How do I sound like a wholesaler contacting another b2b company.
December 17, 2012 8:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I sound like a wholesaler in email to make inquiries from an overseas company? I'm doing a bit of amateur investigative journalism and need some pointers.

I am researching some possibly illegally imported items from China to the US. The trade of the product in question is regulated, and from what I can tell, legitimate sellers announce that they have the correct paperwork. However, there are many that do not, and many of the companies I've contacted in the US had no idea that the item was regulated. Which leads me to believe that they are unwittingly selling something illegally.

And I'm just talking to the middle men, and haven't been able to track down the actual importers. So I want to first reach out to Chinese suppliers and acting as though I'm looking to purchase from them, and possibly later see if they can directly to a company that does the importing already.

What I'm hoping for is an example of how wholesalers talk when they ask about prices and shipping terms, and any specific lingo I should use. I don't want my inexperience to give away why I am asking about it. Memail me if you need specifics.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any industry will have its own vocabulary, and it seems like you're already aware of the importance of knowing it in order to avoid suspicion. Without any details about the industry itself, though, it's difficult to help you with the kinds of words you need to use.

That said, Chinese companies are probably used to talking to people of varying degrees of experience / acumen. As long as you don't sound like a journo, I imagine that most companies in China would be willing to ignore any vague suspicions they may harbor in order to make some easy money. As you intone, this seems to be a common enough practice, so it's not like you've got to learn a secret handshake.

If the middleman is friendly with you, ask him or her what he or she thinks are the most important things there are to know about [product]. Read some industry periodicals (most commodity industries have some form of newsletter for price lists and such). Then start dialing some phone numbers beginning with +86.
posted by anewnadir at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2012

No, I'm just an amateur.
Thus far the middlemen have not been very friendly. I've approached them via two means - outright honesty, because I don't think they really know what they're doing may be reselling illegal goods. And simply asking about where they are supplied form, with them being cagey because that is "proprietary" information. I've got bits and pieces from a number of them and I'm starting to piece together a picture, but it's not enough. The "most" I've gotten is that they seem to be coming from a company importing them in from California, but not the company or even city.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:33 PM on December 17, 2012

Here are some suggestions from a very experienced importer from China:

- Look for suppliers (of various types/levels) on Alibaba and Global Sources.

- You can identify some active importers and exporters using Customs data from third party vendors such as Import Genius and others. However note that some Chinese companies in Southern China use shelf companies in Hong Kong as the exporter of record and/or receiver of payment for various reasons and those companies are not easily connected to the company that owns them (at least not as far as I know).

- If you want to sound like an experienced wholesaler, talk about things like payment terms (due in advance, letter of credit, etc.), bank details for wire transfer payment, shipping terms (ex-works, FOB what port, etc.), MOQ (minimum order quantity, but say "MOQ"), lead time, packing information, undervaluing shipping invoices, freight forwarders, and even the impact of the Chinese New Year (just call it "CNY") holiday and labor turnover on lead time. They may ask you about your company name and website.

MeMail me if you have questions.
posted by Dansaman at 11:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might be better off sounding like an amateur wholesaler rather than an experienced one, also. Just because it would be easier to fake, easier to explain lapses in website, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 12:20 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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