Most of us think that buying en China is like going to the supermarket around the corner to buy bread and wine, however we then realise that by

the time we go out from our home to when we get back with the groceries, the path was difficult and we do not come back with our bread and wine that we originally wanted.

Without taking necessary precautions to assure a healthy buying process, we can find ourselves to receive a bicycle instead of a 250cc motorbike, or get a cup when we ordered a plate. This can make you smile,
you can say to yourself what idiot could receive a bike instead of a motorcycle! But this was in fact a common case with a number of buyers whom we call “Sunday shoppers”, who thinks it is easy, all that is needed is to send an email and it will work out… unfortunately for them, the reality couldn’t be further from that.

To understand one of the causes of this problem, we need to understand this Chinese expression: Cha bu duo (差不多) which means “almost the same”. During the 10 years of buying in China, we have heard this thousands of hundreds of times. Why? Because it is the Chinese mentally for most of them, the almost the same is very similar to the original… which means to them, there is no difference between almost the same and original, so it is all good! You want a red car and we give you a blue one, it’s almost the same! You want a Ferrari and we give you a Peugeot, it’s almost the same!

However, the problem doesn’t only come from there, it also comes from our European buyer’s mentality, where we may say in Europe, we are going to get what we want, and it’s easy! False, because the mentalities are not the same as well. We have to remind ourselves that China opened its borders to the world only a decade ago and The people don’t have an understanding of the trends and customs in Europe. How do you want that a salesperson, paid 3000 rmb/month (about 500 USD/month), who has limited access to the Internet and who has never traveled abroad, could possibly understand your needs? We need to be understand and be in their shoes without coming on our high horses thinking everything is known!

Anyway, buying in China remains complicated even today!

Find below some useful tips to successfully buy in China:

Always conduct an audit of the company to insure that it exists. Buying online or over the phone does not verify that a company is real. The Chinese culture is very different than the European culture, it would be ideal to get an agent locally who will deal with companies.

This agent can be one of the following:

  • A trading company specialising in the product range wanted
  • An independent agent located in China
  • A company specialised in quality control
  • An employee at full time or part time role in your company

These different ways of acquiring an agent will allow you to have a contact locally who will talk to companies, deals with quality control and logistics. Of course, these agents have all a cost but are necessary for the well-being of your purchases.

It has to be noted that the cost is minuscule compared to what you could lose (in money but also time) if thecompany tricked you.

Always sign a proforma invoice; this document will be the contract between you and the supplier. It’s important to write down all the specifications related to the products you ordered (for instance; size, weight, quality, material…) in the proforma invoice. A photo and/or a sample is always a plus to insure the order.

Always refuse to pay the company in full before the order has been produced. The classic payment method is X% deposit and the rest after production or after the merchandise is delivered.

Never pay the supplier by western union or PayPal. These types of payment do not allow visibility and no guarantee of delivery of merchandise.

Sourcing company or trading company?

If you decide to deal with a company implemented in China, you would want to go towards either a sourcing company or a trading company.
But what is the difference between these entities?

In short, the sourcing company will propose to find suppliers according your demand whereas the trading company will propose products that they work with on a regular basis.

To clear it up, the sourcing company is comparable to a carpenter who will build a cupboard based on your specification whereas a trading company can be compared to the IKEA brand where you would go to buy a cupboard based on what they offer!

Generally, the trading company could offer sourcing services but the opposite is not always true!

Quality control, what is it?

The original definition of quality control is to assure the delivery of the product from the supplier corresponds to the product ordered.
Remember the story of the bicycle received instead of the 250cc motorbike. If a serious quality control has been completed, the bicycle shouldn’t have been sent instead of the motorbike.

This step is absolutely necessary if we want to receive what we purchased!

Once that the products have been ordered, you may ask yourself: How to deliver the goods from China to me?

The logistic, what for?

“To deliver your goods from a A location to a B location”, this would be the easiest definition but many tricky things can be found behind it.
So how to deliver these goods? By Air, Sea or Train, everything depends on the delivery time you need but the money you want to put in as well.

Caution : The incoterm you’re going to write down on the proforma invoice you signed with the supplier, can make you win or lose lots of money. For more information, please contact us!

In conclusion

Now you know almost everything about buying goods in China, but if you have any doubts, questions or problems, please contact us using our website: