I’ve been buying things from China for years both in person and online and can tell you there are both very honest people, companies and also just as many if not more who are not honest. Herein lays what I believe is one of China’s biggest issue to sustainable cross-border e-Commerce in my opinion and experience.
One of the biggest issues still exists today on say Aliexpress, you want to buy a pair of pants for your kids or wife, or a carpet. They show you fantastic looking pictures and my wife asks if I think it’s a good idea. My answer is always “If the picture they show is really what you get and the other specs and sizes are correct then yes”. I’ve gone for an advid consumer to a skeptical one who tends to buy more locally or from more trusted sources and known brands for certain items.
The first time I remember encountering this was buying a nice Hello Kitty for my daughter. What we received had a completely different design and outfit. The seller as per normal from China “apologized and promised a discount next time”. This is what scares me about their business model. I replied and said they have to give us a discount now or there won’t be a next time. They broke my trust by sending the wrong item and then expected future business without making this issue right. This has happened enough times from eBay and Aliexpress that I rarely buy anything because the hassle of disputing and trying to get your money back is just not worth it especially since so many items are not as pictured or even the correct size or of horrible quality. You end saying for the time and hassle there are no savings there’s no point in ordering anything.
For example if I’m looking for a certain make and model and electronic and the seller is known to sell authentic goods then I have no issue buying it because I know I’ll get exactly what I expect and paid for with no hassle (usually……… more on this later). So this is how I’ve proceeded, generally with good luck knowing that there are fakes of almost every electronic, obviously some things are more or less likely to be faked.
The impetus for this article started when I first embarked on a journey to buy a popular Chinese phone the One Plus 5 with 8GB/128GB in September. I tried to buy it from GeekBuying ( a highly recommended site on internet forums ) only to be told that they won’t honor the price and randomly want more money. The amount they asked for actually became more than purchasing from other sellers at the time.
Here is what happened at GeekBuying and they refused to honor the price and then proceeded to offer a discount code that actually made items cost more.
Thank you for shopping at Geekbuying.
We are so sorry that the Oneplus 5 A5000 cost has increased. Really apologize about this embarrassment situation and we hope that you agree to make up the difference $25 and we can continue the shipment as soon as possible.
Please note that the extra difference is already with 20% discount which Geekbuying takes the partial responsibility.
Would you like us to send you the email link to pay 25$?
Looking forward to your early reply.
Customer Service Representative
Asking around on Reddit and searching showed this is a common practice at least with phones with Geekbuying. I had to open a PayPal dispute because they would not provide a refund when I asked for it.
So what next – I tried GearBest.com
GearBest is also a highly recommended place to buy mentioned all over the internet so I paid $539.99 from there. It has now been 34 days and I haven’t received the phone. Attempts at getting answers from them just refer me to “check the tracking and wait” essentially even though their 22-25 business days period has now expired. Some have accused GearBest of giving out fake tracking numbers and hoping people don’t follow up on their orders. I think this may be possible, I was given a tracking number from Singapore Post, it shows an item arrived in Canada about 3 weeks ago but Canada Post has no record of it at all. It’s really not normal for Singapore Post to take this long. As a final resort I’ve opened a dispute with Paypal to which there has been no response for. Fearing this is truly a scam I’ve shown everything to PayPal and am awaiting their decision and I truly hope their buying protection works.
I never imagined this would happen to me or that I’d receive nothing at all with a potentially fake tracking number.
Customer service from most of the sellers of I’ve had issues with in China has been either unresponsive, unhelpful or even rude.
So what now?
This experience has kind of been the tipping point of my opinion of dealing in ecommerce with Chinese sellers. The level of trust, honesty and service is woefully lacking and I believe is a huge threat to China’s business going forward. If these sellers want a long-term sustainable business they simply have to change their ways as buyers like me are completely turned off and moved away from buying items from China for fear of being scammed and the hassle and frustration that goes along with it.
A lot of the manufacturers do not seem to be interested in knowing that their so-called resellers or distributors are not being honest or fair. In fact when complaining about issues from both to OnePlus and Vorke, neither company replied or commented at all.
This kind of practice is simply unsustainable and if people like me will no longer buy from China others will follow. It’s only a matter of time before fake reviews, blog posts and forums will catch up with unscrupulous companies and it unfortunately taints the entire industry and hurts everyone.
I’ve learned my lesson I will definitely not buy from other websites unless someone I personally know can assure me their experience has been good. I will continue to stick to eBay and Aliexpress but will continue to be careful and try to buy as little as possible. Whenever possible I now favor a more local seller who I trust over an overseas seller.
China’s eCommerce is still maturing and to put it in perspective there was a time when eBay was full of scams too. It takes time to get it right but hopefully this happens sooner than later. As always in general, buyer beware of internet reviews and recommendations and this will continue to change the online marketing landscape and trust factor.