A lot of importers may be familiar with deliberate actions from Chinese Suppliers which reduce product quality, such as substituting an inferior material without telling the buyer. However, along with dealing with issues like these (which are common in China) there are also the non-deliberate, but equally as frustrating, actions by Chinese suppliers which also compromise product quality.

One of these situations arose last week when we received a new shipment from our supplier. Before we placed the order we asked that all items have our bar code affixed to them. Upon receiving the new shipment, everything looked fine except for one of the products that came packaged with 2 inner boxes per master carton (i.e. each carton had 2 products in it, individually packaged). For some head-scratching reason, they decided to bar code the master carton and not the two cartons inside. Subsequently we had to manually re-barcode all of our items ourselves. Our supplier likely did this out of sheer ignorance rather than malicious action, but alas, that is China.

Over the years, I’ve encountered several such occurrences. Some of the best are:

  • Having a decorative stainless steel item engraved in very large letters “MADE IN CHINA”
  • Ordering spare replacement screw kits for one of our items which included 64 different screws per item.  Each different screw was mixed together in large box rather than separated out
  • Marking boxes containing black widgets “White widgets”, and marking the white widgets “Black Widgets”
  • Routinely on Master Cartons only Chinese Characters or some other ambiguous markings

I’m sure every importer could include their own list of head scratchers.

The big issue with these types of things is that you cannot plan for them. Even if you try to identify every foreseeable problem clearly in your order specifications, your Chinese Supplier will eventually find an unforeseen way to surprise you.

While no matter how clearly you lay out your specifications you may still be surprised, doing this will lessen how many times you experience such things. Ultimately though, one of the only ways you can truly eliminate such things is to actually have boots on the ground inspecting your shipment before it leaves China.