The Reluctant Messenger
Anita is the sourcing manager of Blue Genes, a major Dutch importer/wholesaler of denim garments. She is worried about late delivery of 6000 fancy denim jackets ordered from Bali Jeans, her supplier in Indonesia. The contract ship date from the port of Jakarta was last week, and Anita still has no word from them.
Last year Bali shipped two small orders, both of them within two weeks or so of the contract delivery date and without any major garment defects. Based on that positive experience Anita ordered 500 dozen jackets this season at a good price.
On-time delivery was critical this time because her company’s major retail customers will cancel if she shipped late, leaving Blue Genes to “eat” the goods. Since these are big-ticket fashion items, the firm would take a heavy financial loss in addition to alienating regular customers.
Bali Jeans answered Anita’s last two email inquiries promptly, reporting both times that production was “on schedule.” But now, the fact is they are late.
As Anita sits steaming, her assistant pops in with a short fax from Mr. Suboto, marketing manager of Bali Jeans: “We regret to inform you that due to late delivery of piece goods we are running slightly behind on production. Expect to deliver within two weeks. Please immediately extend L/C validity by 45 days. Suboto.”
Groaning out loud, Anita asks herself “How could this happen? Why didn’t Suboto inform us right away when he found out that the fabric was late?” Obviously, if they are asking for an L/C extension of 45 days they will not deliver ‘within two weeks’ as Suboto now claims.
Had she known about this delay two weeks ago Anita could have at least partially satisfied Blue Genes’ most important retail customers by shipping them some quantities of a similar style from China. But being unaware of the problem in Jakarta, her company sold all those Chinese items yesterday to a German retail group. Now Blue Genes is completely out of stock…and out of luck.
The Reluctant Messenger
Solution and Discussion
Had she known that high-context Southeast Asians tend to avoid or delay reporting bad news, Anita could have visited the Bali Jeans factory in person to verify quality and delivery or hired a reputable local agent or international inspection company to do this.
This case illustrates why very large retailers and importer/distributors who source merchandise internationally generally establish their own resident buying offices to cover distant supply markets. The people staffing these offices are responsible for locating suppliers, managing product quality and monitoring on-time delivery.
Smaller importers such as Bali Jeans normally lack the huge buying volume needed to recover the expense of maintaining in-house sourcing offices around the world. Instead, they do what Anita should have done: see paragraph one above.