Cheap Stuff, Free Shipping – AliExpress

If you are not yet acquainted with Aliexpress, then let me be your guide. It is one of my favourite sites where east meets west – the cheap products which are manufactured in China, marketed on a business to consumer (B2C) platform, selling individual items (not bulk), in terrible English.

For some vendors in B2B websites like Taobao, you have to have a PhD in written Chinese and buy in bulk – I once tried searching for frozen broccoli (after using google translate), but to my horror the minimum order is 1 tonne – what am I going to do with 1 tonne of frozen broccoli, a balance diet only requires 200gm and the remaining won’t even fit the average freezer.

The Good

  1. Since Aliexpress is a platform for B2C, you have (a) a wide selection of products and (b) different vendors selling the same product. Why is it good – because it gives you the option to choose the best vendor base on reviews / price / etc., and if the product is damaged during transit, the more reliable vendors can give you a full refund.
  2. Most vendors provide free international shipping, so the cost you see on the product page is the final price. Naturally the shipping cost is already factored in, but it is negligible since the product + “free shipping” is still relatively cheap.
  3. Aliexpress will not release the payment to the vendors until you have confirmed the receipt of your product without any defects or issues. Upon receiving your product, there is an option to raise a dispute – with a drop down selection of reasons like not receiving the product, product not as described, damaged product, etc. You would have to input the amount that is to be refunded (cap at the product price) and support your claim with picture evidences. If there is a stalemate, Aliexpress will intervene and judge base on the evidences provided, and if the vendor does not respond within 5 days of a dispute, the full amount will be refunded.

The Bad

  1. Aliexpress is cheap, but not all cheap products are good. You have to be savvy enough to know what are the things to buy from AliExpress (i.e. household products, plastic, electronic parts, some digital products, etc.) and what to buy from other sites (i.e. branded products, high end digital products, etc.). My experience with electronic products have been a 50-50 gamble, it can be cheap and good, depending on the reviews, or downright useless.
  2. The vendors use a fantastic logistic company to ship your products worldwide, hence the low cost. However, the major drawback is that you might receive it when man finally step on Mars. The shipping time is sometimes listed on the product page, and depending on region you can receive your product from 1 week to 1 month.
  3. Some products might be more expensive than it should, since the price are not regulated by any authority and listed by individual vendors. Additionally, since Aliexpress is in English and targets the international market, it is pricier than its sister website “Taobao”, which is for the China domestic market. I once bought a toy for my child at USD 3.00, and I saw the exact same product at my local thrift store at half the price in Singapore.

In conclusion, things are cheap on Aliexpress and it favours the consumers, but you need the right skills to narrow your selection and what kind of products should be avoided totally.

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