I import a lot of product from China. One thing I learned early on is that despite your best intentions, products may not always arrive the way you expect.
This last Monday I received my latest shipment of products.
Some more fishing reels and a new batch of fishing hooks.

But, as seems like is always the case, not everything was as expected…

This order of hooks is a great step forward in packaging and practicality for the products.
Previous packaging was very basic. Plain white cardboard boxes, 100 hooks inside, and little handwritten labels on the front. To ship each box of hooks we often had to add our own sticky tape to stop the box falling apart. This was time consuming when we realised we could sell lots of boxes of hooks per day on top of our normal sales.
So we set about designing some nicer labels, and organising some plastic resealable (and reusable) boxes.
This was pretty easy, I have a good contact for this in China and we communicate pretty well these days.

The newly packaged product arrived on Monday and looks very nice!

I like it a lot, and sales have been great so far!
Only, there was (as usual) an issue.
Every box of one type of hook, and one size only, had rusted and corroded hooks inside. I order hundreds of boxes of each hook size and type, so I have plenty of stock, but I now have 200 nice new boxes of a particular size and style, all stickered up, that I can’t sell.

I know it isn’t my contact’s fault, he doesn’t pack them. But it is frustrating. A quick MSN message and he confirmed with the factory that there was a problem with that batch and I will get 200 extra boxes in the next order.
Nothing ever goes exactly to plan!

Here are a couple of examples just from the last 12 months : Describe by email how to change colours of a rod. Result : You get a very strangely coloured fishing rod. Solution : send pictures next time!

Two cartons of fishing reels labeled as Type A, Specification A. (Open the reel boxes to find Type A, Specification B – different colour and style!)


So how do you avoid problems like this?

Buy from the biggest suppliers/manufacturers possible
The larger suppliers will most often be more professional in the way they handle orders, special requests, modifications of product from one shipment to another, and they may communicate better and have well trained english speaking staff to manage your account.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
Make sure you keep well in touch! This might be via email, phone (if they speak english well enough and providing the phone connection isn’t total crap which it often is) or instant messenger. Chinese suppliers LOVE instant messenger, as they use it extensively in marketing products to you. I only add suppliers that I have regular dealings with – they won’t spam you!

Double check
Double check order details, and confirm that any requests that you have made in the past have been actioned. I find it best to email these confirmations so I have a record of when I asked a supplier to do something and record of their response.

Try a magic eight ball
Magic eight balls might be helpful in accurately predicting the outcome of an order of new product. Cross your fingers and hope for the best!

So there, I hope that has been helpful. We are all guilty of not following the above points closely enough at one time or another. If you take those steps you can minimise the risk of incorrect product being shipped, and unnecessary return of items.
But there will always be factory mistakes, unfortunately it is just a fact of life when importing from overseas.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *