The Catch With China: Why DIY Ordering Costs More than You Think

These slippers look great, right?  Too bad the manufacturer made them in the wrong size…

With today’s DIY craze, people are taking on everything from retiling their own bathrooms to making their own jam. But when it comes to promo products, trying to do it yourself and save a buck can have disastrous consequences.

There’s an array of websites like Alibaba and where you can go and order logo’ed product direct from China. These companies don’t belong to any promotional product associations in North America, so they can sell to whoever they like instead of going through a distributor like Promosapien. Cutting out the middleman can seem attractive, but when things go wrong with an order their non-member status means that there’s also no one to hold them accountable and protect the consumers’ interests.

We’ve had many calls over the years from customers in a panic after an order from China has gone sideways. They’ve either been told last minute that their deadline will not be met, or they’ve received the product and the logo printing was done incorrectly, or the product itself was defective. In these cases they haven’t been offered any support from the manufacturer to get replacement goods done, let alone get a refund for the 100% pre-payment that is required for overseas ordering.



Ordering direct from China can seem like a bargain, until you consider the potential costs if something goes wrong.


The money that they’ve saved by ordering direct now ends up costing them more than double either in time spent to resolve the situation, missed marketing opportunities with products arriving after events, and often having to pay to have the products redone by a local distributor.

As experts in the promotional product industry, even we’ve been burned by using manufacturers who are not members of our industry associations. We were working on a special project for a client who needed specific slippers for their VIP customers. As it turned out, we were unable to source the right slippers from any of our trusted suppliers. We placed the order with a company in China and everything was moving along fine… until the slippers arrived. They were much smaller than the specs and pre-production samples we received and as a result were not acceptable to the client.

Normally, if there are issues with the products of our trusted manufacturers, we would receive a refund for the faulty goods and have new ones done lickety split. However, because this supplier was not an industry member they had no incentive to take responsibility for their mistake. They did agree to refund us for the product, but only if we sent the goods back to them without removing or obscuring our client’s logo. We feared they would turn around and resell the slippers to retail stores overseas with our client’s brand on them, and so we refused to send the product back. More than having our money refunded, it was of primary importance to us to protect our client’s brand. After a long and time-consuming process we ended up with a hefty bill, hundreds of wasted slippers and a disappointed client.



Even as experts in the promo industry, we have been burned by using manufactures who are not industry members.


The bottom line here is, when ordering direct from overseas and outside the protection of promotional product associations, there is no one to turn to if things go wrong and the manufacturer refuses to give your money back. There are no social media pages to write on and warn other consumers, and the companies have no real need to maintain their reputation in the industry as they don’t work on a long term relationship basis.

So next time you’re feeling the urge to DIY, we suggest trying out a new project on Pinterest… and then call Promosapien for your promo products!