Apr 05, 2016

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“I’ve had it with Alibaba! I have read about your services on your website and they sound great.”

The quote above was from an email I recently received from a new customer. I hear this all the time. Someone tries to find a supplier on Alibaba. Maybe they get a response, maybe they don’t. If they receive a response, the communication isn’t clear. They don’t get a warm fuzzy that the person they’re talking to at the China end understands what they want.

Maybe they get a quote. They ask more questions, then somewhere along the line… poof! All communication at the other end in China stops.

I’ve heard of stories of people who got a sample from China that wasn’t too bad. Then for some reason it all went downhill from there. They asked for a few minor changes, or a new quote, and once again, their source disappears.

I’ve also heard of persons who sent money to China and got burned. One guy told me he placed an order… the supplier’s terms were 100% in advance. After he wired the money, his contact vanished.

One customer who tried to work direct with a factory on his own recently told me, “This is way out of my league. I don’t know what I’m doing here and don’t want to risk a big mess. We’d like you to handle our business for us.”

He gets it. Dealing with an unknown entity that’s 7,000 miles away, with a business culture that is totally different than what we’re used to in North America, where corruption and scams are sometimes a problem, and they have a different way of communicating than we do is no easy task.

If you don’t know who you’re dealing with it’s like playing Russian Roulette with 4 bullets in the chamber. How do you know if the person you’re emailing at the other end is a factory, trading company, or a guy in an apartment out to take your money and run? How do you know if they have experience manufacturing or selling the product you’re interested in?

There are really only two ways:

  1. You take the time to learn the business culture in China, and fly there to meet them. Trips to China will be required multiple times as you’ll need to inspect the order before it ships to make sure you’re getting what you ordered. Among other things, you’ll need to learn about the Chinese concept of face and how it drives everything there (and sometimes messes things up), guanxi, how to read between the lines, asses their capabilities, and ask the right questions.
  2. Work with someone like us who has decades long relationships in China, with partner groups on the ground who can prequalify factories and make sure they’re legitimate before you pull the trigger on an order. We’ll also inspect the shipments to make sure you’re getting what you ordered.

Or… you can take your chances and roll the dice by hoping that the person on the other end is legitimate, understands what you want, and has the experience, equipment and technical know-how to make your product to spec.