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I've been looking into sites (like Alibaba, etc...) for components, but they are usually at the price of the rain. How can someone know if a company or factory is not a scam and that those components really belong to said factory?

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Even with loafers on the ground it isn't always all that easy, let alone remotely with little chance of recourse. You could also receive old hard-to-solder stock or returns or reclaimed parts or parts with fake (or expired) certifications. I think I've seen almost everything that can go wrong at least once. – Spehro Pefhany May 23 '14 at 11:42
test, test and again test every package you get, buy some extra component to crash-test them. even the bigs may make mistakes. – lesto May 23 '14 at 15:06
@SpehroPefhany - Have you ever seen a part (IC) with what is obviously the wrong die inside? I have. Milspec and certified, too. – WhatRoughBeast May 23 '14 at 19:37
I just need to get clear that both answers where pretty good at their own way and would have selected both has the accepted answer if I could. – Rui Lima May 24 '14 at 23:09
There is also the possibility (likelihood?) you get genuine parts from the real (offshore) manufacturer, but they're just not made very well. Some manufacturers sell low grade parts with AQL in the double digits, and I'm not talking ppb or ppm but %, especially to cost-conscious South Asian customers. Beware also the "golden sample" syndrome and "quality fade" syndrome. – Spehro Pefhany May 25 '14 at 16:04
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Except for blantantly obvious counterfeits where the manufacturer name is misspelled (yes, that has actually happened), it is difficult for you to tell. The best way to avoid this problem is to use reputable suppliers, like Mouser, DigiKey, Element-14, etc.

There is no way I'd ever buy parts from Alibaba. There is a reason some sites have such low prices. Think about it. How can someone sell you small quantities of parts for less than places like Mouser that buy in bulk directly from the manufacturers? These are parts they got as "surplus" from companies that supposedly bought more than they needed (sometimes that's legit, but sometimes these parts were abused or failed tests, which is why the company that bought them is dumping them), knockoff parts made to lower quality standards to cut costs, outright frauds, or even parts that "fell off a truck" in Asia someplace.

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Agreed. Whenever you're dealing internationally, for parts or assembly, you're rolling the dice, and shouldn't be surprised if you get burned. There are, however, middlemen, who spend years developing relationships with offshore facilities, and are willing to stake their business on those relationships. Unfortunately, they're also willing to stake YOUR business on those relationships. It's less risky, but still risky. – Scott Seidman May 23 '14 at 12:53
Don't forget parts that were salvaged by dismantling ewaste. – Dan Neely May 23 '14 at 14:01

Except for the obvious it will be very hard to tell. But one of the best ways is to keep an open mind and don't fall into the trap of painting everyone with the same brush. That is the start of stereotyping which leads to worse things.

The fact is, if you purchase through Western distribution your are suffering from huge mark ups. The reason why costs in some other locations are much much lower is that there is less collusion and more competition and in some cases counterfeit parts. As a case in point, in ramping production for large volumes we got quotes from around the world (through local vendors/partners) and the price difference was staggering ... and these where the same parts, made in the same factory (In Europe) and drop shipped from the same factory. When faced with the proof that they were trying to fleece us with the North American Quotes they matched prices that the factory gave us else where.

So things are not as simple as they might first appear.

Certainly there will be bad people, selling bad products, wherever you are. The best strategy is to mix your supply chain, order from multiple locations and let every vendor know what you are doing. For the North America supply chain they will know they have non colluding competition so will sell you parts that aren't as marked up, with your Asian suppliers they will realize that you have direct comparatives for quality and so will not attempt to mix in re-worked parts etc.

If you can't do this, then order from the most secure source you know of but know that North American vendors often deliberately mark up prices and can keep them high because of FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt). And in all things, even this is not uniformly applied so do your research. There is no single answer.

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In Europe, or in the EU to be more precise, there are much larger labor cost variations between countries than there are between US states. And labor costs do affect quite a bit the distribution business mainly through packaging (even if automated, someone has to at least watch the machines) and then shipping (driver's cost etc.) This moreso for small quantities than by the truckload. So a (say) Poland-based distributor can well undercut the more established (typically UK) ones... sometimes the prices are 2/3 or nearly half and no fakes. Some of the Central/Eastern Europe distributors have now been in business for nearly two decades and have built up enough reputation, have websites in all or most EU-member languages (this may sound like a silly metric, but it's fairly expensive to maintain a coherent website in that many languages), have warehouses in several countries (mostly for fast shipping times to all member states), etc. I can give concrete examples, but they may sound like advertisement. The metrics I mentioned are fairly good at discriminating between the wheat and the chaff when looking at EU-based distributors without giving any names.

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Sounds like you're talking about TME :-) – m.Alin Jan 8 '15 at 9:30

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