Monday, August 22, 2011

Sampling Strife

In the Western mind;  you pay for a product, you expect it to be right.  But how do you define the term “right”?  You expect it to be “right” as far as your mind, background and surroundings define the term.

Good quality, achieve expectations, accurately represent the brand….all these help define “right” in your mind.

Is this how the factory determines, “right”?  How do you know your “right” and their “right” are the same?  I can tell you from experience, that it’s two different “right’s”.

Let’s take a sampling process.  You’re a distributor in the promotional product industry and you decide to go offshore.  You give the factory your artwork, specs and ask them to start the sample.  9 times out of 10, especially if it’s a first-time factory or a new item (and normally in the promotional production industry, it usually is a new item), the factory will send you an invoice for setup charges.

Western mind:  The factory requested a payment, this payment represents what the factory needs in order to get the job done right.  They have analyzed the project, they feel they can fulfill the request and it’s a project they hope to take all the way to order status and make successful.   

Factory mind:  We need a payment just to look in to the job and do a sample run.  Once the sample is complete, we’ll discuss ways to “get it right in production” or via other sampling runs…of course there will be additional charge for these sample runs.

The Western buyer assumes before requesting the sample payment, the factory analyzed the job, has an understanding of the sample and how to manufacture the piece according to the specs.

I’d go as far to say this assumption, is rarely the case. 

Think about payment simply as a key you pay the factory to unlock a door.  That door has a sign on it, which says, “Now We’re Starting to Care”.  Not “We’re going to do this and do it right”, “We want this to be a winning project”…no.  The payment, gets the project on their radar and leads to minimal effort to put out a sample. To the Chinese vendor, the payment is a goodwill sign that shows you are sincere and that there are legs to this project. 
Their environment doesn’t lead to the attitude of going above and beyond the call of duty and really making this a superior project.  Their attitude and environment produces the spirit of minimal work, minimal effort and hoping it goes over the line. 

The scenario typically plays out that you’ll get the sample and it will be wrong (usually you paid the freight to receive the sample).  It may not be completely wrong, but it’s not quite right, it’s not what you need to present to the brand and if you do present it to the brand, it may be hard to secure an order based on this piece.   

The sticky thing about controlling orders in China is that you can give the factory a list of 9,999 things to do and not to do, but they will still find something that’s NOT ON THE LIST! 

You’ll see factories make decisions that, in a million years,  you would not have considered they would make.  Something random, such as change the color when no color change was ever discussed, mentioned or needed. 

Their response:  “Well if you didn’t want it that way, then you should have told us.  You should have given us 10,000 points of control instead of 9,999!”  

With sampling processes, it’s a big game of “chicken and egg”.  Factories hate doing samples, even if you pay them.  They only want orders.  But how can you order without the sample?  How can they expect to sell quantity without first providing a sample? 

Stay tuned and we’ll take this Back to the Basics on the next post and discuss ways to smooth the sampling process. 

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