Do’s and Don’ts of shopping on AliExpress.
[warning: long post]
I have been buying stuff from China for a little over a year and a half now, and I have tried several websites. My main concerns were:
- Not to be scammed (e.g. pay and never see the product).
- Not to be “catfished” (e.g. pay for one thing, and then get something different).
I have shopped online before, and got bitten a few times.
I started with the most popular sites like eBay and Amazon, but I have quickly learned that for the most part, the prices there are very close to the ones you see in stores. I still use both when I need a branded product or something specific (e.g. motorcycle parts, books, etc).
Then at some point I heard from a coworker about DX.com, where he bought a tablet and a phone for his mother-in-law. I gave them a try in May of 2013, when I bought a memory card and the USB adapter for the car. The shipping was slow, there was no tracking number, and customer service took 4 working days to respond to my inquiry.
My other try was alibaba.com. As much as I loved having myriads of options, the website is geared towards connecting large suppliers with mass buyers; and in most cases the shipping for a smaller quantity would cost more than the product.
That’s when I found AliExpress – my first purchase was in February 2014; and since then I have over 200 orders completed, some of which have several items. There were a few times when I had issues with sellers of a questionable ethic; but every time they were fairly arbitrated by the dispute resolution team.
Since then, I have learned a few ways of how to shop on AliExpress.
Sorry for the long intro, below is what you came here for.
If you plan on shopping at Aliexpress, keep in mind:
1. Search for the product to see if there are any other sellers who have it for a cheaper price. The biggest selling point of AliExpress is the low price, so vendors would try to undercut one another.
ESPECIALLY for the daily deals products.
Sorting by the number of orders is helpful at times, but sometimes the seller will purposely lower the price to make a lot of sales, and then will increase the price.
Sorting by price usually brings up a ton of unrelated products. So it is really up to you to go scroll past the unrelated junk (which can take a while), or use more distinct search terms.
2. Check product and seller feedback, and the item description before ordering. Keep in mind, that Aliexpress is just a marketplace; they only connect you to the seller. It is up to the seller to be honest when the listing is created, and the buyer to do some due diligence.
Because of the disputes, this point of a lesser concern; I still do check it, but only to see if the product is worth buying. For example, how good do magnets work, or if the tiger head backpack has enough room for my jumbo bag of beef jerky.
I also like to rely on the buyer feedback, and look for consistent issues; e.g. many users describing a similar issue.
3. Mind the language barrier. Most sellers only have a basic knowledge of English, and probably use some sort of online translators. There is no need to be condescending, patronizing or disrespectful. Most sellers are honest and hardworking people, so be understanding and accommodating. Do not use complicated phrases, and avoid jargon. Be friendly and respectful.
4. Do not order merchandise that is branded (e.g. D&G, Gucci, Nike), however tempting it may be, unless you are absolutely 100% certain that they are legitimate and authentic. If you import something into the country, you are responsible for ensuring that these goods are not illegal to import. And counterfeit goods are illegal.
As an alternative, look for the popular Asian brands that are yet to enter or are just getting into Western markets (Huawei, XiaoMi, Soocoo). They cost just as much, if not less than knock-offs, and you would be supporting a real business. Isn’t that better?
I have been buying my motorcycle gear from AliExpress almost exclusively (well, except for helmets), and I have found a few brands that I like and trust – like Scoyco, Komine and Taichi.
5. Remember to track your orders. AliExpress gives you the purchase protection for 60 days. If you don’t receive your order you need to remember to either contact the seller to extend the purchase protection (normally, sellers do not mind doing that).
I use 17track.net to track my packages. If there has not been any movement for over a month, I would contact the seller first, in case they are aware of any delays on their side (government holidays, post office strikes, etc.). It is worth checking with your government postal service. If the parcel is trackable on 17track.net, but not on Canada Post (as I am in Canada); chances are the product has not reached customs; and is more likely to have been lost in mail.
If the purchase protection is about to run out, and the seller does not want to extend purchase protection (very unlikely), you can start a dispute, and mark the item as not received.
6. If you do not understand something, contact the seller before you make the order. This will also show how responsive the seller in case something goes wrong.