When to walk away from a vendor

I have a customer now who is in the home décor industry. His wife has decided that she wants to start selling high-end bags and to this end my customer visited a hand-bag vendor in China this past fall while he was there for the Canton Fair. This was not his first visit to this vendor as has had his eye on her bags for some time and always drops into her showroom when he is in Guangzhou. Still, the vendor, Ms Li, has been very elusive. Before he went to China last fall he had not been able to get a hold of her to confirm the date for the visit to her showroom and so he asked me to call her and set things up which I promptly did. After my client got back from China Ms. Li was supposed to send my customer a photo quote sheet for the 30 or so bags he picked out in her showroom but 2 months went by and he had not received anything. So once again he asked me to contact her (Ms. Li does not speak English). After several emails and phone calls I finally got a hold of Ms. Li, who is actually a very friendly lady. She told me that she didn’t really remember my customer and then she told me that she had already sent the quote to him. I kind of chuckled to myself at these contradictory revelations and just asked her to re-send the photo quotes to me. 3 days went by and nothing. Finally, I asked an ex-colleague of mine in Shanghai to call Ms. Li to find out if she wanted to do business with my customer or not. I kind of suspected that she had not been enthusiastic about his business because the QTYs were not large. His wife’s was a new business and they were starting out small as they should. Finally, on the day my Shanghai friend called and spoke with Ms. Li, I received about 20 photos of the bags along with a message in which Ms. Li said prices would be provided for the bags my customer was interested in. She had obviously lost the record of what my customer had selected in her showroom in Oct. Just out of curiosity, I asked my friend what her impression of Ms Li was and she replied: “I feel she is a nice girl or woman. And i feel she is not a mature sales person or higher level staff in their company. those are my direct feelings. it is a smaller factory, they are not so organized. maybe a nice sub contractor.”

I advised my customer that based on Ms. Li’s feeble engagement over the past several months, and the fact that he may not know that much about her, it might not be a good idea to do business with her. I can just see the frustration after my customer had ordered 20K worth of bags for Christmas 2013 and was not able to get a hold of Ms Li to find out where the bags were as the calendar months flipped by.

When I suggested to him it might be a good idea to start looking for another high-end bag vendor he told me that really liked Ms Li’s bags and would not consider anyone else. I can understand this because Ms. Li’s bags are very unique and their cost out of China approaches Coach retail prices in the US. I respect his quality standards.

Still I feel that if a vendor does not demonstrate to you that they really want your business then it can be very risky to give them an order. Unless of course you are prepared to go to China and manage the order with them. But I am not sure my customer is willing to do that. If not, then he really should forget about Ms. Li’s bags and maybe think of another line for his wife’s business.

nota bene just in case you are wondering, the bags pictured in this post are not the bags that I am talking about. The bags pictured cost about $ 3.00 out of China.

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