Help me to continue to do business with a manufacturer in Taiwan...
January 18, 2009 9:32 PM   Subscribe

I've twice bought the same cosmetic packaging components from a specific Taiwanese manufacturer through a US-based middleman. I'm ready to re-order and want to circumvent the middleman and order directly from the manufacturer who we will call BG Manufacturing. There are some fairly compelling motivations and rationale for doing so. Important details inside.

Several factors to take into consideration.


1. I'm very happy with the BG Manufacturing product even though there are knock-offs available.
2. The middleman (lets call him XYZ Middleman) tried to 'trick me' into purchasing an inferior product on the first order. I 'caught' the deception quite to the consternation of the middle man who had no intention of being 'caught'. Despite this attempted deception, I did manage to get the actual product I had specified. (BG Manufacturings product.)
3. XYZ Middleman sent me an email on another occasion offering to sell me a competitors of BG Manufacturings product. I did not respond though I did keep a copy of the email. It's quite specific with prices, etc. They even sent me a sample and it is stamped 'Korea" and is of discernably lesser quality.
4. The manufacturer accidentally (?) sent a copy of an invoice that I believe reveals the actual price XYZ Middleman is paying BG Manufacturing before marking up and selling to me. The price is approximately 20% 0f what I am now paying XYZ Middleman. I have a copy of this invoice.
5. GB Manufacturing sent the product directly to me from Taiwan.



My question: should I just go ahead and order from the manufacturer and cite this XYZ Middleman email with a statement along the lines of, "XYZ Middleman is trying to sell me a competitors product but I would prefer to buy from you. May I buy from you directly?" Do I even need to ask? Should I cite / enclose a copy of the XYZ Middleman email? How do I approach the manufacturer? I have one shot and I want to maximize my chance for success. How best to approach. I don't really have a contact at the manufacturer though they have an artwork file and my company name since the product is over-printed with my product logo. Fedex a letter? Furthermore, what is the standard form of remittance of payment for goods between US-Taiwan business for an amount less than 10,000 USD? Can I use an international money order or Cashiers Check? Thanks for any input / advice.
posted by Muirwylde to Work & Money (5 answers total)
 
The thing the middleman can offer to BG Manufacturing, and the primary reason why he pays so much less than you, is large volume orders. If you're prepared to buy 100 of the things, they'll probably be happy to give you the dealer price too.

There's nothing much in point #3 - almost all dealers carry "competing" items from multiple suppliers. Same way as, when you go into the supermarket, you can "choose" from 30 different identical kinds of pasta.

Point #4 indicates sheer incompetence. The customer should never get to know the dealer's actual price. To show it to them is a very elementary business mistake. Customers who know the price will attempt to bargain the dealer down to, say, 50% above it or so - which isn't enough to account for overhead, and possibly not even for shipping.

Point #5 is definitely interesting, and seems the most likely factor to indicate a possibility that you could order the items directly.

In answer to your actual question, sure, go ahead and ask if you can buy direct - why not? You've nothing to lose. Even if the minimum order's larger than you need, it may be worth buying it anyway and selling it on through eBay or whatever. If they say that they don't sell directly to the public, ask if they can refer you to another dealer instead.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:06 PM on January 18, 2009


Sorry, got distracted in the middle of that and didn't properly answer.

Do I even need to ask?
Yes. You don't ask, you don't get.

Should I cite / enclose a copy of the XYZ Middleman email?
No. Since they, not the middleman, are sending you the item, they're almost certainly aware that you usually order through the middleman. By all means mention your dissatisfaction with the middleman, but they won't care about the specifics.

How do I approach the manufacturer?
I'd recommend email. Can you find their website?

I have one shot and I want to maximize my chance for success.
Actually you have several possible approaches.

How best to approach. I don't really have a contact at the manufacturer though they have an artwork file and my company name since the product is over-printed with my product logo. Fedex a letter?
If you can find any form of contact, just send an enquiry to the salespeople.

Furthermore, what is the standard form of remittance of payment for goods between US-Taiwan business for an amount less than 10,000 USD? Can I use an international money order or Cashiers Check?
I'd use credit card. Or if they accept PayPal, this is one of the few things that PayPal actually is good for, since you can get two layers of scam protection. But in this case, since you're buying a product from them that they've successfully supplied to you in the past, I would just ask the salespeople by what mechanism they'd prefer to be paid.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:13 PM on January 18, 2009


Do I even need to ask?
There are legitimate business reasons to bypass the middleman, particularly if you feel like he is trying to scam you. Your main issue will likely be if the manufacturer can provide you with the right product at low enough prices. The middleman gets good prices because of buying in bulk and because the manufacturer has a relationship with him. You might not be able to get those prices, and it will take some time to build a trusted relationship directly with you, but it seems like it would be worth it both to you and to the manufacturer.

All you need to say is that you really like their products, prefer their products when you can get them, are happy with your previous shipments from them, and are inquiring if it's possible to buy directly from them. If it's not (perhaps they only do wholesale orders) you can continue to buy from the middleman. If it is, they will certainly be willing to deal with you, put you in touch with the right person, and talk you through how it works.

Should I cite / enclose a copy of the XYZ Middleman email?
No. It's none of their business, and would only muddy the waters. They will know that you are trying to bypass the middleman, and don't need the details.

How do I approach the manufacturer?
If you have a specific contact at the company at all, a FedEx letter would work if you know that you have the correct address. If not, you might be able to find a website or a listing that would have the contact info for a sales person.

If you can't find any direct contacts, there are some other avenues to try. The Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) is affiliated with the Taiwan Bureau of Foreign Trade (under their Ministry of Economic Affairs), and they are charged with helping Taiwan companies export their wares overseas. They would be delighted to help you get in touch with the right person at the company, so try contacting the San Francisco office, which is closest to you.

The other option would be to contact the Commercial Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) (the Taiwan equivalent of an embassy/consulate in the U.S). While Hawaii has it's own TECO office, they don't handle commercial issues. The TECO Los Angeles Commercial Division has jurisdiction over Hawaii.

What is the standard form of remittance of payment for goods between US-Taiwan business for an amount less than 10,000 USD? Can I use an international money order or Cashiers Check?
You can use whatever payment means the two of you work out. Credit card, wire transfer, international money order, bank-issued Cashier Checks, all of those ways work. It will be up to the company how they are comfortable receiving funds, and will depend on how you guys set it up. Since you have done business before, that should help ease the anxiety on both sides.

Good luck with this. Feel free to drop me an email if you have any further questions.
posted by gemmy at 11:27 PM on January 18, 2009


If you need someone to help you communicate with that Taiwanese company I'd be glad to. I grew up in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. (They use traditional writing so it's different from China.)

Actually I should say I am fluent in English since that's my second language...

Perhaps you can turn this into a business opportunity and become a local sales representative for them? Just an idea. =)
posted by jstarlee at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Received something of value in all answers. Thanks to all.
posted by Muirwylde at 1:26 PM on January 19, 2009


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