I’m currently flitting between varied states of excitement, anticipation and panic! If you’re ever struggled with sourcing products to sell on eBay then read on…

I’ve given the green light to a manufacturer in China to produce a brand new product for me that I’m about to add to my online inventory.

Even after more than 10 years of sourcing products I still get supremely excited when I see all my research coming together and knowing that shortly I will have a great new product available for sale.

One of the most exciting parts of this process? When I see the product samples from the manufacturer, I can see the quality and the product becomes totally real!

You and I, as online sellers, have a common aim and that is to ensure that we source and sell products that make us a profit. Of course it is – that’s obvious.

But, as a serious seller, you should also have another aim – and that is to ensure that the goods you source are always of the utmost quality.

When sourcing products to sell on eBay, it’s tempting to go with goods that you know you can source under budget but, quite honestly, if those cheap goods live up to their name and are also of cheap quality, then your customers will disappear in droves and your reputation will suffer.

However, ‘cheap’ doesn’t always mean poor quality, as I recently discovered. I’m always very diligent when it comes to sourcing products and recently I ordered three product samples, each from a different supplier.

The prices of these products varied in cost by roughly $4 per unit and of course I was expecting that the best quality sample would potentially be the highest quoted price, as I do expect to have to pay a little more for high quality standards.

However, when the product samples arrived it was obvious that this was not the case this time. In fact, the best quality sample was the one from the manufacturer who had quoted the lowest price. How about that? I was delighted but still managed a cheeky bit of extra negotiating to reduce the price further.

On arrival, sample one was decent enough, as was sample two – but the quality of sample three was far superior. It was clear that just by looking at the product images on the manufacturer’s website I hadn’t been able to see just how high spec the product was. But when I received the sample it far exceeded my expectations, particularly compared to the other two samples.

And this is why when you’re sourcing products for your eBay inventory it’s absolutely vital that you always request samples of products before you place a larger order. In my scenario, if I had gone with the cheapest supplier and not bothered with any samples, the situation would actually have worked out okay, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. So samples are absolutely crucial.

I know how tempting it is to bypass this stage of the product sourcing process – after all, you will have to wait for samples to arrive – although mine took less than a week to reach me from China. However, it is simply not worth skipping the sample stage to try and speed up the process.

Why product samples are crucial when sourcing products to sell on eBay


Quite simply, you need product samples for a number of reasons.

1. So that you are able to actually see and feel the product – you can check it over and make sure it reaches the exact standards you expect so that you can confidently sell the product to your customers.

2. You can use samples as a ‘test sell’.  In other words, list the products for sale and gauge the interest of customers to work out your ultimate price point.

3. Ordering a sample will allow you to judge the professionalism and efficiency of the supplier. For example, you’ll be able to note how quickly the sample is dispatched, how long it takes to arrive and how well it is packed.

4. If you are ordering from overseas and are unable to visit the supplier or factory to view the product in person, then a sample is absolutely necessary.

5. You can’t just rely on photos of the product. A photo you receive of a product may not be the actual product you are interested in. You can’t look at the product from all angles and you can’t touch it. It’s simply not the same as seeing the product with your own eyes.

Ordering a sample should not be difficult. However, if a supplier creates a fuss about sending you product samples then it’s definitely best to choose another supplier.

Why would you place a large order for a product if you haven’t actually seen the item for yourself? Why risk your reputation?

A genuine supplier will be more than happy to send you samples – either at a minimal cost or for free if you pay the shipping costs.

And there is absolutely nothing stopping you from ordering samples from more than one supplier either just like I did. In fact, I recommend this because it allows you to compare items easily.

Don’t be apprehensive


If you are a newbie online seller and are not yet entirely confident when dealing with suppliers – or you generally just don’t like having to ‘ask for things’ – you may be wondering what happens if you receive a product sample and you then need to go back to the supplier and request a ‘better quality’ product or for some improvements or upgrades to be made.

What if the supplier gets annoyed and tries to increase the price?

What if the supplier is offended and doesn’t want to deal with you?

What if requesting a different sample or asking for improvements causes further delays in you actually receiving an order and being able to sell the product?

Any of these things ‘could’ happen of course… but remember, when you’re sourcing products for you inventory you are the customer. You are a professional and you are dealing with professionals, so it’s hugely important that you assert yourself and if you are not happy with something, you do make it known.

When sourcing products make sure they are to your high standards – it’s your reputation at stake!


Whether you are considering ordering stock from a UK supplier or International manufacturer, the rules are the same… it’s important that you work with the supplier. You are much more likely to get exactly what you want – particularly if you are having a factory create a product for you.

So remember:

  • Don’t rush the process
  • Stay in constant contact with the supplier
  • Be clear about your exact needs


What if you order a sample – and it’s great – but when your full order arrives the product looks different and the quality is poor?


This can also happen, although this might mostly occur when you are looking at sourcing products that are manufactured from scratch rather than buying in bulk from a wholesaler.

Sometimes a manufacturer will create an absolutely perfect ‘prototype’ of a product. It will look AMAZING! It will be of the highest quality possible – and this is what you may receive as your ‘sample’.

As you might have already guessed, the ‘sample’ is designed to wow you… and before you know it you’ve gone ahead and ordered 1000 units without really thinking about it.

Don’t let this happen to you. All you need do is when requesting a sample, always ask for an ‘off the line production sample’ – basically a sample from a real run of the actual product, literally off the production line. This is a true sample and will allow you to see the quality for real.

So next time you’re sourcing products to sell on eBay (or Amazon!), don’t try and fast track things by missing out this key ‘sample’ stage. It is worth taking your time and getting things right rather than making a very costly mistake.