My Horror Story Buying from Guangzhou Sanwich Biology Technology (a.k.a. Sevich)
Note to readers: I’m using pseudonym not because I have anything to hide from public, rather a complicated NDA I signed with couple of brands / distributors.
Ok, i admit it.
I’m a chump. I actually believed that there were actually good / non-scammy / non-broker sellers on Alibaba. Maybe it’s just laziness.. but i just didn’t want to go to China just to look for a factory of a product that’s not proven in market place. I wanted to test on a small scale.
Adventures in Production
So I did a ton of research, and i came across a few manufacturers that had the following criteria
- in business more than 5 years
- had “Gold Supplier” and “Trade Assurance”
If you ever dealt with Chinese factory people.. you know they’re not the strongest in salesmanship. It’s more like “order or get the hell out” type of attitude in Chinese restaurants in US. (OK, not saying ALL.. but you get where i’m going at.)
This sales rep girl (Kamry Liu) not only spoke great English, she actually answered everything I asked and very promptly. On top of that, the price was good enough that I didn’t have to do any hard neogitation.
I paid for a sample with my design on it. $80 bucks to do it. But it was ugly. So i asked them for another redesign change.. but they wanted me to pay I paid for another $80 after I got the design redone. Was this legit thing to ask? Not sure, but i guess there is cost associated with physical world stuff so alright, i’ll go along.
Red flag #1: All the details we agree on do NOT match what’s on the Alibaba order. The sales rep girl and I had to go back and forth at least 4 times to match what I said. At this point im thinking.. ok maybe she’s just not detail oriented.. maybe this is how they do it in China. So I let it pass.
I didn’t verify but they claimed they had customers in Thailand so shipping there to our warehouse was something they had experience with. I tried to verify but no factory i talked to wanted to share that info.
So we agree on price, all the required free trade agreement docs, and shipping by air to our warehouse. Not rocket science. It’s a small order.
After a really shitty paying experience on Alibaba (btw, i really believe Alibaba will get KILLED in 2–3 years if Amazon ever entered China… holy shit, their customer experience is like the worst shit on the planet. Only thing propping them up is Chinese government and their awesome non-corrupted gov’t offcials.), i waited patiently for 3 weeks.. which is what the sales rep told me.
3 weeks gone. What happened?
All of a sudden, texts from the sales rep girl goes from almost instantaneous reply to hours.
Ok, no need to get frustrated or jump to conclusion. I get it.. she’s a sales girl. She gets paid to bring in revenue, not micromanage projects. But remember, i paid in full (as in 100% of the invoice). It was a small order, so it’s not like i asked (nor did I expect) to get payment terms.
Then I get antsy, so I call her whatsapp. Then, the unthinkable — she does NOT pick up. Oh shit, did I get scammed? I call again, NO response.
Luckily, I had her personal whatsapp ID so I call her directly.
Ring once. Nothing. Ring twice. Nothing. Ring thrice. Nothing.
At this point.. im thinking … “ah shit, the f*ck????”
Luckily she picks up at 4th ring. She tells me that she’s not in office. And that she’ll get a status for me and call back tomorrow. Ok, blood pressure back to normal.
Next morning comes, she never calls. So I call around 10:30 AM China time… then she tells me, “sorry, i was eating lunch”. Seriously, at 10:30? Ok brunch maybe, but on a monday? (and brunch is an American thing.. not even white people thing).
Excuse #1: We moved office
My thoughts: Congrats. I don’t care. Where’s my product?
Excuse #2: they used a subcontractor factory for the bottles. And supposedly they screwed up. So now i have to wait another 10 days.
“it’s not our fault.. it’s the bottling factory.. they’re late”
Ok, i get it. I read sub-contracting is inevitable in the world of real goods production b/c every factory has different niches, capacities, and capabilities… and you can’t flip this on and off b/c factories are long term “fixed” assets.
But this is getting ridiculous.
To make the matter worse, we had some retail distributors who were interested in our product, so we even pre-sold some of this stuff with a promised delivery date. So? Yeap, we had to return their money, not to mention never been able to do business with them again.
So I call the head office … NO ONE picks up. I email everyone else I see on their webpage.. NO ONE ever responds. I have to ask my sales rep to give me her manager’s whatsapp number. She tells me don’t tell him that shegave it to you.
Seriously? Nothing but landmines when dealing with this company.
So I call him.
I talk to him. He assures me that he can get it done. Ok, so i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Ok so maybe he pulled some string. I tell this to my sales rep, and her response? That’s not what he told her.
Not possible b/c the goods are not there
Landmine #2 — The sales manager even bullshits even to their own team.
Of course, when I ask her to check with her boss.. there’s another 3 week delay
I keep grilling her… and how she goes from “I think it’s 10 days” to “i have NO idea”
So i get back to the manager, and guess what? He doesn’t even pick up. His excuse?
Ok at this point, after days of being patient and trying to stay calm, i’m starting to go ape-shit. I took their offer w/o any crazy terms, didn’t negotiate on price, i did all the crap they asked me to do.. now even the sales manager is pulling this shit.
In one phone call.. i almost went rampage on the sales rep girl. But i realie.. shit, it’s not her fault at all. Why am I mad at her? Instead i feel bad for her that she’s worked so hard to gain my trust, answering all the questions… now her idiot company totally f*ed up her recurring commission b/c the management team is completely retarded.
There’s a tax document that I requested, which according to them would take 2 days. Seriously? 2 days for 1 piece of paper w/ seller and buyer info? I bitched and complained.. and guess what? It took 2 hours for her to complete the form.
They just say WHATEVER to avoid answering questions..
“it’s the subcontractor’s fault”.. shipping takes X more days.. filling out a piece of paper takes 3 years.. my dog is dead.. my cat is depressed.. my mom is playing poker while sitting on your inventory. WTF.
Alright.. that’s it. I lost my retail wholesale buyers… my product is late.. and now I have to piss off my retailer customers as well. REALLY BIG ASS retailers that has retail channels in over half the malls.
My stress level is high.. alright, what would buddha do? Better yet, what would Steve jobs do..
So I threaten to dispute on Alibaba. And guess what? The subcontractor “magically” delivered the bottles and the sales rep girl is sending me pictures of our product
Adventures in Shipping
So problem solved by now?
First of all, as soon as I threaten to dispute, they put a FAKE tracking number.
Her response: OH, i am not sure how that got there
Plus tons of mistakes that I have to fix
Then it takes 2 days to print out a piece of paper
When i bitch and complain about it, guess what?
It gets done in two hours.
The best part? They can put BULLSHIT tracking number to avert the dispute, but the real shipment has NO tracking.
I order an item on Aliexpress for $3 bucks and I get epacket tracking. NO tracking for a $1k shipment?
This is NOT the 1st thing I want to hear in the morning on a beautiful day.
So I call and bitch for 3 hours.
Yes people.. THREE human hours. (21 dog hours)
And they give me the RECEIPT of the shipping invoice.
So i ask her to give me her shipping agent’s number.. who she CLEARLY told me, cannot speak english.
But i call anyway.. i speak to her. Yeap, she can’t speak english.
So i text her.. then she replies back in seconds with this perfectly written english
If you ever used google translate (or any machine translation), this sounds NOTHING like a bot translated English.
So what would you guess? Yeap — the sales rep gave me a phone number of her colleague at her office.. OR this shipping agent is another broker. Either way, she’s been taught what to say.
So i just call.. tihs time I don’t take her chinese answer. I just keep asking in english.
She picks up the phone call and speaks in english. NOT perfect, but she can understand everything I say.
And of course I ask my sales rep WHY she told me she can’t speak English.
After more bitchin’ and complainin’, i get this information:
But still NO tracking information. so i call
Notice that I got a CONTAINER number.
When i made the purchase, it was made clear that it would be shipped by AIR (it’s barely 50 kg). Why does it have a container number?
The best part?
Sales rep girl knows that i’ve been trying to call the shipping agent and pre-emptyively responds
Oh, so now this shipping agent’s screen is visible to her. Convenient, now i don’t have to copy / paste.
So i keep asking thes shipping agent on QQ (chinese mobile chat app) if it was shipped by air or sea:
The shipping agent never responds on QQ.
Instead, the sales rep girl on WhatsApp, instead, responds for her:
- I paid for air shipping. How do you mean container? Do they have planes that can carry heavy containers ? And I said CITY LINK!!!
2. Certificate of origin, that I PAID FOR, says “BY AIR”
So they give me a number. I google it.
So what shows up? This: https://www.facebook.com/ctquickcargo/
Yeap, NEITHER city link NOR air shipment.
At this point, i’m starting to wonder where I f*cked up
- I accidentally hired a broker factory
- That middle man hired another middle man to do shipping
- I should go to China to meet the factory owner directly
- I was thinking I should hire a local agent who’s gonna do all this crap for me even if I have to pay 5–10% markup.. but then again, i’m hiring probably an idiot to manage more idiots
- I should have added indemnification clause for partial refund in case of delays (but seriously, i would rather pay full price and get the product on time)
- the sales rep, the manager, or the shipping broker thought “oh, a newbie.. time to rape him and his wallet”
Slew of lies, unresponsive customer service, cover ups, and incompetent… yeah, let me go ahead and order again. </s>
Dealing with incompetent Chinese factories is the most soul destroying activity anyone can do.
Questions I still have…. was ANY of the information they told me true?
Is the sales girl’s name really “Kamry”? Who names their kid (or maybe she picked it out herself) after a CAR?
(She is kinda pretty though, no?)
How about her manager, “Vivid”?
Next time i deal with Chinese factory, my name is “Alibaba Scammer”.
Week later, lo and behold the product shows up. But what does the side of the truck say?
Correct: NOT “CityLink”:
I ask the truck driver if the container (where my stuff came from) came from a boat or a plane… he tells me that it came from a TRUCK from Guangzhou.
And there’s no information on WHO sent it on the invoice.
So who delivered?
My initial thought was.. TNT:
But here’s the best part.
Form E had errors ALL over:
- the stamp from Thai customs when they received the form E… NOT there — normal for truck delivery b/c only few trucks are checked via random search, but not normal for air delivered products (which again proves that they didn’t use plane shipping as I ordered).
- The originating factory (i.e. the factory) isn’t who I bought from. It says “Guangzhou Hongthai Import Export”.. which obviously, means I bought from the middleman factory (which I really don’t care about — i would rather buy from middleman with good service then cheap factory with shitty service… but i bought from neither.. ugh). Actually they’re NOT the factory at all. They’re just a trading company as well.
- ( I should’ve noticed but I missed it) There should be 2 HS codes for the 2 ingredients in the product, but there’s only one.
So I talked to a friend of mine who’s been trading in and out of Thailand for 10+ years. He brought up a good point — how did they get form E with a trading company (not the original factory that made the product) in line item #1 AND then get the Guangzhou Entry-Exit Inspection and Guarantine Bureau (i.e. government) to stamp it?
Yeap. Fake document.
We have a FORGED government document.. which means me, the seller, the shipping agent, and whoever else is involved in this transaction could have been indicted for
- Document forgery
- International smuggling (possibly losing my own right to travel to other countries)
- Tax evasion
Oh sweet… i went from private labelling to being an international criminal.
I scrolled UP the chat history, and found a picture of her desktop screenshot where she is editing form E:
I even thought about going to China to manually pick it up. And trust me, you DON’T want to go prison in China OR Thailand. Makes San Quentin feel like Club Med.
Alibaba CLEARLY states that form forgery is the most obvious sign of scam
OK, I call the sales girl.
I try to be nice.. At this point, i don’t believe a WORD out of her mouth. She tells me blah blah. I try to remain calm but i’m mad. I keep getting mad and mad.. and i probably screamed at her few times. Then she CRACKS and tells the truth.
They don’t make the product OR the bottle. They get it from a factory in JiangSu province and her boss told her that she MUST lie to the customers.
At this point, there’s no more point in talking to these people. I tried to be cordial. While I did lose a big ass retail partner, I got the product. Slow delivery time.. nothing but lies.. and incredibly selfish attitude towards paying customers.
I ask for refund. Not the whole thing. Just shipping.
Translation: BLAH BLAH BLAH. We need to make a profit so f*ck you.
Sigh .. why do you people make it so hard? I tried to be cordial. NOw let’s dance.
EDIT: June 6, 2018 — Does the surprise end here? You guessed it, NOPE! Turns out the products have UNEVEN weights.
So not only is this NOT stockable in retail.. if my retailer found out, they would’ve kicked my ass. Worse, if there was some kind of audit, they would get in trouble and sue my ass.
Alibaba “Trade Assurance” isn’t “assuring” at all when the SELLER decides that the dispute is in my favor
Of course, i complain about this…
I guess the dispute rep. noted that I blogged this, and her response?
REMOVE THIS POST if I want the refund
Great, now China-style censorship if I want them to honor the promise they make on their website.
I even told them about how the seller asked me to remove mentioning of brand names that they counterfeit
I mention this and guess what happens?
As expected, nothing.