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New Buying From China (incl AliExpress) guide discussion

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Shop but don't drop
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  • tazdevtazdev Forumite
    21 posts
    Seventh Anniversary 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    I've just received my first order from using AliExpress and cannot fault the quality (Mens analogue quartz watch £2.58 inc shipping, paid in sterling with UK debit card, payment taken at time of despatch). Having ordered numerous items from Amazon in the past, some of which have been shipped from China I expected a long delivery - it took 5 weeks.

    This is cheaper than replacing the battery in an older watch so was a bit of a no brainer.

    I think if you go into it with your eyes open, don't spend more than you are prepared to lose, probably avoid very cheap electrical goods and look closely at the age & rating of the seller.... then why not? Just don't expect western levels of purchasing rights or customer service.

    As far as "China's human rights abuses" etc are concerned, my current financial situation takes precedence unfortunately. Those sort of concerns have to go in the same box as organic / fair trade / farm shop food at the moment.
  • ortolickusortolickus Forumite
    38 posts
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    I've bought a few items from Aliexpress in the last year or so and things have gone smoothly. Recently I bought an android TV box that proved to be faulty (defective hdmi connector) and that's when I experienced the "customer service" offered by Aliexpress and 'Everday (sic) Likes Store' (the seller).

    At first 'Everday Likes Store' (ELS) would not accept that there was a hardware fault. Despite my comprehensive description and uploaded pictures they insisted I download a dodgy-looking .exe file from a 3rd party Chinese website to my PC, run it and load resulting files on to a micro SD card. I was then to put this into the box and boot up, simultaneously poking a cocktail stick into the AV socket on the box. This is as best I could gather because the instructions were in Chinese and pigeon English.

    When this proved a dead end, ELS and Aliexpress (via email) insisted I upload a video of the fault happening. I had even more difficulty uploading a video than I did uploading photos so I (twice) replied to Aliexpress's explicit offer of assistance. They ignored both emails and I could find no way to contact their customer services other than by 'webchat'. Personally I hate webchat and my prejudice was reinforced with an utterly fruitless 'conversation' with someone who had a tenuous relationship with English and (as far as I could judge) gave me incorrect information.

    I could barely blame her. I found the returns "system" convoluted, confusing and self-contradictory as I tried to decipher the messages coming from ELS and reconcile them with those from Aliexpress. Before I uploaded the video, Aliexpress refused even to consider a refund. After I finally succeeded (at about the 7th attempt) they accepted the item was faulty and suggested an £18 refund. I refused because I had originally insisted on a full £23 refund PLUS the return postage if they required the useless item back.

    Aliexpress have now demanded that I return the item 'tracked' within 8 days or they will 'release payment' to ELS. Neither they nor ELS have agreed to refund the return postage (Actually, I have no idea exactly what ELS have proposed because their English is so poor I simply cannot understand it). It would cost me £12.45 to return and that is only tracked in the UK. I have no sensible means of asking whether this complies with Aliexpress's definition of 'tracked'. Fully tracked would cost me £47.

    Clearly returning items to China is invariably impractical and I don't believe Aliexpress even have a facility for offering a full refund against unreturned faulty goods. I should have taken the £18 and mitigated my loss. Now it looks like i'll lose the lot.

    I find it hard to imagine why I ever used Aliexpress. Their prices for these sort of things are barely cheaper - sometimes dearer - than ebay or even Amazon. And as imperfect as these companies are (particularly ebay!), I have used them for the thick end of two decades without ever experiencing this degree of inconvenience, frustration and ineptitude. Above all it is the utter lack of proper customer service that ensures I shall never use Aliexpress again. I would strongly advise fellow forum members to follow my example.
  • dobbiesloandobbiesloan Forumite
    2K posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    ✭✭✭
    Was disappointed that my scum bank Santander charged me a Non-Sterling transaction Fee and a Non-Sterling Purchase Fee.
    Defiantly leaving them in November when they cut their 123 interest rate.
    Make sure you only pay in GBP.
    GONE ENGLAND
  • Having set up my web site 5 years ago to raise funds for "Crohns Research" i have gone through many highs and lows whilst buying goods from China as a drop shipper, i would like to add my pennies worth to this discussion.

    I had already registered with AE's mother site Alibaba back in 2008 when it was still free, then when it became a subscription service I switched to AE to source products, unbeknown to me back then I had entered a mine field.

    I had seen the "Segway" electric scooter at the golf open championship when it came to town back in 2006, the quirkiness appealed to me plus it was green, so clean and green became my new mantra.
    AE is a great source of ideas but beware the buyer, Alibaba had, and still does have a strict code of conduct and many a supplier can be kicked off the site for the slightest infringement, however AE is less stringent.
    Alibaba list mostly manufacturers whereas AE list anyone, i have noticed a large amount of "Agents" listing multitudes of items under different names, they are there one minute and gone the next...so beware.
    Always check to see if the seller has a Web site other than on AE, then use a "fraud Web site checker" to see if it's genuine and how long they have been in business.
    You can Google for a checker or drop me a line and I will send you a link to the one I use, i wished I had done this in my early days.

    Never send money you cannot afford to loose especially by T/T, moneygram or western union, once you have done your homework and feel you are dealing with a genuine company....check again.
    After years of dodging the mines I now only buy my e-bikes and electric scooters direct from the manufacturer, however, because I have had dealings with AE, Alibaba and other Chinese sites in
    the past, i still get at least 6 emails a day from various companies offering "A better deal" and when I check out their Web sites I can honestly say more than half come under the "can't be trusted" category.
    I have learned from my mistakes over the years but still get that buzz of excitement, as we all do, when offered a bargain...... take time out to check then check again, and then if your still unsure don't buy it's not worth all the worry.
  • BaldacchinoRBaldacchinoR Forumite
    131 posts
    Home Insurance Hacker! Cashback Cashier
    Because foreign traders are trading in the UK, they should be subject to UK consumer laws. Where they trade via a 3rd party, like Amazon or Ebay, then the 3rd party should be responsible, just as a retailer is responsible, rather than the manufacturer, for faulty products.


    Its that simple and perfectly reasonable - you trade in our country, you keep to our laws. Our consumers should be protected in the same way as when they buy in the UK. This is a loophole in UK consumer protection laws and action should be taken to rectify this.
  • jogujogu Forumite
    50 posts
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    DunxR wrote: »
    Safety
    • Are the products electrically safe?
    • Does the product contain dangerous chemicals such as Lead paint or solder, plastics with toxic chemicals etc ?
    • If the product is aimed at children, is it tested not to break into small parts that could cut or choke a child?

    This. Exactly this. Obviously there are ethical concerns too (many of which apply to 'Made in China' goods purchased in the UK too), as well as issues like underpayment of VAT and competing unfairly with UK companies, but MSE have really very massively underplayed the safety issues in their "guide".

    There is a whole environment within the UK to ensure that unsafe products rarely get into consumers hands, and if they do that people are held accountable for it. When you are buying direct from China, you are skipping all those checks and controls. Even if the item is shipped from the UK (usually by a fulfilment centre), you can pretty much guarantee the checks have been missed, particularly when the seller has no actual UK presence.

    I've had experience of this even with seller's that appeared to have UK addresses; I've had quite in depth conversations with Trading Standards about unsafe batteries and the response was trading standards are essentially powerless (pardon the pun) to deal with non-UK entities until there are major changes in UK law.

    There's very few items you can correctly say "it's only an <x>, how can it really be bad". I saw a reference to a £2.58 analogue watch. That's going to be in contact with the wearers skin a lot. What metal do you think they used for the case? What chemicals did they use to treat the strap? In both cases the answer is "the cheapest they possibly could". These people don't care about your safety.

    For clothes, what chemicals do you think are in the dyes? Any that the UK has banned as carcinogenic?

    Even battery powered items can be electrically dangerous - we've all seen the recent press about Samsung phones with exploding Lithium Ion batteries. If a huge company like Samsung can't get this right, do you think a tiny company in China can?

    The only item I managed to come up with recently that I really could think "it's only a <x>, how bad could it be" was a bicycle bell. And when it arrived, it really was worth exactly what I paid for it. In the end I paid £3 more for one from a proper UK seller which in actual value was worth way more than the £3 extra compared to the Chinese piece of cr*p.
  • zhivagozhivago Forumite
    12 posts
    Had loadsa stuff from Chinese producers including mobiles, cases, Kindle screens, all well wrapped, timely delivered and great working order - unbeatable prices too. :) Shop through reputable channels and check 'reviews'.
  • edited 5 October 2016 at 7:26PM
    tazdevtazdev Forumite
    21 posts
    Seventh Anniversary 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    edited 5 October 2016 at 7:26PM
    Jogu,

    I bought the watch for £2.58 you may be refering to.

    I'm wearing it at the moment. I have been wearing it for about 12 hours a day since I bought it. Its not exploded yet. No strange rashes or marks, nor do I glow in the dark.

    However before wearing it I did wipe it down a couple of times with disinfectant wipes, as I don't know where it's been! I'm fairly confident similar watches with a different name could be bought for £20-£30 in Argos, or maybe £10 from an Amazon retailer. I just cut out the middlemen. It's cheaply made of course, so the 'leather' strap is obviously not and the stainless steel back seems a bit thin...I didn't expect a Rolex and didn't receive one.

    You also make a reference to the danger of clothing purchased from China, which considering the amount of clothing we already buy via the high street that's manufactured in China seems odd. If you read the care labels in lots of clothes, they often advise you to wash before use. I always do anyway, even if it is not suggested.

    Perhaps you believe that clothes sold direct from China are made in different mysterious underword factories from UK purchased goods, whereas I strongly believe that the only difference in a lot (albeit not all) of these clothes is the profit of middlemen; shipping agents, importers, wholesalers, advertising agencies, retailers

    I do agree with you regarding childrens toys and electrical goods that use mains power and electronics that may not work properly in the UK such as mobile phones....even if the advertisment says it will work!

    Purchasing anything from a unknown far eastern company even via a marketplace such as AliExpress is bound to be fraught with risk, so as has been mentioned before: Let buyer beware / Don't expect anything close to western retailer levels of customer service or protection / Don't risk more money than you can afford to lose / Avoid electrical goods, things with big batteries and childrens toys / Do your homework!

    Personally I'm glad I can use the internet to occasionally buy goods that I otherwise probably wouldn't be able to afford. Whilst I believe the terminally stupid should avoid most of the internet, I hope the day does not come when you or the state tells me when and where I am allowed to buy something from...... "because its for my own good" :grin:
  • jogujogu Forumite
    50 posts
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    Hi Tazdev,

    Great to see some follow up, thanks!
    tazdev wrote: »
    Jogu,
    I'm wearing it at the moment. I have been wearing it for about 12 hours a day since I bought it. Its not exploded yet. No strange rashes or marks, nor do I glow in the dark.

    However before wearing it I did wipe it down a couple of times with disinfectant wipes, as I don't know where it's been! I'm fairly confident similar watches with a different name could be bought for £20-£30 in Argos, or maybe £10 from an Amazon retailer. I just cut out the middlemen. It's cheaply made of course, so the 'leather' strap is obviously not and the stainless steel back seems a bit thin...I didn't expect a Rolex and didn't receive one.

    This is the great dilemma. Is it something that is made of good materials, but they've skimped on them (like the the back being a bit thin) or is it something made out of poor and potentially harmful materials?

    Here's a reference to a study about carcinogenic dyes:

    http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/environmental_risks/opinions/sctee/sct_out27_en.htm

    Do you think your 2.58 watch contains any azo dyes?

    (It's important to note that wiping the watch with a disinfectant wipe will do nothing substantial to remove these dyes - they're dyes, they're not intended to be easily removable.)

    You also make a reference to the danger of clothing purchased from China, which considering the amount of clothing we already buy via the high street that's manufactured in China seems odd. If you read the care labels in lots of clothes, they often advise you to wash before use. I always do anyway, even if it is not suggested.

    Perhaps you believe that clothes sold direct from China are made in different mysterious underword factories from UK purchased goods, whereas I strongly believe that the only difference in a lot (albeit not all) of these clothes is the profit of middlemen; shipping agents, importers, wholesalers, advertising agencies, retailers

    Not a mysterious underworld at all. It's well known that quite often you see branded, official goods and unbranded made in exactly the same factories - but with completely different raw materials being used.

    If people reading haven't seen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal it's definitely worth a read.

    Laws in China are completely different, with a lot fewer safety standards and checks. Something that is perfectly legal to make and use in China is not legal to sell in the UK, often because of what it is made off not meeting our safety standards. Legitimate, safe raw materials often cost significantly more than an 'acceptable in China but banned in the UK' material, like the carcinogenic dyes I mention above.

    The extra costs not mentioned is that when a UK company gets something made in China, they are (in general) meticulous about the whole process. They specify and often order themselves the raw ingredients. They do spot checks at the factory, and often have UK staff semi-permanently based in the factories. When goods arrive in the UK, the company importing them tests them, often doing random spot checks that include chemical analysis to check that the manufacturer hasn't tried to substitute cheaper less safe materials. Trading standards also do these checks, and fine companies or confiscate goods.

    If a t-shirt has been dyed with carcinogenic dyes, washing it before use makes no substantial difference to the wearer's exposure to those harmful chemicals.
    I do agree with you regarding childrens toys and electrical goods that use mains power and electronics that may not work properly in the UK such as mobile phones....even if the advertisment says it will work!

    Purchasing anything from a unknown far eastern company even via a marketplace such as AliExpress is bound to be fraught with risk, so as has been mentioned before: Let buyer beware / Don't expect anything close to western retailer levels of customer service or protection / Don't risk more money than you can afford to lose / Avoid electrical goods, things with big batteries and childrens toys / Do your homework!

    Personally I'm glad I can use the internet to occasionally buy goods that I otherwise probably wouldn't be able to afford. Whilst I believe the terminally stupid should avoid most of the internet, I hope the day does not come when you or the state tells me when and where I am allowed to buy something from...... "because its for my own good" :grin:

    So long as you are buying it with your eyes fully open to the risks, I don't personally feel the need to stop you buying things for your own use. I quite agree there's savings to made made, as you're not paying VAT or the margin made by the importer, and posting an individual item from China seems to be ridiculously cheap for reasons I can't follow, often cheaper than sending the same item within the UK! I hope you equally appreciate all the safety checks you're skipping past.

    I also hope you aren't giving such goods to friends or their children whilst keeping quiet about how you obtained them.

    If you think you can do significantly better than the existing importers (and given the statement that you think your 2.58 watch would sell for 20-30 in Argos it sounds like it, I'm fairly certain that's a substantially higher margin than Argos report in their accounts), I'd strongly encourage you to start importing in bulk and selling on Amazon etc - please do check on your responsibilities under UK law before doing so though.
  • I've been buying from Fasttech for a number of years. I mostly buy vaping items - but not ejuice. Postage is free. I've only ever had one problem and that was dealt with to my satisfaction.

    In a nutshell, I had problems with a battery. I had to send it back. Because it was a genuine problem they refunded the postage costs. I was able to exchange the battery for a slightly more expensive one, ( I had lost confidence in the original one) I had to pay the difference, which was more than covered by the postage refund.

    I would most definately recommend fasttech. When it comes vaping items, I have far more choice than I would have in the uk. I also have the choice of buying originals or "styled" RTA's

    It's important to read reviews and item forums, and also ask questions in the forum about anything you're unsure about.
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