[FAIL] How 1 production mistake killed my profitable product!

Time for another story!

I use to have this product that was doing very well! Like all my new products it started with the following steps:

  1. Contact Alibaba suppliers.
  2. Request & evaluate samples from suppliers.
  3. Negotiate price with suppliers who have the best samples.
  4. Place first order: 1000 units.

This is very brief how I start when I import products from China. I have written a more detailed guide here.

So after I placed my first order I shipped the 1000 units to Amazon FBA warehouse and started launching the product. The product started getting reviews and the first organic sales came in. Shortly after that, sales really started picking up and I needed to place a second order. The product had an average 4.6 stars and was doing enough sales that I could increase the quantity of my second order.

I decided to order 3000 units for the second order as the product was doing very well. Since I was ordering 3 times as many units as my first order, I wanted to pay a lower price to my supplier. On the first order I paid $2,67 per unit. For the second order I was able to negotiate the price down to $2,19. I was very happy I saved $0,48 on 3000 units = $1440 in total on this order. I could not wait until the second order arrived at Amazon and I could ramp up the promotion even more! When the second batch of products arrived in the warehouse I started getting loads of 1 star reviews.

I got screwed!

Most of them mentioned that the product was very flimsy and some parts were missing. The product was made out of plastic and it didn’t take long for me to realise the supplier had screwed me. I decided to ship 20 products to my home so I could verify what I was already suspecting:

  • The second batch was made out of way thinner plastic the the sample I have received & the first batch.
  • Out of the 20 products, 11 had missing parts.

By this time my average review rating dropped to 3 stars, and I had to liquidate the remaining units for a loss. I believe that because I had squeezed my supplier out of a large part of his profit ( by negotiating the price down by $0,48 per piece ), he decided to save on his expenses by using a cheaper type of plastic. He probably also skipped any type of quality control as loads of units had missing pieces. This completely killed my very profitable profit, as the review rating dropped to 3 stars and I had to lower my price drastically to even sell the remaining units. The product was generating around $1500 in profit for me per month and was rising! Now the product is completely dead.

How to prevent this?

1). Inspection in China

All of this could be prevented with 1 simple step: Have the products inspected in China!

This was a very valuable lesson for me to learn and I now have all my orders inspected while they are still in the factory. The inspector will spend 1 day at the factory and create a very detailed report about his findings. Here are just some of the things he will include in the report:

  • Sample size: Amount of units he tested.
  • Type of material used for products.
  • Amount of critical, major & minor defects are found.
  • Pictures of all the defects found.
  • Pictures of the factory & working conditions.
  • Shipping mark used on carton.
  • Test if the barcode on the packaging is scannable?
  • Are all required warning labels attached on the packaging?
  • Size of product, product packaging & carton.
  • Weight of product, product packaging & carton.
  • Drop test: Carton will be dropped from 3 foot, as per Amazon requirements.

Summary page of all the defects found. For this order they found 16 major defects out of the 500 units tested. Although this is an acceptable result, I can probably expect a couple of bad reviews if people find dirty or cracked products.

This factory looks very shady. Not at all how they presented themselves on their website. In this case I will probably look for another factory for future orders.

I use Asia Inspection for this, and they are very professional. For a report like this they charge $309. Yes, 1 simple step that cost $309 could have saved my product that was making me $1500 per month! They also offer a couple of other inspection services:

If I had the second order inspected the batch would have failed the test as it would have to many defects. I could then have them redo the batch or I would simply not pay the remaining 70% of the balance. Therefor it is very important to have the inspection done while the products are still in the factory & before you pay the 70% balance. This way you have a very strong negotiating position in case they mess up the batch and you want them to redo it.

I see a lot of seller who ship the products to their home or warehouse from China. They will then inspect the goods in the US, before they send them to Amazon warehouses. To me this is absolutely ridiculous. What are you going to do if you find out they messed up the shipment? Ship all of them back to China and hope they will refund you your money? Chinese suppliers will definitely not refund or redo your shipment. Once you have 100% paid for it, it is your problem. Besides that, shipping the products back and forth from US -> China wouldn’t even be worth it.

2). Amazon Supplier Purchase Order Agreement

In order to make sure you and your supplier are on the same level it is smart to write down everything about the order in a purchase order agreement. I would pretty much write down every detail like:

  • Product info: dimensions, weight & material.
  • Carton info: Quantity per carton, size & weight of carton. For example make sure the cartons do not weigh more than 50 pounds, per Amazon requirements.
  • Product time & delivery date. And also what happend if the delivery date is not reached.
  • Shipping: Are you shipping the products FOB, EXW or use another Incoterm?
  • Payment: The norm is 30% upfront, 70% when product is finished and inspection accepted.
  • Inspection:
    • Date of inspection.
    • Maximum allowed of defects found in inspection.
    • What happens if the maximum of defects is exceeded? In some cases where the maximum is only slightly exceeded you might want to accept the risk and request a discounted price. If the batch is really messed up and there are loads of defects you want the supplier to completely redo the batch / the defective units.

I understand it can be complicated to setup this kind of document. You can use the template I use for free. Leave your email below and I will send you the download link.

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Having your supplier agree & sign this document will give you foundation to fall back on in case they mess up the shipment. You can then alway refer back to this document and the terms they have agreed to.


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About the Author: Garlic Press Seller


  1. Very good material here.
    1) You do all of this by writing back and forth to your supplier on Alibaba.com? Or you speak directly on phone / skype audio calls?
    2) Assuming the supplier has signed your doc. What gives that validity? I mean, who can enforce him to actually act by this agreement?

    1. 1. Yes almost all communication I do is via chat ( WeChat or Skype ). For emergencies I have their phone number and give em an call.
      2. You can enforce him by not paying the remaining 70% of the balance. In the agreement both parties agree that only the full amount will be paid if everything is in order. The supplier now knows & has agreed to it that if the defect rate will exceed x% he will not receive the 70%. If you don’t have agreements about this kind of stuff he will probably try to get out of with an excuse or something.

  2. Is there a chance that you were working directly with a trading company and not a manufacturer?

    This is one of my concerns. I have recently ordered some of my new product samples, and only now found out that my favorite supplier for this product is also a trading company.

    Now I am concerned that he will manage to send me a very high quality sample in order to make me close the deal, but then when producing the mass order, he will contact a cheaper factory. Let alone if I try negotiating with him on the price (and by that lowering his cut).

    Do you think It will be smart to include in your agreement template a section for matching the sample order quality or something?

    1. Yeah there is probably a good chance some of my suppliers are trading companies. But honestly I am ok with that. As they can probably communicate better with me, and as long as they offer the same price & quality product it’s ok for me. Of course the quality product like you said is the most important thing, as you don’t want to get screwed. So that is why I always do the inspection.

  3. Thanks for letting us know about this experience! I have a question about shipping. I am shipping my products via Air Express and Air Cargo, however, I don’t know where the products are supposed to be shipped to? When I try to create a shipping plan on Amazon it asks for Ship From location. I thought this was my supplier’s address but I read that it is not. What should this address be and how will I find it? In other words, where should my supplier mail my cartons to? Thanks for all your help!

    1. You can enter your suppliers address, or any address you like. This is just so they can calculate which FBA warehouse is closest to your origin destination.

  4. Thanks alot for your sharing.
    There are st that iam wondering:
    1. In every case, we always have a chance to lose 30% pay upfront. You know, supplier in china is unbelievable. If this happens few times again, we will lose alot of money.
    2. In case of having inspector from china, each time of inspection costs 309$. Assume that, if after the first time of inspection, the goods donot meet the quality, then the supplier will repaire or redo the new ones. So we have to need the inspector one more time again, it means the cost for inspection is doubled. As in 1, May we lose a lot of money if this happen many times again. Even that we will still haven’t had the goods ready for shipping to amazon yet.
    Look foward to hearing from you soon !

    Thanks alot,

    1. 1. If you select only gold suppliers on Alibaba, they will be more reliable. They have paid a huge amount of money for that gold badge, so they will likely not close shop as soon as they receive your 30%. You can also use Trade Assurance from Alibaba that will act like an insurance. Either way, in the almost 4 years that I buy from China now, I have never had it happen that I paid 30% and never heard from the supplier again.
      2. This depends on the order & situation. If it’s a big order ( like +$20k ) I will have the inspector recheck the whole production again. But if it is a small order and there are only a couple of defects I usually trust the supplier that he actually fixed the problem, and he usually sends me pictures as well.

  5. Ya. Thanks for your response. Valuable infos.
    Would u mind if i ask u one more question?
    – You know there is a commercial war between two powelful economic countries are china and usa. So any obstacles with people who do FBA like u in this time?
    – Have you other potential amazon market to do FBA. If you did, would u mind sharing some experiences ?

    Sorry for many silly questions. I as like u in 4 years ago, 24 and wanna to join FBA adventure journey. :))
    Look fw to hearing from u.

    Thanks in advance. !

    1. 1). Yes one of my products got hit with the import tax by Trump. 25% extra import tax. There some shady tactics to get around this: For example you can ask your Chinese supplier to give a lower value on your invoice for the customs.
      For example:
      – Normally your value of goods is: $10,000 * 0,25 import tax = $2,500 import tax you have to pay.
      – If you put value of goods $3,000 on the customs invoice * 0,25 import tax = $750 import tax you have to pay.

      I do not do this, or condone this. But this is a method that people use to get around the new import tax.

      2). I only sell on Amazon.com. But I have worked as e-commerce manager for a company how sold in Amazon Europe ( UK, DE, FR, IT ). The market is very small in Europe compared to US. And you have to pay local taxes, arrange stock per country etc. A lot of work for a very small market so I rather keep selling in US.

  6. Hi Admin, I have a few questions about asia inspection (Now called QIMA):
    1) For what time would you book the inspection? Is it ok to book it when 100% is ready?
    2) How can I determine the right sample size for testing?
    3) How can I determine the right acceptable % of defects?
    4) How can I know the right amount of tests I should include in the checklist? Because if I have too many, it might take them more than 1 day and it means 618$.


    1. Hi man,

      Here is my take on it and how I do it:
      1). I book at a couple days before the production is done. This way there won’t be any delay.
      2). I think the standard is 500. I always just go for the standard.
      3). For me this is very much a gut feeling thing. I have no set % for this. Very much depends on the type of defects (sometimes a couple of scratches are also counted as a defect) and type of product.
      4). Lookup the negative reviews on your competitors. Find out what components usually break and have them inspect those thing extra carefully.

      1. Regarding 2) My batch size is 500 (first order). So by that you say I should test all 500 units I ordered.. sounds crazy. How many in % would you test?


  7. Oh no, I’m at a higher risk since I didn’t manage to get the standard payment terms of 30% upfront and 70% when product is finished and inspection accepted. 50% is the best I can get, reduced from the initial 70% deposit they asked.

  8. It’s awesome that you were able to find this inspection company. I can’t wait to use them one day. It just seems that when you negotiated that lower manufacturing cost for the second batch, you were actually negotiating the quality of the product. That reduced manufacturing cost forced them to use cheaper materials and work faster, ultimately resulting in defects and poor workmanship. It creates tighter deadlines when working with smaller budgets. I have worked many warehouse job hours, and working faster usually always leads to mistakes. Still, it is a great lesson to share with others.

  9. Amazing blog you have here, thank you for that!

    I have a question regarding shipping directly to Amazon Warehouse. To me it has many disadvantages such as:

    1. We don’t want Amazon to know who our supplier are

    2. We don’t want our suppliers to know how much of our business is done on Amazon

    3. Quality control

    4. We don’t send all of our inventory to Amazon

    What is your opinion on this? Have you thought of having a product shipped somewhere else before it reaches Amazon Warehouse?

    1. All very fair points that I have considered as well. Let me explain why I currently ship directly to Amazon:

      1. We don’t want Amazon to know who our supplier are
      I don’t really care about this. I think if Amazon wants to enter my market they probably have a very skilled purchasing team to find better suppliers than the once I use.

      2. We don’t want our suppliers to know how much of our business is done on Amazon
      Fair point. For a long time I actually tried to hide the fact that I was selling on Amazon for my suppliers. However, if your supplier really wants to compete with you on Amazon they can easily find out how much business you are doing on Amazon. They can just Google your brand name & pull up Jungle Scout.

      3. Quality control
      I do my quality control in China while it is still in the factory. I see no point in QC in the US, because if you find major defects with your shipment it is already too late at this point.

      4. We don’t send all of our inventory to Amazon
      Fair point. I guess if you have multiple sales channels you have to use a 3PL warehouse. For me I only sell on Amazon though.

      For a pretty long period I actually used a third party warehouse. However, this was mainly to save on storage cost ( mostly Long term storage cost ). However, once I check all the stats it was actually much cheaper for me to ship directly to Amazon and pay a little bit of extra storage cost. Instead of shipping twice ( once to the third party warehouse & once to Amazon ), as inbound shipping charges are huge. I paid something like $3 per carton for the inbound shipping at the third party warehouse.

  10. Hello, I have previously purchased products from Alibaba but this is my first time trying to sell on Amazon. Hoping you could help with answering the few questions below. Thanks in advance.

    (1) Do you find its better to use your own freight forwarder such as Flexport you listed instead of the shipping options provided directy by the China manufacture/trading company your buying your inventory from? Is Flexport the same cost, cheaper, or easier to use?

    (2) Designer: OutlineMatic, is this place for creating a package logo to send to your China supplier so they can print a custom cardboard packaging for your product to package inside? Or was this just to design nice pictures to list on Amazon? Thanks for clarifying.

    (3) Do you pay for your products using Paypal for buyer protection? Or do you pay directly through Alibaba’s website for buyer protection? I notice there are different methods Paypal/Western Union etc, that’s why I ask.

    (4) Is SnapUPC safe to use on creating a new barcode for Amazon.com and Amazon.ca?

    Thanks again

    1. 1. I like to use a separate party like Flexport. This way I know I am getting best shipping price & the ownership of the goods is transferred to me as soon as the supplier delivered them at port. You can choose to have your supplier do all this for you, but your will be fully relying on your supplier until your goods arrive at the Amazon warehouse.
      2. Yes, I use their design service for my product packaging.
      3. I pay my suppliers with a normal bank wire transfer. 30/70 t/t. Meaning I will transfer 30% to start the order and 70% when all goods are finished.
      4. Yes I have used SnapUPC for many years with Amazon without any problems.

  11. Hi admin, just tried to add my email to get your free template for supplier agreement but I tried, and received an error message. How can I get it? Thank you as always for all the useful info you post on this site!

  12. Hi!

    I just discovered your blog on Reddit – it’s so amazing I’m a fan already!

    This article was so good to read, especially because I just recently got into this field. I’m really interested in selling via Amazon FBA and I informed myself quite well about it. I have a few questions for you, if you want to answer them:

    1. What can I do if i have so many things already planned out (like Marketing, etc.) but I cant find the right product/niche? I looked up a thousand things but I just don’t have any idea what product to choose.

    2. Lets pretend the quantity of my product is 100 and they all sell out after a short time. When exactly should I make a 2nd order? Like after 80 pieces sold or let customers wait and only reorder after everything is out of stock? Because my fear is that if they see my product is sold out they will just switch to another one since they don’t want to wait.

    3. For how much more should I sell my product. For instance, 1 pair of eyelashes costs me $2 per unit. Do you know how to calculate shipping, fees, etc. so I get a fair price for the customers but also make revenue?

    4. Lets say I want to switch from Amazon to my own website – how do I let the customers from Amazon know, so I don’t start at Zero at my new website?

    5. What is more worth it in your opinion – selling on Amazon or selling on own website?

    Have a good day! Greetings from Germany.
    (and please excuse my bad English – it’s not my first language :-D)

    – Nelli

    1. Hi Neil,
      Glad to hear that man!

      1. Keep doing product research haha. IMO you really should start without having found the right niche. This is the most important step, so if you kinda rush it you will regret it in the future ( i can tell from experience lol ). If you are having trouble; there are loads of amazon product research tools that can help you with this and I also have a ebook that will cover 3 not so well known methods.

      2. This depends on your manufacture & shipping time. For me it takes about 2 months to manufacture & ship my products. So I like to re-order when I have less than 6 months of inventory on hands. If you know this you can easily calculate how many days of inventory you have left over by going: Total stock / average daily sales.

      3.Yeah you can calculate fee’s with the Amazon Fee Calculator.

      4. You don’t. Amazon has very strict rules about “stealing” amazon customers to your own website. It is not worth losing your Amazon account over.

      5. I’d say Amazon. They have way more customers and you can grow you store much faster.

      Good luck out there!

  13. Hi,

    I input my information into the free download section but I haven’t gotten the download link yet. Just wanted to check in, because I’d love to see your sample template. Thanks!

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