So I cant spend hundreds on pedals like I used to when I was single and childless and I really have no reason (according to my wife) to be buying guitar stuff because I no longer play in bands (sheds tear).

I bought a cheap distortion pedal from China, I mention this only because the travel could explain why it doesn't work. When I plug it in and turn it on I get no light and no sound when I turn it off I hear the clean guitar sound. If I switch the plugs I get no sound but the pedal light turns on. So then I switched the plugs back and tried inserting the plug from the guitar only partially in and the light comes on with no sound.

I opened it up and saw no cracked or burnt out soldering. It doesn't take batteries only power source and I have the correct power source. can provide pics or video if necessary.
Sounds like just a poor quality pedal. Why not return it since its new?
I'd return it too. Check out Joyo for some decent stuff on the cheap.
Jackson Kelly KE3 - MIJ (Distortion/Jazz)
Jackson DKMGT Dinky (EMG 81/85)
ESP E-II Eclipse Custom (JB/'59)
ESP LTD EC-1001FR (EMG 81/60)
Fender MIM Strat

Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster 212
Laney IronHeart IRT-Studio
Peavey Vypyr 30
Peavey ReValver Amp Sims
TOOOO many T.C. Electronic Pedals. . .
I'm guessing it might not be economical to return it?
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.