View Full Version : Importing 101?

Glen Monaghan
04-19-2013, 1:04 AM
I'm frustrated by my experience with a Chinese-made product and wondering about the feasibility of solving the problems by importing them myself, but don't have a clue how.

I've been selling about 200/month of a specialty engraved gift item (imported from China) which has a wood slab mounted onto a chromed steel base that has a color filled design cast on the sides. Twice in the last year my supplier has been backordered when I've gone to restock, leaving me dry for a month or so each time. So I bought greater amounts, restocked sooner, and the supplier said his computer would automatically send me a notice when stock dropped below a certain level so I could quick get in an order if desired. Well, I didn't get any notices but they are out and something happened to the next expected shipment, so now I have 6 weeks' supply remaining but the backorder is expected to take another 9-10 weeks to clear.

To top that off, there have been ongoing quality control problems such as misshapen/misplaced/gouged/poorly attached wood plates, bubbled/missing chrome plating, incomplete color fill, excessive color fill spilling over where it didn't belong, and various other nit noys. The supplier has always exchanged unusable pieces but it's getting ridiculous that every order has a different set of issues that often take inordinate amounts of time to clean up, fix, or work out with replacements. I've complained repeatedly to my supplier about the on-going quality problems but the response is, "They're from China, what can we do?"

Well, I recall Rodney talking about importing Chinese made products and saying there's no "free lunch", that a lower negotiated price will result in some sort of substitution of cheaper parts or reduction in quality or something else to compensate for the reduced price. Presumably, then, it is possible to negotiate for better product for an increased price... how hard would it be to import these items myself and specify a better quality? I assume it would cost me more than what my supplier is paying, but I'm paying him a marked up price now, so I have nothing to lose paying up to my current price and, actually, would consider paying a bit more if needed to guarantee consistent "use it out of the box with no rework required" quality. How does one get that "guarantee" with a Chinese supplier?

Not sure how minimums would work but I'd happily buy up to 2500 or 2600 (a year's supply) if I could get that quality for around my current delivered cost. That would also entail factoring in overseas shipping costs, customs costs, and I don't know what other costs since I've never done anything like this before, and I have no clue how to determine those costs. People have talked about brokers, would they be able to provide that information, and how to find/choose a suitable broker? A shipment of this magnitude would be something on the order of 400 kg total delivered to Ohio heartland country and I operate out of a residence, so can I even get something like that delivered, would a broker handle the arrangements or would I have to provide my own transportation from a commercial shipping center/depot near me?

Clearly, I'm clueless here. Can anybody with experience give me some advice or pointers to how to get started? I know the Chinese manufacturing company name and google says they have several facilities.

Rodne Gold
04-19-2013, 3:57 AM
The key is to appoint a good shipping/forwarding/clearing agent on your side , with offices in China , should not be too difficult. You want a door to door service.
You *can* furthermore appoint an agent in china to check QC etc..but in my experience , most of these are somewhat "slimy" and are susceptible to bribes and kick backs etc..
You will find that quality and communication etc increases DRAMATICALLY after a face to face meeting. I would take a trip to china to not only go visit the factory that makes the stuff to specify QC , but more importantly , to find other opportunities or products you can bring in..I can assure you that this will be worthwhile and be a total eye opener to you..as well as an adventure you can write off in your business as an expense...