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GOLD! Sharing my lifetime experience in export/import. Product sourcing specialist.

Discussion in 'Product Creation, Inventing, Importing, Sourcing' started by Walter Hay, Sep 17, 2014.

  1. DejiDojo
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    DejiDojo New Contributor

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    Awesome thread I've been looking to get into the import business for a very long time but have always been coming up short due to a lack of experience in a variety of areas. Besides reading your book which I will no doubt soon be reading what other advice would you have a a novice embarking on this en devour?

    3-5 critical tips would go well.
     
  2. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Here are a few tips for newcomers:
    Don't buy from wholesalers. They buy from manufacturers and you can too while pocketing the extra margin.
    Don't believe everything you read on forums. Even the most generous and altruistic experts don't tell you the full story online. Many "experts" whose stuff I read are clearly amateurs who have been lucky with some importing but they feed unsuspecting newbies with bad advice. Don't believe me either without some evidence to show that I do give sound advice.
    Don't be scared by some of the myths, such as "Importing is very complex," or "You have to buy big quantities to get factory prices," or "You need to haggle to get the best prices."
    Don't ever pay by WU and don't place a big order first time, even if you have checked out samples.

    TOPIC HEADINGS PREVIOUSLY POSTED IN THIS THREAD:
    Introduction. Dealing with myths and misinformation.
    Some things you should know or do before you start product sourcing.
    Traveling to source supplies. Do you need to visit China? Trade Fairs.
    The difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress.
     
  3. Guest3722A
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    @Walter Hay I'm looking to find something to laser cut and sell online and thanks to @OnlineGodfather for pointing me to some incredible ideas, I'm thinking I'd like to order some pocket knife varieties through an alibaba supplier. My question is, do you think I would have any trouble with customs getting them to the US? Thanks for this thread and TIA!!
     
  4. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I doubt that you will have any problems with USCBP provided the knives are not illegal.

    If buying through Alibaba, are you sure you are dealing with a genuine manufacturer, or just someone who claims to be? You may think you are getting a good price, but if it is not a manufacturer of the knives you will not be getting the best price.
     
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    Very sound advice. But now I am curious on how I would approach a manufacture and ask for a small to medium supply of products without letting on I am a novice. Do they even care?

    Just curious but why is WU bad? I've never needed to use it before. Are there huge chances for scams or something of the sort?

    P.S. About me I am a very skeptical person. But I also believe that all things worth while involve a little risk. The key is to minimize that risk as much as possible. Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained.
     
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  6. Guest3722A
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    Thank you very much for that info! Yeah, I gotta dig in a little deeper I guess. To get down to the actual manufacturer, is there a path I could take? I think I ran across some info a while ago, but I can't quite remember.... I think it had to do with asking/learning if they have an actual factory???

    edit: And something else if I remember correctly, I think I'd need to also check to see if their items sold are all n the same basic niche. Like a company that sells knives and rubber duckies is probably a red flag?
     
  7. Shdreams
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    I'm curious how you get permission to unload someone elses product. I know it might be a ridiculous question. But it's one I need answered lol I can't just scoop up 10k in the hottest product without being a franchisee?
     
  8. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Skepticism is a good trait to have, particularly when you are thinking of spending money. But I agree that you should minimize risk as much as possible. In relation to that, I believe that knowledge is power. Sadly I see too many people jumping in the deep end just relying on snippets of information they have picked up on forums.

    To avoid seeming like a novice, you need to:
    • Identify yourself as an established importer.
    • Give yourself a title such as purchasing manager.
    • Don't ask what is the MOQ.
    • Don't ask immediately for a sample. Instead, request a catalog, whether online or printed -- preferably the latter. It can tell you a lot that is hard to find online.
    • Don't promise to place large orders.
    • If completing an online sales inquiry form, leave out the expected order quantity. If it is required field, insert 000000.
    WU is very risky because scammers rarely accept payment by any other method. In brief, the technique they use is to ask for payment to an individual. They collect cash and run. In exceptional cases, where you have built a relationship with a supplier WU can be used safely.

    Walter
     
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  9. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Yes if the product range is too diverse that is a red flag. It can be a complicated process identifying a real manufacturer.
    Maleek posted a good comment on Friday when he wrote:
    "Have you ever tried reach out to a manufacturer and ask for a tour of the factory? I find that's a relatively easy way to find out if they're the real deal or not" I would add that if they say No, then you know they are not manufacturers, but if they say Yes, that does not prove that they are. In fact even if you visit, you cannot be sure that they actually own the factory you are visiting. It may belong to a "cousin." (Everyone in business in China has "cousins" also in business.)

    Please see my more complete answer to this question that I posted on Friday at 1:45 PM
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2018
  10. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    If it is a registered brand, chances are you will be breaking the law if you import those goods for resale. Even importing for private use could result in your name and address (or importer number) being flagged by Customs, and for ever after your shipments will be delayed for thorough inspection.

    TOPIC HEADINGS PREVIOUSLY POSTED IN THIS THREAD:
    Introduction. Dealing with myths and misinformation.
    Some things you should know or do before you start product sourcing.
    Traveling to source supplies. Do you need to visit China? Trade Fairs.
    The difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress.
     
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  11. Cruiser
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    Tank you Walter!
    I will check that, thanks for all the info!
     
  12. BusinessBen
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    BusinessBen Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Hey Walther,

    I got my landed cost! It's still from the same manufacturer as the others I emailed did not respond. For me to get wholesale pricing, I would have to order 200. So the price for 200 and 50 replacement parts is 3283$. If I wanted to sell one product and one set of replacement parts at 47$, my total profit would be 3357$. Does this seem worth it to you?

    Edit: I could also only sell the product for 35$ and make 3457$ profit and just sell the replacement parts separately.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2014
  13. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    There seems to be a discrepancy in your figures. Your edit states a higher total profit when selling for less.

    Regardless of that, my concern is whether the profit is net after selling costs such as eBay, Amazon, PayPal, and postage. If it is a net figure, then doubling your money is probably OK, although I would not settle for that personally.

    If you want to proceed, I would now try to negotiate a sample order of maybe 100 in order to reduce your risk. The smaller order may increase your per unit freight cost slightly, so you would need to decide if the small reduction in profit is worth it for your first order.

    It seems to me that selling replacement parts separately makes more sense.

    Walter
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
  14. Bigguns50
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    Bigguns50 Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    Thank you for this thread @Walter Hay .... really great !

    I have very limited experience but I have had some product samples sent to me. One guy said "You can send me the shipping cost of $50). I ran .... FAST !

    I also got stung when I set up the shipping instead of the 'manufacturer'. AFTER that I discovered the government subsidies their shipping costs. Good schooling.
     
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  15. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    It is common practice to have to pay for shipping on free samples, but I recommend telling the supplier that you have had good service with airmail from China Post, so please send the sample by airmail.

    In fact it could take up to a few weeks to get the sample that way, but the supplier will rarely want you to pay even for the postage. It's worth a try.

    Walter
    EDIT. Quoting your Air Courier account number can be risky unless you have prearranged a good deal from your courier and got it in writing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2014
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  16. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I promised a post about visiting factories in China, and here it is:

    TRAVELING TO CHINA TO VISIT FACTORIES

    For those who have both the time and money available, face to face visits are impossible to beat when it comes to building relationships, conducting due diligence and checking manufacturing facilities and procedures.

    Never go to China without thorough preparation. If you intend visiting factories, there is no point in the exercise unless you are very confident that the supplier is one you want to do business with.

    It is important to remember that China is a huge country and travel within Chinese cities can be appallingly slow. It is acceptable to let the potential suppliers know when you will be in the country and that you will contact them on arrival in the city where you will be staying. Having arranged to visit them, check all travel arrangements necessary to be there on time. The hotel staff will usually help you with this.

    I will introduce this subject with a story about finding a supplier’s factory in Taipei. When I first started visiting China as an importer, I already knew my way around Taipei in Taiwan because I had for some years been exporting to Taiwan as well as mainland China where my biggest customer was.

    As an exporter I had been introduced to many businessmen, mostly “cousins” and from those introductions I eventually set up as an importer in 1987. The problem was that most of the cousins could not satisfy my product requirements so I had to look elsewhere.

    I knew how to make contact with potential suppliers, and I made a point of visiting them as part of my due diligence. One of the reasons was that I wanted to deal only with manufacturers, so I needed to visit their premises. This is where the fun began.

    Unlike India or Pakistan, the addresses of people and businesses in China (and Taiwan) are set out in a very orderly fashion. On one visit I had to find two potential suppliers whose addresses did not sound auspicious. They went something like this: No. 75, Alley 16, Lane 23, Nanking East Road. An alley off a lane!

    The two could not have been more different. Chalk and Cheese! The first I found after a hair-raising taxi ride which stopped in the lane, unable to reach the alley, because of heaps of cartons, bicycles, motor scooters etc., clogging access. Eventually on foot I found the alley, then the premises.

    In the usual fashion I was treated to tiny cups of Jasmine scented green tea, but there was so little room that even the sofa where guests should be received had to be cleared for sufficient space to sit down. The staff of 3 were continually interrupted by the telephone, and it did not take me long to decide that this was simply a wholesaler, or reseller, or agent, who knew little about the product type I sought although they had advertised it.

    The second one was not very far away so I walked and was amazed to find in their alley a gleaming showroom, with well set up offices, and the light manufacturing process being carried out in immaculate premises upstairs. I dealt with that manufacturer for about 4 years until my business began to leave that product line.

    Once you arrive at the business premises, you will usually be greeted on arrival by someone who may appear to be a junior staff member, but it is customary for a female staff member to be appointed as your hostess. She will speak good English and her mission is to make you feel like an honored guest while observing strict propriety.

    She will often have some authority to negotiate, but price negotiations on the first contact are not desirable. Do that later in your visit, or even later on your return home. Visits are usually restricted to the reception area, where you usually drink Jasmine flavored green tea. If you empty your cup, it will be refilled.

    Before leaving home you should have asked to visit the factory. If the factory is on the same premises as the office you are in, you may be sure you are dealing with a manufacturer. If taken to another location, do the following to determine whether or not the people you are dealing with own the factory: Assuming you cannot read Chinese, just compare Chinese characters on signs outside the premises with those on the business card supplied by your hosts.

    Bear in mind that factories are often multi-story, with a multitude of businesses in the same building, so there may not be a noticeable sign. In that case ask the factory manager for his card. If this causes embarrassment or he cannot supply one, it strongly suggests that you are dealing with an agent, not directly with the manufacturer. If you request a card, you should also offer yours. Ask your hostess, “Do you own this factory?” You will only know the answer is truthful if she says no. If she says yes, you cannot be sure. This is not necessarily due to dishonesty, as she may misunderstand your question, or she may interpret it to mean, “Is this the factory that produces all of your products?” The investigations done prior to your trip will also help in your assessment.

    One thing that you will find is that determining whether or not the supplier is a genuine manufacturer is not easy. I now find it easier to determine that by using the reports published by independent European inspection services and found on a few B2B sourcing sites, and I would limit my visits to those suppliers that have been verified in that manner.

    Don't forget, if you want to find your way back to your hotel, make sure you have the hotel’s card to show to the taxi driver.

    Walter
     
  17. Simon Ashari
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    Simon Ashari Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Fantastic info in this thread.

    I have a question about your product selection process.

    Do you look for products and then investigate potential demand?

    Or do you find a need in the market and then see if a product can be sourced?

    Or is there another way?

    Cheers
     
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  18. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I am no longer selling any physical products. I retired a few years ago, and I have never done any serious online marketing.

    With that disclaimer behind me, let me just say that the two highly successful businesses I started from zero both involved products that were in high demand. I knew about the first one because I had been a successful salesman in that industry.

    My first real business: I knew there were major product improvements possible, but my boss would never allow me to make any changes. A year after I left that job and could not find any suitable sales position I said "Heck, I know where there is a market for a product that has not yet been developed!" It was an industrial chemical product and I played around with formulas until I found the right one, and I launched it on the market. Within 3 years I had a national monopoly in that specialized area, and within 11 years I was exporting the product to Asia Pacific countries. Price was not an issue. I could ask whatever I wanted because the product eclipsed the competition from some of the biggest chemical companies in the world. They were stuck in a rut. I thought outside the square.

    My second real business: A passing complaint by a family member about the atrocious service his business was getting from every supplier they had tried for a particular product, triggered an idea. During my many visits to China as an exporter I had been urged by numerous contacts to consider importing what they manufactured. One such product was the exact type that my family member had mentioned. I started by buying locally to test the market, but quickly tired of the poor service and indifferent quality, so I began buying from China. Wow! Better service, faster delivery, and substantially superior quality all at incredibly low cost. That low cost did not stop me from selling at prices way higher than my local competition, because I was also selling something they could not get: service.

    So to answer your question more directly, I found a need in the market and then in Business #1 developed the product and made it myself and in Business #2 I accidentally found a need in the market and I sourced the product overseas. By the way I did not buy from the business that offered me their product while I was in China.

    Walter
     
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  19. Simon Ashari
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    Gold right there.

    When I think of people importing from China, I always default to thinking about cheap toys etc.

    I don't think of chemicals or other such products.

    Your answer inspires a new question:


    Was the process of 'playing around with formulas' easy or a hassle?

    How did you go about doing it and organizing it with the manufacturer?
     
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  20. GregH
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    Is this just for certain types of products or all products?
     
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  21. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    The chemicals I refer to were industrial products used in a few industries. I am not a qualified chemist, and that is why I said 'playing around with formulas'. I had a good idea from practical experience that certain chemicals would enhance the performance of the products that almost every factory in those industries used, and so I experimented with many, many variations until I found one that worked very well. I had to test it in production and the production manager at one of the factories where I used to sell the inferior product was happy to try it. After a short production run he placed a big order on the spot. The experimenting took me a long time and required a huge amount of patience and persistence. I manufactured the product myself to maintain secrecy.

    If you can find a market for industrial chemicals, you can do very well importing from China, but most chemical companies there will expect commodity size orders. You would need to look for "Specialty Chemicals" in order to find smaller companies that will be happy to deal with you.

    You can source almost any product imaginable from China. but I would avoid Electronics, Food, and Food Supplements.
     
  22. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    It is not all products, but there can be many surprises. If labor is not a huge factor, the product may be competitive with China in many other countries.

    Just look at retail stores and see what types of manufactured products made in Germany, Italy, USA, Australia etc, are retailing at prices equal to or even lower than similar products from China.

    I recently purchased batteries for small electrical devices and they were made in Germany. Quality is great and the prices matched those from China.

    The lowest prices I ever saw for souvenir decals were from a manufacturer in Italy.

    I have seen stunning original design jewelry in the Czech Republic that you would never see in most western countries and the prices were amazingly low.

    Low wages are not the only factor. I know of one labor intensive factory in Boston MA, where the business is booming and believe it or not, the average age of the workers is over 70! They are paid regular wages, but the company says they provide better productivity than younger workers, and as a result this long established business remains competitive and sales continue to grow.

    The moral of the story is - think outside the square.

    TOPIC HEADINGS PREVIOUSLY POSTED IN THIS THREAD:
    Introduction. Dealing with myths and misinformation.
    Some things you should know or do before you start product sourcing.
    Traveling to source supplies. Do you need to visit China? Trade Fairs.
    The difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress.
    Traveling to China to visit factories.
     
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  23. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    DO YOUR SUPPLIERS USE CHILD LABOR OR SLAVE LABOR?

    There is something quite simple that all importers from China can do to avoid buying from sources that take unfair advantage of employees or even worse, employ under age, indentured, or slave labor.

    I teach safe sourcing and among the things I do is advise people to avoid the big popular websites. One of those big sites, Alibaba does have an audit system that sometimes includes social responsibility compliance verification, but it only applies to suppliers displaying a red tick in a blue circle and it is essential to read the whole audit report. Two of the sites that I recommend instead of the big sites routinely have supplier assessment processes that include not only verification of their manufacturing capability, but also verification of social compliance.

    This means that they satisfy the strictest rules regarding employees' ages and working conditions, as well as social responsibilities.

    During my many visits to China since I started exporting there in 1978, I have seen great improvements in working conditions. I have visited numerous factories and examined their manufacturing processes.

    When I began importing in 1987, conditions in the factories operated by most of my suppliers were on a par with conditions I had observed in other countries such as USA, Australia, and the UK. A few had some way to go to catch up.

    Now, when I visit those socially responsible manufacturers they have premises that look more like pharmaceutical factories than industrial premises. The industrial processes that generate dust no longer show signs of that dust on the floors. Cleanliness is almost clinical. Workers have plenty of room. Floors have line markings to separate production areas from forklift and trolley traffic areas so risk of injury is very small.

    Some of these improvements are a direct result of Government regulations, but others are a result of a pragmatic decision to satisfy western buyers. In either case the outcome is good for the workers.

    While it is a sad fact that China ranks as the 84th worst country for slavery I know that my importing students can be confident that they are dealing with manufacturers whose practices are as fair as those in any western countries. I can sleep with a clear conscience and I am sure so can my students who follow my methods.
     
  24. SeanyHang
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    I'm pretty new to importing (started about two months ago) and I've already learned so much as well as made a decent little chunk of cash. When emailing suppliers who I find on Alibaba, I've found that a bunch of suppliers will email me with a quote for the product I want, along with ipads for $56 or whatever their price may be. Although these suppliers are giving me a quote for my desired product, I usually skip over their emails because their little email-catalog of knockoff apple and samsung products seems too sketchy to me. Am I wrong for doing this? Do a lot of manufacturer's/suppliers sell this apple stuff (obviously knockoff or stolen)? I should note that these guys are usually the ones giving me the best quotes as well which in my opinion is just them saying "Hey dude... I'm going to scam the shit out of you :D ".

    Great thread btw!
     
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  25. Walter Hay
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    Walter Hay Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    You are absolutely right. These are scammers.

    None of them are manufacturers because it is only traders and wholesalers who offer a lot of unrelated products, whether fakes or not. You need to find real manufacturers if you want to make real money. The only ones you can be sure of on Alibaba are those with a red tick in a blue circle, (provided the audit report identifies their manufacturing capacity) but they tend to be the bigger ones.

    Look for some of the less popular sourcing sites and see if they have a proper verification system that includes identifying genuine manufacturers.

    TOPIC HEADINGS PREVIOUSLY POSTED IN THIS THREAD:
    Introduction. Dealing with myths and misinformation.
    Some things you should know or do before you start product sourcing.
    Traveling to source supplies. Do you need to visit China? Trade Fairs.
    The difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress.
    Traveling to China to visit factories.
    Do your suppliers use child labor or slave labor?
     

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