It is always amazing how some Chinese suppliers can take advantage of a situation, and then reject the fault on another party with a straight face. I just fell victim of it, because of a supplier that didn’t wait for his customer’s shipping confirmation.
Under FOB terms (or the corresponding FCA for air freight), the buyer controls the shipment. He appoints the forwarder (or organizes the transport by himself). An advantage is that he decides when the supplier should bring the products for shipment.
When a quality inspection takes place just before shipment, suppliers can easily be confused. Especially when the importer says “you can ship only if you pass the inspection”. When the QC inspection is passed, what happens? The short answer is: wait for the buyer’s green light. Unfortunately, this is not always respected.
Yesterday, one of my clients contacted me about an inspection performed a few days ago (on Friday). The factory was behind schedule, it was a small batch of products to send by air.
The inspection was supposed to take place during the day, and the goods (if accepted) were to be sent to the forwarder’s warehouse later that night. We did what we could to give the result early. Here is, basically, what they told me:
Based on the report you sent to us, we asked the supplier to make corrections before shipment because our customer would not accept their packaging.
But our supplier already brought the goods to the warehouse to avoid missing the closing time, and declared them to the customs. Now it’s impossible to get the products back in the factory!
When we protested, they told us “the inspector told the factory that there were no quality problems, and we could ship the goods out”.
Is it true?
It was easy to demonstrate that the inspector wasn’t at fault. The handwritten report was clearly failed, and it had been signed by the factory. Also, like most inspection companies, we give written a notice to the supplier that a passed report is not a permission to ship.
What happened is probably a misunderstanding between the Chinese trading company and the manufacturer. And I think they were just looking for a convenient excuse.
As a result, my client will have to re-order and change all the packaging in their warehouse. But the importer could have avoided it.
They knew the goods were scheduled to be ex-factory a few hours after the inspection, and they allowed it. This way, they showed to the supplier that respecting the schedule was more important than confirming good quality. This is really not a helpful signal.
What should the importer have done?
The importer should have allowed 2 days before the beginning of inspection and the decision to ship the goods. The inspection takes one day, and the buyer might need some time to contact his own customer and take a decision.
The buyer should also have clearly mentioned to the supplier that nothing could be shipped out without her written agreement. From what I understood, that’s what they will do from now on…