Stateside, I quickly learned that entire shipments being imported can be held by a field inspector who has limited understanding of the regulations.
Once, I spent six months trying to educate an inspector in order to have my product released. I even had a former senior inspector try to explain the rules to him for me.
The reason for detention on paper was changed to something completely unrelated to mask the original erroneous reason, and ultimately I had to pay to destroy the entire shipment after the appeal period expired.
That incident was only the beginning of my struggles with international sourcing. I received zero response on urgent issues from the manufacturer, rejection of conference call requests, an inconsistent point of contact, etc…
It was common to stay up late trying to call the manufacturer while they were in the office on the other side of the world with the 12 hour time difference. I remember countless nights spent calling Thailand between 10pm and 3am. I kept trying to get an answer, I got zero return phone calls; I even reverted to faxing when calls and emailing didn’t work.
I ultimately began asking myself if I wanted to continue to struggle for basic communication.
I continued to work despite the communication gap and manufacturing inconsistency. What eventually became the tipping point was when I lost trust in the product I was selling.
I was uncomfortable with a connection I felt between inappropriate, unprofessional conduct and the possibility of questionable production processes.
My desire to source internationally continued to dissipate when athletes began failing their performance enhancing drug tests due to questionable production and formula contamination. I was no longer 100% confident in the product; I lost confidence in the substance that I was putting in the hands of my customers.
I needed to be 100% sure to be able to stand behind my product and to maintain consumer trust.
I saw more and more reports illustrating that consumers didn’t always purchase what they asked for, such as cases of lead in drywall and children’s toys. Then there was the 60 Minutes report on Olive Oil documenting that 75 percent of extra virgin olive oil sold in the U.S. was not extra virgin.
For some time, I had been exploring manufacturing my own Thai oil brand in Thailand, despite communication and importation difficulties, and had maintained contacts with other brands. As my negotiations with other manufacturers progressed, I noticed that pre-discussed points became non-stop moving targets, and I started considering sourcing in the USA.
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