From the newest buyer to “Asia experts” that have imported for decades, there tends to be a set list of the things that buyers underestimate.

I’ve seen the most grizzled importer get caught off guard.

Although what happens has happened before.

The savvy buyer vows they know anything can happen when dealing with overseas vendors.

Then once the perceived mischief takes place, the flabbergasted buyer exclaims “how could this happen?!?!”

But the thing that happens is something that’s par for the course.

For whatever reason, imperfections that are CONSISTENT still seem INCONSISTENT to buyers.

Here’s a quick rundown of the things that buyers underestimate.

Supplier motivation:

Suppliers are not necessarily quick to jump on your next project. Somedays they are Johnny-on-the-spot with responses. Then there’s silence from them and you get a text that says “So sorry, we’re very busy these days”.

This is one of the great mysteries.

They could be handling larger cases.

Staff changes prevent good service.

This happens from vendors you order from on multiple occasions. Even given them good sized orders and good money, so it seems.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the years, that regardless of the faithfulness of the buyer, there’s still a ceiling to the supplier’s ability of caring and serving.

Thorough responses from vendors: 

Connected to lack of motivation is piss poor responses. You may think you’ve eloquently pitched a project to your vendor and painted the picture of great opportunity.

They come back with a 1 sentence message that says, “sorry, we don’t make that”.

Then when you finally convince a supplier to jump onboard, the response and quotations are piecemeal at best.

Detail the vendor requires:  

This one is justified from the vendors’ side but buyers tend to still not get it.

The vendor cannot see what you’re thinking. Zero mind reading powers.

“Show us something that looks good” still doesn’t get the vendor to start jumping through hoops.

Buyers, regardless of decades of experience, still forget they need to provide suppliers with as much information as possible.

Less words, more drawings, images and examples.

It’s like the buyer knows they need to do this, but still hoping they can get through a project by providing as little detail as possible.

Accuracy of quotes:  

You have to check your quotes. Regardless of the advancement of technology, artificial intelligence and cameras on Mars, suppliers will still come back and say, “Sorry, we didn’t see that in your RFQ. The quote is too low”.

Buyers underestimate the amount of back-and-forth it takes over a quotation to make sure everything is there.


Yes it’s cheaper to go offshore, but perhaps not as cheap as you thought. And it probably ain’t going to get any better any time soon.

With the trade wars and rumors of trade wars this day and age, this rings ever true.

Continual need for control: 

Buyers underestimate the vigilance required for each order.

You mean orders that we’ve placed before?

Especially with orders you’ve placed before.

Factories cut corners. They’ll attempt to cut costs by sourcing substandard material. Or they’ll simply screw up. Their record keeping is poor, they didn’t keep samples, whatever the case may be.

Repeat orders require vigilance.

Variations in mass production:

Buyers forget to consider the context and perspective of their item. Factories send photos that all too often have bad lightening and poorly proportioned.

Unless your standard is holding up the polyresin elf statue and looking up his nostrils, you shouldn’t use a photo that up-close as a standard of viewing the item.

Look at the item in perspective.

Consider the size of the item, the production processes and the point of the item. Nobody sticks a figurine 5 centimeters away from their eyeballs to check the paint lines. The purpose of the figurine is that it sits on the mantle. View it from that perspective. Surgical tool it ain’t.


With the communication, the back-and-forth sampling, mass production, shipping and delivery. You’re talking 50 to 90 days for your container.

Plan accordingly.

Don’t underestimate the time it takes for the factory to get the samples right.

Consider that mass production may meet some snags.

How about strikes at the Los Angeles port? Seems to be a bi-yearly event.

***Hoping your project goes right without a mapped out plan and provisions for delays may lead to hope deferred.