Sampling is a necessary evil.

This is about the most positive view you may detect from your China supplier when it comes to the sampling phase.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the supplier begrudgingly undertakes the process and the entire thing is painful.

 Sampling Requires Back and Forth

China suppliers see the process, similar to the price quote. In other words, “of course it’s not going to be right the first time. Let us throw something together and if there is something you do not like, let’s discuss.”

It’s almost a casual attitude when dealing with sampling. It’s not something handled with kid gloves in order to secure business. It’s an obligation to shut up the buyer.

The Back-and-Forth Causes Loss of Patience

This is one of the great conundrums of China sourcing.

Suppliers realize sampling takes back-and-forth.

Suppliers do not necessarily put forth full effort to get it right the first time.

But when the buyer comes back and starts making changes and requests new pieces, the supplier quickly runs out of whatever steam they once had.

Whenever you try to make changes, the supplier may attempt to squelch your need for exactness by saying, “we’ll correct it during the order.”.

Also, as a side point, suppliers, especially when you are working factory direct, really do not like to communicate with clients. Although you are possibly bombarded with salesy emails from China suppliers, the truth is, when it comes time for an order, they do not want to actually communicate with the buyer. This is one of the reasons I advise to keep emails precise and pithy. Whenever you are able to use less words and communicate via mockups, photos and physical pieces, do so.

Sampling Fees

The supplier quotes a fee to get the sampling process underway.

Another conundrum is that suppliers do not particularly view the fee, the money you are charged, as an incentive to make a correct sample.

The fee is more of an incentive to do the sample. Remember, the sample, especially the more customized is viewed as favor from the supplier’s point of view.

The fee is more of a button that starts the ignition of the process. The right sample, the proper sample, comes later from the back-and-forth mentioned above. And sometimes more fee requested, not to mention the package freight expenses.

Suppliers’ Perspective

The supplier who agrees to make the sample, many times does not fully comprehend that the quality of this sample could make or break the order.

To many suppliers, the sample is to confirm WHAT you are going to order, not IF you are going to order.

Does that make sense?

A factory may have 1 client come to the factory. The client stays in a nearby hotel and during the day, they come to the factory with their designs. They may leave their designs or may stay long enough to see a sample or two made. But while they visit the factory, they go ahead and place an order for a container.

On the other side, you have another client  requesting factory audit proofs, samples and giving the factory, what the factory would consider a big runaround, without even an indication of a pending order.

1 client came to order and gives a nod to samples during the process. Another client requires (from the factory perspective) to jump through sampling hoops with no sign of an order on the horizon.

Money Loss

Suppliers view sampling as a money loss. To the supplier, the sample phase means resources used, special production line or station having to be set up, all the while, not knowing if the order is going to come to fruition.

Can you imagine how many clients request samples?

How many clients promise orders that never come?

Many suppliers prefer to skip the entire thing.

Many go through with the process, but they are not very eager and this bleeds over in to the quality of the sample and the service.

Some are eager but they are quick to become impatient with any changes and want you to push forward with an order.

Understanding the “why” behind hiccups and frustrations when dealing with Chinese suppliers, helps importers to better navigate the waters…so to speak.