Frugality, Savings Tips

Ali Express: Buyer Beware

Wrote this 7 years ago and never hit “Publish” for some reason. Think it’s as relevant today as it was then, if not more.

I recently started shopping at AliExpress. It’s a retail arm of the wholesale Alibaba website. They both let you shop directly from the manufacturers in Asia (primarily China), the difference is in the minimum quantities. The main draw, obviously, is low prices. Plus, at AliExpress most items are offered with free shipping.

The upside.

  • Really really low prices
  • Huge selection
  • Shipping to over 200 countries
  • Buyer protection guarantee

The downside.

  • Long delivery times
  • All shipments require signature, can be annoying if you shop a lot
  • Sub-par item quality, descriptions are often misleading
  • Time suck – much like with Amazon, large product selection is great, but it takes a lot of time to find what to Finally Buy! I suppose it’s still less time than going out to the mall to shop, but to me the mental strain is just huge.

I have so far received 4 items from four different sellers. I threw away 2 of these as they were unusable: one was advertised as leather but turned out to be polyurethane, the other was just ugly and smelled like burnt rubber tires. Of the remaining two items, one is “sort of OK” and one is great (love my tiny neodymium magnets). So the ratio so far is 50/50, or 25/75 if you’re really picky. Their buyer protection guarantee sounds good, but I haven’t taken advantage of it since the two items I discarded cost about $10 together. It wouldn’t be worth the time to fill out the complaint form, take pictures etc. Since I can’t whole-heartedly recommend the website, I’m not linking to it. Clean conscience and all. Here’s an example of an item that didn’t live up to my expectations. These sell at a local store for around $8-10. They are exactly as pictured: nice and plump, with no mold lines, and without any funky smell. This is also the photo that was used on the listing I fell for.


This is what I actually received from one AliExpress seller for about $2 including shipping – thin, badly made from a knocked off mold. In addition, visualize the most foul rubber smell that stays on your hands for the entire day, you can’t rinse it off. And, I got 2 white, 2 black, and 2 red ones although the listing pictured white, brown and green, which is what I wanted for my office.


How dare I expect more for two dollars? Well, the logic was that the “$8 one was made in China anyway. This is probably the same.” It wasn’t.

Business idea!

Click the images below to enlarge I came across a retail site with the office located in Canada. They sell these symbolic bracelet sets. reseller Guess where I saw these first! Yep, at AliExpress. That’s a great markup. But I’m not tempted to open up a store of my own, that’s why I so willingly share with you my source 🙂 I’ve been down that road before, 12 years ago. It was waaaay harder to find low cost items, but on the other hand it was easier to sell. Sometimes I can’t believe the stuff we were able to “move”. There wasn’t such a glut of items out there, not as much selection, not as much fatigue, and buyers weren’t as savvy. original

Anyway, that’s the story. Caveat emptor.