China Purchasing Agents: Too Good To Be True?

We recently discovered that Alibaba shows a list of “purchasing agents“. We thought “Wow really? How are they verified?”
They list more than 2,000 individuals purchasing agent in China at your service. It looks like the or the of the sourcing industry. Some of these agents boast over 20 years of experience and are specialized in a certain industry. Looks great… so far.
What are the conditions to be listed as a good purchasing agent?
First, the agent must be part of a trading company listed on Alibaba (so these are not individual freelancers — these are middlemen).
Second, the company must have been a “gold supplier” for at least 3 years. In other words, they must have been paying for Alibaba’s services for at least 3 years. (As I explained before, a “gold supplier” is a supplier that pays for their Alibaba account — it has nothing to do with their competency, track record, etc.)
In other words, Alibaba found a way to offer some exposure to trading companies in a positive light. The problem is, the way it is presented is prone to deceive buyers. These “purchasing agents” are English-speaking salespeople working for a trading company.
Does it make sense for buyers?
We defined a product that is simple but not “hot” — a 3M adhesive tape with a bit of customization. We contacted 5 agents and got one answer within a week. That agent’s quotation looked random and did not match our exact request.
No surprise here. Since they are part of a trading company, those agents are interested in working on off-the-shelf products that are easy to sell.
So… does it make sense for buyers to use this Alibaba service? I don’t think so. You can simply send an enquiry on Alibaba. Most responses will come from trading companies.

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