My own personal doing business with Chinese rant

Story 1

A few days ago I looked up the DHL number my potential supplier was sending me.

I noticed the departure point.  Then not believing what I was seeing I looked again.

About a month or so ago I started talking to this potential supplier about samples.  The company is located in Zhengzhou, Henan. A big enough city, with lots of folks moving to Shenzhen to work.  Maybe someday I'll even go there.

So finally I get the pricing I want.   I start the process of buying product.  I ask for an FOB price.  I'm given Qingdao and Shanghai.  Then the supplier finally decides on Shanghai.   The price automatically jumps 30%


I map out the distance from Zhengzhou to Shanghai.  587 miles.  Wow.

I ask the supplier for her factory address.  I will quote this ex works.  That is I will pick the product up myself and ship it to America.  However, it's just a quote I want for now.  Nothing else.

She demurs.   Yep....the sales lady at the factory hems and haws....always paranoid about something.  

2-3 days pass.  Finally I'm given "a city".   While the office I'm speaking with is in Zhengzhou, it turns out the factory itself is in Taizhou, Zhejiang province. 

I map the distance.  And I change the port from Shanghai to Ningbo.  And suddenly instead of 587 miles its only 113 miles.

The company in Zhengzhou thought it could increase its price 30% by shipping the product itself,  and pretend the distance was nearly 600 miles when it was only a tad over 100 miles.  I'm simply astounded at both how dumb some Chinese think we are and simultaneously how "ballsy" they are to try and pull such a stunt.

Then....after giving them my fedex number, I get a reply stating the documentation burden to get a pickup is too cumbersome, which to be honest I sorta believe.  So I pay them $45 for transportation costs.  No biggie.

Now a couple of days ago, I receive a DHL number from them.  And where did the pickup take place?


Not Zhengzhou.  Not Taizhou. 

Not even Mainland China.

WTF?  I reached out to the factory in Zhengzhou.  I asked the saleslady if she is from Taiwan.  She said no.  Nor did she seem nonplussed about the product coming from Taiwan.  Rather, she simply mentioned that DHL "stopped off in Taiwan" with the samples already on board the plane.  Nevermind the tracking said it was "picked up" in Taiwan.

Do we understand now why  people feel nervous working with China?

Too much mystery.  The name of the game is to get rid of the stress, and the mystery.  Not increase it.

Story 2

Everyone knows I speak Chinese.  When I'm in China I obviously use it everyday.   If I couldn't speak Mandarin I wouldn't be as moderately successful as I am today.   Let me let you in on a secret;  when in America I never eat rice.  Ever.  I prefer my own food.  When in China I eat rice everyday, and usually about two bowls. And I love it. No why?  I'm in the Heavenly Kingdom of course.

Yesterday I got a cold call from somebody that wants to be my supplier.  

It went like this:

First a woman calls and speaks English. Asked who I was, and when I confirmed my identity she asked me to wait a moment and hung up.  

Another call soon came.  It was the voice of man.  He said "Hello", and I replied. 

He asked me if this was "Francis" and I said "yeah". 

Then his next question floored me.

"Can you speak Chinese?"

My answer was immediate.   

"You are calling me, you need to speak English."

"But I cannot speak English very well."  Which was correct.

Upon reflection, I had to admit some admiration for a fellow that couldn't speak English, yet felt we Americans can all speak some Mandarin, and thus called seeking our business. 

Finally after about 20 seconds of very awkward conversation we started speaking Mandarin. 
He gave me his story.   His spiel.   Apparently he was a longtime former supplier of my main supplier, and for some reason lost his business.   He doesn't know why.  It didn't help his cause when upon asking for a certain quality certification his reply was 

"I don't have that but I can get it."

But I couldn't help but feel annoyed at someone thinking he could call me from overseas and expect I would speak his language. European readers pls cease and desist!   I know what you are thinking!  But I think English has held up well on your continent thank you very much. :-)

Maybe it’s just me, as I speak so much Chinese over there, as I should, but shouldn't you be able to speak my mother tongue if a Chinese wishes to call me and introduce themselves?

Story 3  

This actually took place on my last trip to China. 
I was meeting with a potential supplier for the first time.  I was happy to see them come and visit me in my hotel, travelling from Shenzhen to Guangzhou.  Not a long trip I know.  But I appreciated the effort.  

As we sat down to discuss things I took out my name cards.  I asked them for theirs.  They said they either left them at home or don't have any.  I immediately took mine off the table and put them back in my bag.    

My thinking was simple:  If they aren't willing to give me theirs, they ain't getting mine.

The meeting went ok, but towards the end I realized their Saleslady had only introduced her CEO along with the Chief Designer with English names.  Herself included.

I asked her for their Chinese names.  She repeated their English names.   I let it go.
Later when back in the States' she emailed me.  Again I asked her for the Chinese names of her colleagues.  After all, she had my proper name.  I want theirs. 

No response.

This opaqueness I found quite disturbing if not just a tad amusing.  After all, if a Chinese wanted their names, would they have received the same response?  So why be so dismissive of such an ordinary request?  Do you really think you will get my business if I don't know who the fuck you are? 

It's fun working in China folks.  I love it! It is never, ever boring.  


  1. Reactions:

    Story 1-I was going to write something similar to another one of your posts; so it is timely. The Chinese as a group are such bad liars. Its not only the mainlanders, across Greater China you get the same thing. The Mainland is just more blatant. I used to think this was just to trick the laowai, but I have come to think this is more just how business is done. They just assume a Chinese-speaking laowai understands the game. Sometimes I just laugh at them when these situations come up as it is sooooo ridiculous.

    Story 2-While I get your point, I guess the guy had heard/assumed you speak Mandarin, so he thought he had a chance. If the guys sucks in English, I would much rather talk in Chinese anyway.

    Story 3-This is a big pet peeve of mine. Chinese all think laowai cannot pronounce Chinese names, as well as it is more international in their mind to have an English name. I want to your know their REAL name. The big reason is for due diligence purposes. You can only find out something useful about them if you inquire using their actual Chinese names. The other problem is some of names are so ridiculous that it is hard doing business with someone using such a fake name professionally. Easy examples, Chinese females using stripper names like Candy, Jade, Lotus, etc. Or my favorite, I once met a Chinese guy who called himself Donald Duck Zhang. No joke. If there are going to use an English name they should at least spend a few minutes "binging" it (no google) to see if it could be a problem.

    1. I teach English in Hangzhou and some of the names my students come up with is amazing. Recent highlights include

      Halcyon (where the hell she found that I do not know)
      Princess (a male student btw)
      Young (she at least is)
      Even (tried to get him to change it to Evan but hey ho)

      and the greatest of them all.....


    2. Well, I was told their Chinese English teachers give them their names....I tried to name myself as well....then I was told I was using Japanese names!

  2. I met one girl today that calls herself "July". I met another that is named "Shallow". I told her to change it to Shelley. The Chinese are so secretive. I wish they simply knew how detrimental it is to their abilities to do business with us.

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Those names are good too.

    Yes, the Chinese are so secretive for no reason at all. I can't think of how many times working with Chinese in a business situation and they really seem to be hiding some disaster, and then it turns out to be nothing at all. So odd.

    Love the stories!

  4. Gf is from Henan, I told a Chinese guy this and he told me in Chinese something like: 百分十九十河南人是骗子百分十十是他們教练。 And I went to Henan to visit my gfs parents in winter, it felt like i was in a zombie apocalypse. Streets are noisy and dirty, and I have never seen so much pollution in my life, there was not one redeeming quality I can think of.


  5. You know it's bad when even the Chinese guys call girls 骗子。 I don't think one can always call the kettle black though. I'v come across a few Chinese girls...not bad...married though...somewhat remorseful to boot.


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