A mistake buyers make when working with China is that they seem to think their suppliers are perfect, until the supplier drops the ball and then that seems to snap the buyer back to reality.

If the buyer starts out from the assumption that their supplier is human and prone to mistakes, then this would cause the buyer to proceed with caution in their sourcing and buying, thus leading to less quoting (and eventual) quality errors.

Better yet, if the buyer starts from the assumption that the supplier quotes from a low-cost, cheap labor industry and daily, provides quotes to many faceless buyers for projects that never come to fruition, then the buyer would really proceed with caution…

The buyer proceeds with a naivete, as if what the vendor says is as good as gold.

…Once the ball is dropped, problems surface and the buyer is indignant and cannot believe they are dealing with such carelessness.

Experience and common sense screams that when dealing low-cost manufacturing, it would be odd if errors, communication blips and awkward snafus weren’t part of the equation.

Questioning your own quotes would be a first line of defense. Instead of being giddy that the vendor quoted you and that you have something to turn in before all your competitors do, you want to spend time questioning the quote.

Think over it…

Consider it…

Stew over it…


Let’s start here. This is generally the first area that captures your eye when you open the quote.

Can the factory produce for this price and the quality still be what I expect?

Can the factory produce for this price, be satisfied and also make a benefit? – this is one that gets me. Sometimes you’ll have factories that quote erroneously low prices or buyers having budgets that are incredibly low and I think to myself… did they even consider where is the factory’s benefit?

If the factory makes quality errors, do they have sufficient padding to cover mistakes and waste or is it going to be tug-of-war later on?

Think about it. They’ve got to pay workers, overhead, buy material and still make a profit. A low price leads to adverse results.


Are all the specs I requested included in this price? –  You informed the factory this was supposed to be higher-end. Does this look like they included price points for a higher grade material?

Here is a guideline to use. If the factory does not REPEAT BACK in the quote the specs you provided, then do not assume the quote includes the requests.

If your specs are not repeated back either word for word or paraphrased within the quoted, do not assume the supplier quoted or is on the same page.

It’s basically the tedious process of going through the quote and saying, I asked for “a” did they quote “a”? I asked for “b”, did they quote “b”? And then you look for evidences in the quote or the email that they quoted as such.

If time allows, jump on a skype chat or send a bullet-pointed email, asking the supplier if each of your specs were included.

Delivery time:

I need this to be in my hands by such-and-such date; did the supplier give me timing parameters?

Does the quoted lead time include transportation to the port and sailing on the next sailing date?

Take time to consider your steps. Quoting products from overseas factories is not as simple as downloading tunes.

Take time to consider your steps. Quoting products from overseas factories is not as simple as downloading tunes.

Do these days start from the time I make the payment or the time I confirm the pre-production sample?

For more on delivery time complications and how the same words can mean 2 different things, see this post on Delivery Time Considerations.


Here’s the rule, is the quoted packing safe enough to get my product from the factory to the final destination without damage to the product?

I tell you, and this is from 13 years of working with China, many suppliers look at packing as if it’s of secondary importance and something to be figured out later.

Many quotes have the packing specs that were from 2 quotes back and the supplier just hasn’t bothered to change the specs.

But when you are quoting your shipping and ESPECIALLY if you are quoting air freight, all you promotional product buyers, then a change of a few kilos to the packing can put your order in a completely different price scale with the airline.

Is that too many pieces in a carton?

Is this the most efficient packing for air freight?

Did the supplier consider the proper inner, protective packing?

If you do not have time to critically analyze your quotes, then you may need to slow down.

The more you practice this, over time, this will become second nature in your importing arsenal.