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Red flags buyers wave in China sourcing

by Jacob Yount

Suppliers are not the only ones to wave red flags.

In China sourcing and manufacturing endeavors, buyers also wave big red, ominous banners that scream alert! danger! time and money loss lurking around the corner!

What do these big red banners look like and how do suppliers react?

(This will be a part II to a recent post, “Red Flags in China Manufacturing“)

We Cannot Accept Any Mistakes: Mistakes go with China like wet goes with water. The concept of “doing things right the first time” hasn’t taken off there. For whatever reason (and the reasons are manifold) “precision” is a rare find.

When one goes into a project with China, they need to be prepared for some back-and-forth, some tweaking and some teaching. I’m not referring to settling for unacceptable or dangerous quality but doing what it takes to work together with your supplier to assure good production.

Approach Your China Vendor with the Same Professionalism You'd Hope your Buyers to Use...

Approach Your China Vendor with the Same Professionalism You’d Hope Your Buyers to Use…

Telling a supplier “we cannot accept any mistakes” may sound corporately tough, but in China sourcing, you’re telling the supplier, “we’re not in this together.”

We need it rushed and it’s gotta be perfect: I hope everyone gets the kookiness of that statement. Especially in light of the above point on mistakes. Suppliers don’t think rushed and perfect go in any sentence together.

Most suppliers will take your confirmation of a rush as a confirmation to have an acceptable degree of sub-standard quality.

“I don’t care, just fix it!”:   Here’s the scenario; the buyer receives samples and there is an error.

The unhappy buyer tells the supplier about the problem and the supplier starts to explain, from a production point of view, why this issue happens.

Before the supplier barely finishes his sentence, the buyer screams out, “I don’t care, just fix it”.

It’s as if the the buyer waves his hand in a kingly decree and at that command, his worker minions start scurrying about all over the factory floor like Santa’s elves trying to make sure King doesn’t raise his voice again.

If anyone has any time under their belt in buying from China, then you’re like me and we’ve all said something like that in the heat of battle. But it’s not productive.

It’s like saying…

“I don’t want to learn about production processes, I don’t want to be any wiser about obstacles that come up on the manufacturing side, forget all that technical mumbo jumbo… I just want it riiiiggght!!!!”

Now in reality, no serious buyer in China sourcing wants to be this way but our actions show that we practically function this way more times than we think about.

(Side note: consider that learning that technical “mumbo jumbo” and learning about production processes will actually make your a more learned and skilled buyer in not only importing but also selling the product…. I know that may be a “duh” moment, but buyers act like they don’t care about learning what goes on behind the curtain).

Lastly, keep in mind that with the “I don’t care, just fix it”, the supplier may end up making another attempt that is equally wrong with more time and money lost.

Not acceptable”: This is first cousin to “I don’t care just fix it”. Instead throwing out an abrupt rebuke on what’s “not acceptable”, be sure to spend some quality time with your supplier
on clarifying what is acceptable and how to implement

“I know production has started but we need to make some change”:

“Yikes! Who’s going to pay for the change? Are we supposed to stop production? Is what’s already completed going to be rejected? You pushed us and pushed us from the beginning so why is this red flag serious?”

…these are all examples of what the factory starts thinking in this situation.

Or, even worse, communication doesn’t go efficiently enough go from the supplier’s sales office to the production line and they don’t actually stop production but keep proceeding with the original specs.

“I’ve got a lot of quotes from your competitors, I need your quote asap”: This is how not to get a quote and if you do get a quote, then beware. You didn’t take their potential partnership seriously, therefore, chances are, the supplier is not seriously calculating the quote.

In China sourcing, you want the supplier to appreciate your inquiry and carefully calculate. Otherwise, you may end up confirming to your buyer an incorrect price.

Discussing payment terms close to shipment: Unless it’s been clarified up front and unless you’ve got a long-term good working relationship with the factory, they are assuming the balance payment is in their account before the goods leave their factory. Raising these concerns close to the end of production can create a worry with the supplier over your commitment to pay. This in turn can actually lead to a delay.

Clarify payment terms way in advance and put your red flag away.

Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find him on his blog.

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