Don’t Buy Anything at Aliexpress until You Read This
First of all, what is AliExpress? This online retailer is an international branch of Chinese ecommerce giant AliBaba, which is kind of like an Asian version of Amazon and eBay. While not all of us might have heard this name, even smaller number of people in the US knows anything about its operations and safety. Before shopping there, read this article and you might find some answers.
Alibaba is now a multi-billion corporation, but it started as B2B selling and buying platform. It now does B2C and C2C operations, cloud computing, and payment services. To understand how big this company really is, imagine this – it sold $25 billion worth of goods on Single’s Day in November of 2017. Amazon has nothing on this company in terms of volume and reach.
AliExpress is a platform, like Amazon, where Chinese retailers sell products directly to consumers. One major difference – AliExpress does not sell anything itself, it’s all done by third party merchants. All those merchants are controlled and approved by AliExpress.
Why is everything so cheap on AliExpress?
If you visit the website and shop around, you are bound to ask this question. There are a few explanations. First, you might be buying from the manufacturer and thus foregoing third party sellers and resellers, which mark up any product. We all know that production costs are very different in China than they are here, which is why most of our manufacturing is done in China. Electronics will definitely be cheaper from China in part due to relaxed intellectual property laws, in part due to cheap labor.
Second and worse possibility is the chance that the item is fraudulent or counterfeit. Unfortunately, China is also known for that, and AliExpress is not exempt from these problems. Anything can be counterfeit on this platform, from housewares to clothing and electronics. You have to be very careful as many companies will have you pay in advance and never send any items.
How long does it take to receive your order?
You will need some patience when ordering from AliExpress. The estimated time of arrival for most items is 20-60 days. Yes, 60! Most items arrive in a couple of weeks, which is still long in US standards. Amazon has us all spoiled with its 2-day free shipping, doesn’t it?
If you happen to buy something around Chinese Single’s Day on November 11th or during Chinese New Year in February, it will take even longer as those are the biggest shopping holidays in China and entire Asia.
All shipments will have a tracking number, but it might take a week to receive it. Once you get it, you will be able to follow your package’s long and fascinating trip. If you don’t get the tracking number in 10 days, you should contact the seller, but you won’t be able to open a case until the allowed time of delivery has passed. Again, patience! AliExpress is very good about investigating and issuing full refund in case of non-delivery.
Do you have to pay import taxes?
Yes, import taxes are charged by all countries for allowing entrance of goods from abroad. The amount of this tax depends on the value of your items and your country. The shipping company, in this case AliExpress, will pay this tax and handling fee and then send you the bill. This is when that really cheap $10 gadget becomes not so cheap after $2 handling fee and $10 customs fee are added.
Many people don’t realize that such import tax will be added and get angry at the company for not informing them. To avoid this anger, many AliExpress sellers ship items as inexpensive “gifts”, which is illegal. Some delivery services won’t even accept such “gifts” from China and rightfully so. All in all, you should always pay your taxes, so expect about $20 extra every time you order something from AliExpress.
What about the quality of goods?
Generally speaking, most products are not worse than what you find here. Most things are made in China anyway. Sometimes your expectations might be too high. Don’t assume you will receive a luxurious high quality dress for $10. Demand a refund only when something is really wrong.
If you received the item and it matches the picture, you won’t get a refund. To punish the seller you can leave a bad review. Shipping the item back to China will cost you more than your entire order, so forget it.
How common are fraudsters on AliExpress?
AliExpress and Alipay are no less secure than Amazon and eBay. You are in good hands here, but just like with all online content, no company is completely immune to hacking. So yes, your personal information is as secure as everywhere else.
There is one area where you are less protected than on Amazon – it is merchant approval process on AliExpress. We don’t know this process well enough, the only thing we know is that there are enough fraudulent cases for the company to have a section for fraud case studies and tips how to avoid scams. Enough said.
How do you avoid scammers then?
- First golden rule - if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Check other sites before buying and compare prices. Keep in mind that 75% savings on non-branded items are possible and not unusual.
- Use AliPay’s Escrow Service – this is a great service, because your credit card information won’t be released to the seller and AliExpress with pay the seller only after your delivery confirmation. In case of fraud, AliExpress will be refunding your purchase, not the seller.
- Check seller’s reputation – this applies for many e-commerce platforms. If you are dealing with a serial scammer, you will see that in the reviews. Look out for failures to deliver.
- Examine your order carefully – if you are using their Escrow service, examine the items you received, check if everything is included, not broken, and that it doesn’t look like a fake. Once you accept it, you still have 15 days to open a case.
- Don’t buy branded goods on AliExpress – branded items have special protection and are examined extra carefully. If upon inspection it becomes clear that the goods are fake, they will be seized at customs.
- Be careful with memory and storage components – those are very easy to hack and you might not be able to track the seller by the time you realize you got less than what you paid for.
All in all, AliExpress is a safe place to shop. You won’t get the same guarantees and consumer protection as you will get on the US sites, but savings are worth a little risk. It will take a long time to arrive and once in a while you will encounter something shady, but again, we are talking about huge financial benefits, and that comes at a cost.
AliExpress Shopping Guide. How to Shop Safely at AliExpress
Shopping online can easily lead you into unsafe territory. For every legitimate company, there are a few looking to get your money and run away.
If you want to protect yourself, don’t rush to give your money away easily. Always research the site you are going to buy from and find out how they protect their buyers, are scams and frauds likely, and how will you get your refund if needed.
Let’s take a look at AliExpress.com and find out if buying gadgets from this Chinese retailer makes sense.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a part of Alibaba Group e-commerce organization. Alibaba has recently surpassed Walmart and became the largest retailer in the world, offering various services for consumers and businesses in China and around the world.
AliExpress was added to Alibaba platform in 2010. It works just like eBay by letting third parties sell Chinese products on the website. They don’t produce or sell their own merchandise.
The site is very popular in Russia and Latin America. This proves the global point.
Buying online you have to be willing to take more risks than picking an item in the store. First of all, you can’t see it or test quality and features. If you are buying a well-known brand, you can read reviews and go to the store to take a look before ordering.
If you choose to buy from AliExpress because of price, you are on your own. You will have to evaluate the product just based on a short description and a few photos. In this case your best bet is buyer protection program.
AliExpress offers two ways to resolve disputes:
- Full refund if you didn’t receive your order – full refund can be applied for if the item never comes or comes very late.
- Full or partial refund if the item is not as advertised – if you get something different than expected, you can return it for a full refund or keep it and get partial refund.
There are instances when resolving disputes and getting money back can take some work. AliExpress has a three-step system for disputes
- First step is to contact the seller and work directly with them. If a dispute arises before the order is complete or more than 15 days after, this is the only path for you. AliExpress won’t help you if the order is not complete yet or if it’s past 15 days. You are out of luck if the seller does not cooperate after 15 days.
- Second step can be taken if the seller is not cooperating before 15 days after the order has been complete. You can open a dispute ticket and make the process formal.
- Finally, AliExpress can get involved if nothing else works before 15 days are up. It will mediate between you and the seller at this point.
Finding a good seller
It is very important to understand how good the seller is. Reviews are very important here, and the more – the better. If thousands of buyers before you were happy, there is a high chance that you will be too.
Always check seller’s feedback page before buying – it’s just a click away. Each seller has a feedback score and positive feedback percentage. All ratings are converted to points: 4-5 star review gives seller 1 point, 3 starts are worth 0, and 1-2 starts deduct 1 point.
The start ratings are divided into item description, communication, and shipping speed. Each of those categories is evaluated in comparison to other sellers’ average.
Finally, there is a section for history of scores and customer comments. This is very helpful when making a decision.
To beat the competition seller might offer some guarantees to give you extra confidence. It’s usually per item, so don’t think that the same seller will have the same guarantees for all their products. Here are some examples of most common guarantees:
- On-time delivery or money back
- Full refund if item is not as described
- Domestic return with free shipping in your country
- Guaranteed genuine – verified by AliExpress
You can see those guarantees listed on the product page below the image or in the Buyer protection section.
You should always take some responsibility for your actions. AliExpress lists some suggestions to safeguard your purchasing decisions:
- If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Sorry, no iPhones for $20.
- Never send money directly to the seller’s bank account or your buyer protection will be void. It should be done through AliExpress.
- Do not confirm delivery before you get what you ordered and had a chance to look at it.
Overall, AliExpress is a safe shopping platform, not any worse than eBay or Amazon. Chinese made products often have a bad reputation and are considered cheap and poor quality, but that is simply not true. After all, most things we buy here, in US are made in China, don’t forget that.