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Johny
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There are a whole lot of reasons for difficulties you mention. Many of them revolve around communication.

For example, you rarely hear a “no” from a Chinese manufacturer. It is all “yes”, until it gets too hard. Good on you if you managed to get a refund. Most don’t.

As someone who sits in the middle of these transactions, I would suggest that poor communication often comes from both sides. Not unexpected, but a native English speaker often doesn’t consider they are dealing with someone whose English may not be the best and just expects them to understand, and conversely, standards of understanding can vary dramatically when English is not a first language.

One of the major stumbling blocks you will have is your quantities. With only small quantities, there isn’t a lot of “fat” for a manufacturer to take the time and effort to really put in to make sure your sample/order goes smoothly. Rightly or wrongly, its a fact of life.

From my own experience, there is a limited amount I can do for a small order simply because the time and effort involved usually ends up costing more than I make out of the deal.

There will always be a level of trial and error involved – including the need to consider different suppliers if one doesn’t work out. Unfortunately that costs money and for a small order especially doesn’t seem worthwhile. So you got to decide to either keep looking or consider other options. As you are seeing, supposed lower unit cost doesn’t necessarily mean lower overall cost once you consider all the time and effort involved.