China vendor communication is something you have to get used to

I had an email from someone yesterday who said they sent some money to a vendor in Shenzhen ten days ago and had yet to hear anything from the vendor. The money was for a sample and this person has just not been able to get a hold of the vendor, by email or skype. He told me he thought he had been “ripped off.” My advice to him was simply to give it a little more time. Chinese vendors are notorious for flakey communication. They will not reply to your emails, they will give you email addresses that don’t work, phone nos that don’t work. Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time tracking someone down. This is not by design but is just run-of-the mill chaos in China. In fact I have one client in the US who seems to call on me anytime he has tried but failed to reach a vendor. The funny thing is that these are all vendors he has met in person but yet he cannot seem to maintain contact with them for one reason or another. They disappear for a while without informing him, they change their contact info without informing him, they change their website etc etc. They are very hard to find sometimes but I usually find them and they are always very nice and a bit perplexed at my customer’s panic.

I also told the person who had emailed me that most Chinese businesses are honest and they are not in the habit of taking someone’s sample fee and disappearing. But that does not mean it does not happen sometimes. All the more reason to look at a company as closely as possible before you do anything with them, even if it is just a sample. If they do not look extremely professional, with a fairly standard website and a physcial contact address, then you need to think twice about giving them your money.

Needless to say, you should also appear very professional when you approach vendors in China. An unscrupolous vendor or individual in China might think twice about ripping off a company that appeared established, whereas they might not think anything of taking a sample fee from an indiviual who had simply approached them with a lone project. But, once again, these are just the unscrupulous ones. Most vendors in China are not out to steal your sample fees. Don’t worry.

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