Dealing with a Chinese Supplier as an Amazon Seller

columbusAs a kid I was always fascinated with the story of Christopher Columbus.

I admired his gaul to reach for the undiscovered, the unknown.

I could almost hear him in an Italian accent saying:  The world-a, she is-a round-a, not-a flat-a

In his day, he was right.  There were vast oceans and tremendous dangers and costs and it took months to cross the sea.

Fast forward a few hundred years.  If he were alive today, I do believe Mr. Columbus would say:  The world-a is no longer round-a.  Its-a flat-a again.

The dangers of crossing an ocean have dropped to a few hours and the risk and cost are practically nothing.

Its like the world is flat again…flat world

We live in a time where you can get items from almost anywhere in the world in a few days and for very little money.  

We can look into an electronic box and see and talk or type to almost anyone, anywhere in the world….for FREE!

Don’t speak the language?  No problem.  One click and the entire written message is translated into any of 100 plus languages.

Manufacturing costs in say China are a fraction of the cost for the same items made in say the USA.  And yes their quality is fine, BTW.

afraidSo why do people still have reservations about getting their items manufactured and shipped from outside of their own country?

The simple answer is, I don’t know.

But this wouldn’t be a very good blog post if I didn’t show you how to do this better and make you feel comfortable with ordering your items from overseas, would it?

Here are some comments that people typically say to me.

Mark, what if they take my money?

What if they somehow try and take advantage of me?

How do I know if I can trust them?

I don’t know how to communicate with them or I’m uncomfortable with their language.


OK, Here are some ways to make you feel more comfortable…


I think we all sometimes think we’re the only honest person in the world.  Obviously, not true.  99% of people are honest.  We all just assume the 1% are far greater in number than they really are.

Just because someone is from a different country or speaks a different language by no way means they don’t have integrity or pride in their work.

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to almost everywhere in the world I wanted to go.

Before I traveled, I saw the differences.  After I traveled, I see the similarities.

So accept that most people will be honest and they have incentives to do a good job to get and keep your business.

If you can get over your fears, what’s the next step?  


Protecting Yourself with Suppliers

I’m going to presume you use  If not, its a great resource.

Although this article is not about Alibaba, Alibaba is a database of suppliers and manufacturers based in China.

It’s where you start your search for products.


Alibaba has several features that you should be aware of and use.

One is the gold star rating.  This is actually purchased by the supplier.  However to maintain their rating they have to meet and maintain certain standards  This gold start it is not cheap and if a supplier is will to buy this it is a sign that they are an established company and will be serious about their business.  

It is created annually and the rating will also tell you how many years they have been a gold star member.

Another is the response rate.  This measures how well and how fast they respond to inquiries.  To me this shows how much they value you.  I want a supplier who will actually talk to me.

The escrow feature.  Most suppliers will prefer that you wire transfer them the money.  This is fine and common in international business.  However, once wired, you have no recourse.

This is why Alibaba will keep any of your payments in escrow until you agree to release them.

Paypal and Credit Card  If you look at the suppliers information they will show how they can be paid.  Some will list paypal or a credit card.  I prefer to use this type of payment, simply because if I do have an issue, I am protected.

Skype.  Some but not all suppliers will be available to talk to you using the audio or even video aspects of Skype.  I am a big proponent of this in that you get to see them and they get to see you.  Win, win.

Language.  They will speak passable English.  Even they’re the only one at their company, you will be able to communicate.  You don’t have to speak their language.  Just speak, slowly and clearly and you’ll be fine.  

The last time I thought about something being “Lost in Translation” was the Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson movie.

Getting the supplier to trust you

What do you mean?  They doubt you….It’s your responsibility to convince them you’re serious and trustworthy.

Try and see things from their prospective.  To them, you’re just an email inquiring about a custom order, usually for a small quantity.  Accept what we said earlier, everybody believes they are honest and its the other people who are not.

The simple solution is to be professional.  Use good grammar and business language and etiquette.  Honor your commitments and be punctual.

Above all, be polite.  One thing I have found and appreciate is that most non English speaking cultures value politeness and respect much more than western cultures.

Just Jump in…

I’ll just say in closing,  There are never any guarantees in life.  But the overwhelming chance is that things will work out.

But even in the worst case, your downside is only a few hundred dollars.  Not life changing is it?  The upside, however is a monthly passive income of several thousand dollars.

Success favors the bold.  Put your fears aside.  Just get started.

What would you like to add about your experiences with suppliers.  Let everyone know in the comment box below.

Mark Scott Adams is a serial entrepreneur who has started, built and sold six businesses.  He has sold millions of dollars of physical products on and offline over the last two decades.  He is currently a speaker, author and successful Amazon Seller.  To take his free amazon sellers training click here.   To Get his free product checklist list click here


  • johny

    April 20, 2017

    Hi I am new and I am trying to get in to the businesto buy fron china and sale in america or difenrt country , my firt question is when is going to be another fer in canton and how much is to go there with your grup thank !!

    • Mark Adams

      April 20, 2017


      I take people the the Canton Fair every April and October. All of the information is located at I should have all of the new information on that page by the first of May or so.

  • Jay

    July 20, 2015

    I’m still confused on shipping. You are making it sound like shipping by sea is too much of a hassle compared to air?

    My supplier ships FOB, but I want to choose sea because it is much cheaper. I don’t mind the extra wait time to receive the product, but are there any other drawbacks I’m missing?

    If I give the supplier my shipping address and tell them to ship by sea, will they take care of everything else?

    I’d rather not ask my supplier this info because I want to keep the image that I’m not a newbie to make a longer term deal. I’d just like to know in general how FOB by sea typically works. Please help clear this up. Thank you.

    • Mark Adams

      July 21, 2015


      I wouldn’t say hassle, but it is more complicated and there are more logistics to consider.

      If you’re OK with the extra time and it makes sense from a financial standpoint then it makes sense for you. Typically the item would be delivered to a port, probably Los Angeles and then you would be responsible for everything else, once its off loaded. You would need to make arrangements for temporary storage and then delivery to Amazon.

      This is what freight forwarders do, so factor all of that into your cost.

      A lot of work to do as a newbie….Sometimes its worth paying for simplicity, especially until your more experienced. Good luck in whatever you choose.

      • Jay

        July 21, 2015

        Thanks for the reply. When you say freight handler, do you mean UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc?

        • Mark Adams

          July 21, 2015

          Yes or similar

          • Jay

            July 21, 2015

            Still a little confused on why the supplier can arrange to get it to your door by air, but not by sea. I guess I will see about UPS picking up my freight from port and getting it to me. Thanks.

  • Hasan

    June 12, 2015

    Hello Mark,

    Great stuff, thanks. I live outside US and I want to start sealing on Amazon by ship items from China to US (Amazon – FBA). My biggest concern how to make user that supplier ship what I order (quality, sizes, colors …) without checking them. And how you mange labeling your product for amazon when ship it directly to Amazon?

    • Mark Adams

      June 12, 2015

      Thank you Hasan:

      The surest way is to have the first shipment come to you so you can verify that everything is as ordered. However, since you live outside the US you can use a company like to do this service for you. Good luck


    June 11, 2015

    sir ,I am from pakistan how do I start selling on amazon please advice me


    • Mark Adams

      June 12, 2015

      Selling in the US from wherever you live is not much different that if you live in the US. You might want to take a look at They can get you set up with a US bank account and credit card, which amazon requires. Good luck

  • darrel

    May 4, 2015

    hi Mark

    I’m considering going the Alibaba route, my question is why go to amazon? why not use a site like shopify?

    • Mark Adams

      May 4, 2015


      You can sell directly from your website if you chose. It just easier, cheaper to get started on Amazon. Amazon fulfills all of the orders and handles customers service. If you want to do all of that you can. But there real reason is amazon is where all of the customers are. It can be difficult and expensive to drive traffic to an individual website.

  • Anna

    April 12, 2015

    Hi Mark,

    I am interested in buying your course but live in UK- do you think it is suitable for me?

    • Mark Adams

      April 12, 2015

      Hi Anna:

      The course will work wherever someone lives. Actually we have several UK members. You can sell your amazon products on (US version of amazon) or the UK version of amazon or both.

  • Wes C.

    April 8, 2015

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks so much for the great blog post. For transporting the product from China, do you have your suppliers manage the shipping to the US, do you use a logistics service, or do you manage the various stages yourself?

    We’ve received quotes from suppliers for the FOB cost, but we’re unsure who should handle the freight logistics from China port to US. What do you recommend?

    • Mark Adams

      April 8, 2015

      Hi Wes:

      There are many ways to do this but I prefer to let the suppler set up shipping for me. I prefer the simplicity over dealing with all of the time, effort and logistics of dealing with multiple companies.

      However, there is no right or wrong way. If you are starting out I would definitely suggest letting the supplier set things up.

      As an very experienced Amazon seller and you begin to send larger orders by sea, then dealing with outside sources would be a valid option.

      Hope that answers your question Wes…

  • Tom Jackson

    March 19, 2015

    Hey Mark, I watched your Youtube videos yesterday. Great info!
    Just a quick heads up that there is a typo in the blog post image (Chines).

    • Mark Adams

      March 19, 2015

      Thanks for the comment Tom. Good thing I’m a better merchant than proof reader!

  • jay

    March 8, 2015

    Hi Mark, do you use inspection services in China or the USA?
    Do your products get shipped straight to Amazon (if you don’t use inspection services in the USA)?

    • Mark Adams

      March 9, 2015

      Hi Jay:

      I do not. I try and keep the item as simple as possible so there is no need for a third party inspection. I have always found that the the manufacturers in China I have dealt with to have quality equal to every other country.

      I usually have the first shipment sent to me to make sure everything is what I want and then future orders sent directly to Amazon.

  • Garry Hall

    March 5, 2015

    Hi mark,

    Your coarse is awesome and very help full,

    I am currently negotiating
    with a supplier the price I was Quoted is $1.29 per pcs MOQ 1000 pcs,
    express shipping is $1,176.00 to ship 1000 pcs, at first I freaked out at the cost for shipping, but I did the Sums on it and it works out at $2.46 per item give or take a few cents, the size of the cartons 60x42x42,200 item per carton so 5 cartons sorry for rambling on but I just wanted your opinion.

    Cheers Garry.

    • Mark Adams

      March 5, 2015

      Hi Garry:

      Thank you for the compliment on the course.

      The total amount of the shipping and the item really don’t matter that much if you have enough margin between the sales price and your total cost.

      In many cases shipping can be as much or more than the item itself. But that’s OK because usually the item is so inexpensive from the manufacturer

      You are having your items shipped by air which is fine. But you could ask them if they ship by sea would there be a reduced cost for shipping on future orders.

      Good luck on your product!

      ps why don’t you post this in the course members area and get feedback from other members?

  • kathy

    January 28, 2015

    thanks mark I really appreciate your help:)

    • Mark Adams

      January 28, 2015

      You’re welcome…Good luck Kathy

  • kathy

    January 28, 2015

    hi mark,

    when you do business with a supplier how many years do you consider that a business has to be in before you do business with them?

    • Mark Adams

      January 28, 2015

      Hi Kathy:

      It’s not a factor I personally consider. I have never thought that length of time in business determines the quality of a supplier. In many cases, new suppliers can be far better to work with because they are trying to grow their business.

      Established suppliers can sometimes be ridged. However, the economics, the turn around time, etc are what I used to determine if I want to work with a particular supplier.

      I believe almost all suppliers are honest and well intended and have not found there to be an issue with this for me.

      Hope that helps…


  • Mark Adams

    November 10, 2014

    Some suppliers take credit card, most do not. If they take it, that is the first option, paypal second, then wire transfer or escrow

    • Boris C.

      November 12, 2014

      Is transaction done through Alibaba?

  • Boris C.

    November 10, 2014

    Hi Mark

    Nice remark about 99% of honest people versus 1% of dishonest as it must break some stereotypes.

    I am not sure where you seen gold star rating but I would assume you are talking about “Gold Supplier” badge and it’s not awarded but bought by suppliers. And this shows some conflict of interest because while Alibaba try to serve both buyers and suppliers, even unscrupulous scammers can buy their Gold Supplier status into Alibaba’s platform.

    Response rate in my opinion should not be given much of attention because it measures whether supplier gets back to buyer’s inquiry only through Alibaba’s platform. In my case with inquiries to several suppliers, 90% got back to my personal email so I would not give attention to response rate.

    How do you pay by credit card to supplier Mark?