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Weeding Out the Bad Ones

Be alert to the warning signs that you may be in an unhealthy relationship with your supplier.

I’m still emotionally raw as I write this. It’s so hard to talk about the breakup. Of course, I’m bitter… I should have let go long ago. Now, along with the split with my drop shipper come the additional scars on my reputation: low DSR scores on eBay.

I’m not sure where to begin this story, so I’ll start with when we first met. You see, he was my dream product, so perfect. He had everything I was looking for. He had a general selling price of over $50, with a good markup. He was a good product—designed for consumers who wanted quality but not necessarily a fancy brand name. That made him a definite fit for the eBay customer.

I was first introduced to him at a trade show. It was a friend-of-a-friend kind of thing. My supplier had just brought him on board. And, as soon as we were introduced, I felt the sparks fly.

Oh, and to seal the deal, he had a high moral standard. The product line was only sold to vendors who agreed to “minimum advertised price” pricing. That meant my markup would stay high. I would not see the shrinking margins that so often happen on eBay when each seller tries to see how low they can go to outsell the competition.

We started dating. I ordered a few products to see how things would go. It went well, so I went for a second, and then a third date. I was very happy with the relationship and my affections grew fonder.

The first sign of trouble

It seemed so perfect. But, in the end it just wasn’t meant to be

Then came the first bump in the road: My distributer abruptly dropped him. No more chaperone. He called me up and told me I could order directly from him. And, he offered to drop-ship any product directly from his warehouse—no extra charge. Oh my, how he could sweet talk a gal.

I ask you, who wouldn’t have fallen for him? It seemed so perfect. But, in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.

Spring turned to summer, and summer to fall, and the courtship began to falter. He had a hard time keeping product in stock and forgot to call when stock was low. I’d occasionally get an e-mail from him with an update, but long distance relationships are hard. When I could no longer rely on him, I started letting it slide. When listings expired, I didn’t bother to relist.

I still cared—he was a quality fellow—and when he reached out to me earlier this year to reunite, he promised he’d mended his ways. He’d found a new distributer who would keep us on the up and up. New product was rolling in and, yes, he still wanted me to sell his products on eBay, and drop shipping was OK by all. What a rare fellow.

I took him back with open arms. I pulled out the old listings, polished them up for the new eBay and posted them. However, it turned out that I was rushing our renewed courtship. He forgot to tell me that the new shipment wasn’t in—and those items that sold almost immediately wouldn’t be in for another six weeks… Oops. His old pattern was repeating. I should have known then that you can’t change a tiger’s stripes.

Finally the day arrived that the product was in hand. Our new arrangement meant I had to sign up with a new distributer. The new chaperone was given my name and contact information months before, and promptly ignored them. And another month went by, and then another, until my beau finally got tired of me e-mailing him for the secret supplier’s name. You see, for some reason I wasn’t allowed to contact them. I still don’t know why, but the new distributer needed to contact me.

Love is blind

I should have walked away then. But this was a solid selling product, with good margins

Well, it turns out my new middle man was a big box supplier. No secret agent, after all. Someone like me was just small potatoes, an ant on the radar.

How could my guy do this to me? I should have walked away then. But this was a solid selling product, with good margins, and I didn’t even have to tie up capital before it sold. I really wanted this to work out! Can you say, “blinded by love?”

After long, endless waiting, the call finally came. I was so desperate for any communication that I accepted the toll. In this case, I was so insignificant that to continue the relationship I had to pay a $100 application fee. Of course, this violated a core principal of mine—to never, ever pay a supplier for the ability to sell their products. But just like Bella of the “Twilight” saga, so in love with Edward she’s willing to give up her mortal life, I justified the fees to gain entry.

Forget that it would take several sales to make back the fee. I had already put so much time and energy into the relationship, between e-mails, customer service, market research and creating the listings, I felt I had nothing to lose. (Oh, the love-sick are so sad.)

Paid up, and properly setup, I was turned loose to sell again. Up went the listings and instantly the sales started. Happily, and with the glow of love in my eyes, I placed my orders for the items to be shipped to customers.

And more trouble…

I’m so ashamed. I feel like a fool—my lover so played me. Nowhere was it mentioned there would be additional charges on every order from the middleman—a stiff handling fee, and outrageous shipping charges. Let’s just say, if I tried passing the fees onto my eBay customers, I would be getting very low shipping scores.

The bitter end

If you drop ship, bail out at the first sign of trouble

Finally, it happened, the waterloo of our relationship. I know I should have ended it before it got so complicated.

A customer in California ordered a bag. I logged in and placed the order, still in bliss. But the wind was knocked out of me when I received notification that the shipper refused to ship to California—even though one of their warehouses actually sits just a few miles from my customer. But, they wouldn’t budge.

To get the bag to my customer I had to have it shipped to me and I would have to ship it to my customer. Yep, you’ve got it—the tab was mine to pick up. Double shipping.

That was it! I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to get out! All the listings came down and I started looking for a new product.

You may be thinking, “Gosh, Cindy is really a pushover.” If you are, please just consider this tale and take a lesson from it: Don’t ever, not once, fall in love with your product.

There are always others who are not hard to get. Never pay to sell someone’s product. And if you do drop ship, bail out at the first sign of trouble, or your scores will surely suffer.

I know true love is out there. It’s just a matter of waiting to jump in with both feet until you’re sure you’ve got the real thing.

Have you had a good or bad experience with a supplier? I’d love to hear you story. Come over to my Facebook Fan Page and join the conversation.

About the author

Cindy Shebley
Cindy Shebley is an eBay certified business consultant, education specialist, store designer and author who teaches throughout the Northwest. The recently released eBay Marketing Bible is available in bookstores everywhere. Shebley's Web Sellers' Circle program helps sellers grow their business and stay competetive in today's marketplace. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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