I've mentioned that seeing products "on the ground, first hand" at a trade show or at the factory lets you really make sure you know the goods you're talking about… and that you can't necessarily trust what you see on your computer screen.
In the next part of the mini-course I'm going to talk a bit about some questions you should be asking possible suppliers and how to judge the responses that you're getting. For now, let's cover some basic DOs and DON'Ts of dealing with your new Chinese suppliers:
Playing it safe when sourcing in China
Deal with companies, not individuals.
Get full contact details and company information as early as possible.
Ask plenty of questions and speak on the phone if you are unsure.
Ask if the company has any overseas representatives, offices, or agents that you can also speak to.
Research the company by looking at their website, comparing their listings and products on different trade directories, and by doing web searches for their company name.
Ask questions to other buyers in online trade forums to see if anyone has feedback on the company.
Get samples shipped to you by courier so you can track the delivery.
...send money in any form other than Bank Transfer or PayPal, and get professional advice about using Letters of Credit for large orders.
...make any orders before you see samples. Don't deal with companies which you can't buy samples from. (However, lots of Chinese suppliers will be reluctant to sell you samples because their staff are too lazy or they have no mechanism for sending out small packets - keep trying a couple of times if they initially refuse.)
...make large orders before you have negotiated specifications of the products and packaging, and payment / delivery terms down to the clearest detail.
...deal with companies making fake branded goods, other counterfeits, pirated software / DVDs, or grey market goods.
...trust companies that start immediately pushing you with unreasonable or unfriendly demands -- that is not the natural Chinese way!
A negative tip!
If you've sent money to China for products and you think you've been cheated, there isn't much point complaining to local Chinese chambers of commerce, bureaux, or embassies. They may be concerned but they haven't got the resources to police the Wild East for you!
A positive tip!
If you are waiting for your products to arrive and you think the supplier has just vanished with your money, you probably haven't been cheated (yet).
It is probably just the Chinese supplier being slow to respond, or disorganised.
Be patient and try different ways of contacting them. If there is some disagreement over the goods, the prices, or the terms, state your position clearly but don't immediately come in with complaints and threats, because this could cause you to lose communications completely.
In a problem situation, remain positive and polite in all your communications as long as possible, even if you're losing hope of a good solution.