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A display of consumer pet products

So you import products from Asia right? This is how it normally plays out once the goods ship from port.

After me, your sourcing partner, has got the vendor to prepare a correct set of shipping documents including a Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Certificate of Origin, and Bill of Lading, they send me final scans of the originals by email. As long as I am satisfied with the look of those, I pay the supplier your money, and the supplier sends me three sets of originals.

Blank supplier commecial invoices
Blank officiated commercial invoices

What you probably don’t know is the supplier also sends me something else. It’s some blank pages with their company stamp on it just like what you see here. Usually, it is the same company stamp as that of the completed Commercial Invoice that they sent me. What’s the purpose of these blank pages? It’s so I, your local agent, can reprint the exporter’s Commercial Invoice with a higher price and rip you off if I wanted to.

What I am showing you here is a general industry practise. It doesn’t just happen between agents and their overseas customers, but it also occurs between factories and their material suppliers. Purchasing managers pocket the difference with the cost ultimately falling into your lap through increased unit prices or greater difficulty for us to get the materials and quality we want due to these tight kick-back relationships.

Another trick of the trade is the supplier will increase the unit price on the commercial invoice themselves and we pay the supplier less. How many times have I been asked the question “how much should we increase the price for you?” My answer from the very start has always been zilch.

Perhaps this is why my boutique sourcing management company has always been a boutique sourcing management company. But, that doesn’t matter. To me, integrity is worth a hell of a lot more than the dollars I could have earned had I participated in these practices. So the question is, how much do you trust your sourcing partner? Have you ever asked them what they do with the blank officiated commercial invoices they receive? I know for me and my values, I toss those pages into the recycle bin. This is as real as it gets.

Caveat emptor

March 7th, 2019

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