10 tips for avoiding trouble when sourcing goods in China

From the search for the lowest prices to fake lab test reports, in this article we explore the top 10 tips for avoiding trouble when buying manufactured goods in China.


Nowadays companies from the entire world source products that are directly or indirectly made in China. Nearly all buyers have stories about their experiences and surprises when dealing with Chinese vendors. At Willtech Gift, we have been designing and manufacturing Novelty Stationery and Decorated Objects for over 30 years, based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. We have experienced all the situations below while buying components and parts from Chinese companies. Thanks to this strong experience, we would like to share with you 10 tips you should follow in order to avoid trouble when looking for manufactured goods in China

1- Searching for the lowest price on B2B platforms – what does this price include?

Inexperienced buyers are often attracted by the low prices found on Alibaba, Global Source and others, only to be disappointed after getting the final quotation. Manufacturers and traders always reduce their selling prices on platforms to acquire customers first. Once the customer is interested they reveal the numerous extra costs.

When communicating with vendors on these platforms it is advisable to always ask for a detailed quotation including standard packaging, packing and shipping conditions. This will allow you to estimate the real price and prevent surprises.

2- Trusting Chinese companies that pretend having a factory – see it with your own eyes!

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of nowhere in remote regions of China, wondering why your mobile GPS doesn’t show the factory you are supposed to visit? Or facing a local bakery instead of the brand-new injection factory advertised by your Chinese manufacturer?

The best way to make sure your supplier isn’t embellishing the truth is to visit and see with your own eyes. If you are unable to do so, you can send a third party quality control organism to perform and audit. It might cost you a little but it is better to be safe than sorry. An audit will also let you know if the factory respects common social norms such as the safety of its workers or if it employs child labor. 

3- Trusting Chinese companies that pretend owning a factory – is it really theirs?

A couple of weeks ago I had an amusing conversation with a new customer who came to see by himself our facilities and premises (smart customer having overcome point 2). He told me the story of a sourcing trip in China in 2016. On the first day, he visited a factory with the boss, and the next day he visited the same factory, with another boss…  Bad luck, the factory didn’t even belong to any of the pretenders.

Always ask for business registrations and other relevant documents. The more questions you ask, the better chance of revealing any potential problems. If you have a friend or a trusted partner who speaks Mandarin, ask for his help. Never trust translators or translated documents provided by the factory.

4- Supplier complies with all your requirements? – let’s give a check!

Manufacturers like to exhibit their accreditations on platforms, websites, in company lobbies, in showrooms… Surprisingly, every Chinese manufacturer showcases all sorts of references. Fake accreditations are everywhere, it is a business itself.

To make sure the factory isn’t lying about accreditations you can double check on the official websites of the institutions. If you’re not sure if a lab test report is true, you can contact the laboratory who performed that test. They will be able to confirm the veracity of the document.

5- Do I need samples before placing order? – Preferably yes

After clearing all the previous stages you’re still not at rest! You’ll only be safe once goods are in your warehouse, checked and approved. In different cultures, there are different quality criteria and principles. Before placing any order, be clear and explicitly precise your needs, highlight every standard requirement, and detail the requested quality level. Detailing as much elements as possible will allow both parties to be clear on their commitments, sparing trouble afterwards. 

In order to make sure everything is running smoothly and without surprises you can regularly ask for updates. Agreeing on a sample will protect you from receiving a product that does not match the original design.

6-  Minor changes don’t require my approval? – certainly not

Imagine yourself finally receiving your good only to discover the shade of blue you wanted isn’t the same as the one used. For the supplier, some color variance might be acceptable but not for you.

Every variable must be explicitly detailed. Spending time on micromanaging and defining what might seem as obvious points is worth it to avoid being stuck with thousands of items that do not fit your requirements.

7- Need a lab test report? Supplier has one, great!

Temptation is high to rely on the existing test report to save costs. Some suppliers have lab reports from local or untrustworthy laboratories or even outright fake reports. Always prefer reports from laboratories you trust.

An already existing lab report should not prevent you from contracting one yourself. It allows you to be sure about the quality and compliance of your product and also receive updated information about the composition of the items. Spending extra dollars to work with recognized and respected laboratories instead of cheap local companies is worth it. 

8- Order placed, sample approved, lab test passed, production in progress, let’s rest a bit.

Production is running smoothly, the order is scheduled to arrive in 60 days…everything is fine! Can I rest for a while? Don’t let your guard down. It is common to have production delays, issues with part deliveries, shortage of materials…

Constant communication and monitoring is very important. Send the occasional email and ask for updates. Always consider delays in your planning.

9- Production done, the order is ready to ship. Anything else to do?

You’re almost done… You need to ask a couple of questions before being certain. You need to check the production in order to see if they comply with your initial specifications. 

At this stage, a lot of companies hire inspectors from third-party quality control companies to go to the factory and check the full order, right before shipment. If you provide those companies with clear and detailed requirements they can make sure the product is fit to ship during the inspection. As the customer, you have the final say concerning the shipment. You should release it only if the inspection report passes. 

10- The container is loaded, are there any further risks?

The last things to consider are of administrative nature. What is the date? Is there a custom reinforced scheme in progress? Are administrative documents all duly stamped and approved? Any container screening? Vessel is on schedule and my container is ranked 100+ in customs inspection queue? If the container isn’t loaded on board, the vessel can still leave without it. 

The key here is to anticipate those issues. They tend to happen whenever you’re most in hurry. At this stage you can ask for a copy of the BL / AWB as soon as the forwarder has loaded the shipment on board.

Following these tips, you can cover yourself from most of the hidden risks with buying products from Chinese suppliers. At Willtech Gift, we are aware that overseas buyers take chances when placing a first order to a new Chinese vendor, we’ve also experience that. With our 30 years of experience and our international sales team, we are happy to provide you with a fluid communication that will help you feel safe while we are designing and manufacturing your next collection of Novelty Stationery and Decorated Objects. 

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