In the used box business, we get asked all types of questions. We know that people like to shop around to find the best deal they can for their company, so we’ve come up with seven questions we think you should ask when you are on the hunt for boxes. There are several reputable companies out there, but some are not very upfront at telling you everything you should know to make an educated decision. One such possible buyer-beware type is what we call “box brokers” in our industry. A box broker is a company or individual that finds boxes for customers and manages all the logistics on their behalf. This can be a great thing if the broker is really good at what they do. It can also be a nightmare if they aren’t. That being said, here the top 7 questions you can ask to further engage with the supplier to get a feel of what they do and how they do it.
1. Do you have a website?
First and foremost, if they have a website, read as much information as you can about the company and their product. Some of these questions may already be answered on their site, but a lot of companies are afraid to answer them online or even over the phone. Also look at the quality of the site. A one-page website could be indicative to the size of the company and the effort they’re willing to put forth in providing the information potential customers need in order to make a decision. Everyone on the internet today understands the importance of information. We understand that as well, hence the reason for this post. We have answered all of the questions below online through our website or blog, and on the phone.
2. Are you a box broker, or do you refurbish boxes at your facility?
If they are a broker-only company, they will not have facilities where they can inspect boxes and will rely solely on their supplier to provide information on the box, including description, bundle count and quality. This is similar to buying a prewrapped ‘grab bag’ as a gift at the store. Yes it is a gift, but you really don’t know what you are buying and can only hope that what is being described to you is correct. It is a very risky business that we do not recommend unless the broker has established a long lasting relationship with their supplier and has spent time inspecting the boxes coming from each facility they buy from.
3. (IF A BROKER-ONLY COMPANY) - Do you have a vendor certification program in place to verify the quality of boxes you are brokering?
Balcon goes through an extensive screening process when it comes to selling boxes that have not been processed by our employees. We require several loads to be shipped to our facilities for quality verification, and then random loads are chosen throughout the year for inspection. If those test loads do not meet our standards, that vendor is removed from the list. So what happens if you’ve ordered from a broker and you receive a load that needs to be rejected due to quality issues? You need to understand the rules when what you receive is not what you expected, and the costs associated with rejecting a load. Brokers do not like rejected loads because they don’t have a warehouse to store them, which can lead to the possibility for you as the buyer to be offered a discounted rate to accept the less-than-quality boxes versus them trying to find another buyer. As enticing as this may sound, word travels quickly in the industry and if you have a reputation of rejecting loads to negotiate a lower price, you’ll find it difficult to locate companies who are willing to do business with you. Balcon never negotiates on rejected loads because we always have warehouses to send them to where we can inspect the boxes to determine why they were rejected. Our rejection rate is so miniscule that it’s hardly worth discussing because we have learned through the years that doing all of the work on the front end with processing boxes and thoroughly vetting vendors reduces the risk associated with sending incorrect boxes and having loads rejected.
4. Do you have your own storage facilities where your employees inspect and refurbish boxes?
Have them describe their refurbishing process. They should be able to tell you what they do to the boxes once they receive them into their facility. For example when we receive a load of used boxes from a supplier into one of our processing facilities; we sort and separate each box by type, size and quality. We then clean each box and get rid of as much of the previous contents as possible, remove any loose tape, restack the boxes by assigned part number, secure each stack using a strapping system that enables us to maximize quantity per bundle and minimize freight cost, and store the boxes in a warehouse facility free from the elements.
5. Is freight included in the price of the box?
This question is often overlooked. Customers think they are getting a great deal on a box and then receive the bill with an unexpected freight charge. We always ask the customer if they want a delivered rate or if they want the freight broken out. Trust us when we say this “freight is not free”. Someone is paying for those boxes to get to their destination. So whether it is hidden in the cost of the box or listed as an additional line item, it will be covered. But forget to ask and you may be shocked when the invoice arrives and you realize that great price you paid may not be that great.
6. Do you guarantee that what I order is what I will be getting?
If they do not guarantee that what you order is what you will receive, end the call. If we make a mistake and ship the wrong boxes, we will correct our mistake. If you ordered processed boxes and we shipped unprocessed boxes, we correct it. Bottom line, we guarantee what we send is what you ordered and if there is a discrepancy, we will work with you to resolve any issues.
7. How long have you been in business?
Longevity is king. It is obvious that if a company has been in business 10 years or more, they have stood the test of time and you can research them by doing the google search “bad reviews on XYZ company”. Building a good quality supplier list and working through all of the new-business kinks can be very time consuming and you definitely don’t want to waste thousands of your company’s dollars to be someone else’s guinea pig.
To summarize, please educate yourself and ask questions. Do not take for granted that other people have your best interest in mind. They may only be concerned about their commission check or covering overhead for the week. The more comfortable you are with their answers over the phone and information they freely supply on their website, the more likely you are going to have a good buying experience.