory, formerly-rural population of China does.

  11. What’s going through his mind? Easy… an endless loop of The Adicts singing “Joker in the Pack”.

  12. what goes through this fellow’s mind

    Maybe something along the lines of, “Could you and your camera stop hovering over my shoulder? You’re hampering my productivity by at least 4%.”

  13. What goes through this fellow’s mind?

    Maybe it’s the exact mirror opposite of what’s going through my mind.

    Maybe it’s that song Mr Golub mentioned above:

    …but really now, what business is it of mine?

  14. When I worked assembly, I thought it was frustrating that I had so much free time to think, but never had a second to write down any of my thoughts. At the end of the day, only a tiny fraction of the good ideas would be recorded.

    1. remind me of a Einstein quote, something about the best part of working at a patent office was the time available for thinking.

  15. Man, you most of you clearly have never worked in a literally mind-numbing job. Here’s the mindset of a job like this:

    Phase 1: You’re happy to have a job. It seems complicated, but everyone else has it together. You’re constantly afraid of screwing up.
    Phase 2: You’re doing fine. You’ve got the physical motions down and start playing with ways to make it more efficient.
    Phase 3: You do every part of the job perfectly without looking at it or processing it. Your mind begins to wander since you have all of this free time to think.
    Phase 4: With not outlet for your thoughts, your mind shuts off. You stop thinking. You come home from work burnt out and want nothing but sleep. You dream about work. You perform an 10-hour shift in your sleep. You wake up and do it again for real. You hate life. Your creativity stops. You stop applying to other jobs. You think about only what time you have to get to work tomorrow and then what time you get off. You cease to be a person.

    Those old movies from the 20s about the dehumanization and automation of man weren’t just mental exercises.

  16. if hes working on a quota system (most likely, how i used to work in a cold storage food warehouse, as a pallet assembler *just as mind numbing, plus you occasionally get covered in yogurt*) hes probably thinking about how to make his bonus (if any, even here in the west *canada* you get cheated out of it when ever possible) and at the same time worrying about losing his job if hes under too many times. or hes like my former coworkers and thinking about buying their next hit of crack…

    1. Cold food storage and western Canada eh?
      Were you working for Cargill then?

      My ex drove a forklift in a cold food storage facility. Oh the fun they’d have when the ammonia cooling system would spring a leak and spray boxes of raw chicken. He got to do the “sniff” test more than once, as in “sniff the chicken, anything that smells like ammonia throw out, anything else keep.” Nothing but high standards in our food storage facilities!

  17. Why robots are not being uses is probably this:

    robots have to be made and so have a fixed cost, as such they need to sell a certain number of decks at a certain cost to cover the initial purchase+maintenance and still make a profit.

    With humans you pay a pr deck, pr work day rate and expect them to maintain themselves as needed. Someone do not show up for work one day, biggest issue is that there is not as many decks being packed. But at the same time there is one less wage to pay out at end of day. And they probably have a line going around the block each day for people interested in working.

    It is a cold cold system when one look at it, but it is sound economics.

  18. This isn’t a Playing Card Factory; it’s The Playing Card factory. Like so many other little bits of the world they’re only made in one place on the planet now. Single Point of Failure anyone?

  19. Having worked on a production line for a few months whilst saving to go overseas when I was young, I can tell you what goes through his mind.

    Nothing, after a while.

  20. You know, if you would all buy COPAG cards, you’d be supporting Brazilians rather than Chinese. At least it’s a little closer, right?

    Plus they’re made entirely of plastic, so they’ll last much, much longer.

    Seriously, though, best playing cards ever.

  21. I work as a forklift operator here in Sweden. My job is probably better than his but what goes through my mind is usually “I wish I didn’t have to do this” and I figure thats what goes through his aswell.

    Also its not like you have time to think. It doesn’t work like that. Just because the job is manual its not like you can ever top concentrating on the one thing you do. And like someone else said – then you come home completely gone in the head and hoping that hole you work in to pay the bills would burn down during the night.

  22. I worked in a sun tea jar factory for a summer in college. I put sun tea jars in shipping boxes for hours on end. I liked it a lot more than office work because once I got good at it, I could think about other things while I worked, as opposed to say, photocopying or filing, which are terribly boring, but you still have to concentrate on what you’re doing.

  23. He thinks: “I have a job that 18% of americans don’t have!”

    “Not that they want it, since they get a check from the government, that is going to bring them to not afford this cards!”

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