When you make your first purchasing deal on Alibaba, you should always write up a contract which will help you with disputes if it happens. Even if the supplier is Gold certified and offers trade assurance, it doesn’t mean they won’t make a mistake when making your product. I have heard many horror stories, including those who’ve had their product made with an inferior quality material or others who ended up with a product with missing parts/components.
It is crucial that you write out a contract that details the exact standard you want your product to be made, including material, colors, size, etc.
SAMPLE CONTRACT TERMS YOU SHOULD DISCUSS ABOUT:
1) Product packaging: you should always discuss with your manufacturer beforehand about how your product will be packaged.
- You can use the standard box offered by your supplier (slap a sticker on it with your brand name)
- You can choose a plain cardboard box with your logo printed on it
- You can ask if your supplier have their own in-house designer who can create a box design for you
- You can hire a graphic designer from Fiverr or 99Designs to create a custom box design, then send it to your supplier
- Make sure you get your supplier to print the FNSKU barcode on the outside of the box, and the barcode must be readable by a scanner. It will save you a lot of time. Trust me!
- Make sure the words “MADE IN CHINA” is somewhere on the outside of the box
2) Product insert: this is not necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to start early and will definitely help you down the road. On the insert, you can ask your customers for a honest review, warranty sign up, and offer some additional values such as a recipe if you are selling kitchen products. Check out our example insert here.
3) Certifications: Some product such as electronics need certifications such as RoHS, FCC and CE, while other items related to food requires FDA approval. Make sure your supplier have the necessary documents before you place an order. For example, if you are importing items with lithium battery, your product will not be able to board a plane if you don’t follow the rules set forth by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
4) Material: Make sure you understand everything about what you are importing including the exact material it will be made with. If you are importing steel products, you should understand the difference between different quality of steel. You would need to know numbers such 304, 430, 220 or 18/8, 18/10, 18/0, which tells you the different grade of the steel. If you are importing tote bags, you should know the difference between polypropylene, polyester, and nylon and also be familiar with terms such as D(denier), T(thread count) and GSM(grams per square meter). By understanding the different materials that can be used to produce your product, you can write it clearly in your contract so there are no surprises on the finished product.
5) Invoice: Make sure you supplier provide you with a commercial invoice for custom purposes.
6) Export License: Your manufacturer should have an export license to ship their goods out of China. This is most likely illegal, but a lot of smaller manufacturers DO NOT have these licenses and still are able to export out of China by going through a third party agent (another company with export license). If your manufacturer can not provide a valid export license, it’s not the end of the road, but just be aware that their products may not meet US standards.
9) QMS: A quality management system (QMS) is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution (production/development/service) in the core business area of an organization. (i.e. areas that can impact the organization’s ability to meet customer requirements.) ISO 9001:2008 is an example of a Quality Management System. It’s usually a good sign if your factory have an ISO 9001:2008 qualification.
10) Carton Packaging: All boxes provided by the manufacturer, must follow United States customs regulations for markings on cartons. They must be properly labeled for exporting:
- Shipper’s mark
- Weight (in pounds and in kilograms)
- Number of packages and size of cases (in inches and centimeters)
- Handling marks (international pictorial symbols)
- Safety markings such as “This Side Up” (in English and in the language of the country of destination)
- Port of entry
- Product description (for example, bar accessories)
- Country of origin (CHINA)
Make sure the boxes are thick and packaged well, especially if your product is on the heavy side. Based on personal experience, the standard boxes offered by most manufacturers are not strong enough to withstand the abuse. You should ask for a 7 layer corrugated cardboard box.
11) Time of Delivery: Make sure you agree on a specific time when your product should be delivered to you. For example, the supplier must deliver the product to _____ as indicated by ______ on July 30, which is 35 days from the day of this contract.