AliExpress Online Shopping: Pros & Cons

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Despite my environmental goals, I am a big online shopper. I am working on buying less and have successfully reduced my online purchases. However, it isn’t always possible not to shop online. Especially when it can save you a significant amount of money. This is why I’d like to share my experiences with AliExpress.

What is AliExpress?

AliExpress is like Chinese Amazon meets eBay. It is a platform for sellers to sell their goods and there are often many people selling the same items. There are various ways to search for items. The simple search tab where you enter words, a photo upload tab that will show you similar looking items and categories where you can browse for specific types of things.

Is it the same as AliBaba?

AliBaba is a great shopping platform but it focuses on bulk purchases. If you need 1,000 dresses you should definitely go with AliBaba. There are some items available in smaller quantity purchases. However, the more you buy the cheaper it is. Also, many sellers have a minimum order amount. AliExpress on the other hand is for individual purchases. My cheapest single purchase was a total of $1, shipping included.

Pros:

  • Unbeatable prices: AliExpress ships from China so these products are sold for cheap. It is significantly more expensive than TaoBao, the Chinese version of AliExpress that ships primarily to China. However it is cheaper than Amazon and eBay even though there are many sellers that sell the same products on all three websites.
  • Shopping from the source: the reason the prices are so cheap is mainly because these items aren’t being resold. I have found items on Amazon for $10 then searched for them on AliExpress and found them for $3. Whoever is selling it on Amazon for $10 is simply re-selling this item and the extra cost is their profit.
  • Selection: AliExpress has an unbeatable selection of items. Whatever you could possibly want is available on AliExpress in more varieties than you thought possible.
  • Photo search: this is a game changer. Whenever I see an ad on Facebook for a $60 dress or hand bag, I take a screen shot and search it on AliExpress. I have gotten so many amazing $5 items this way. Some people think that these are knock-offs, but this isn’t always true. Most often, the $60 dress literally came from that AliExpress seller and is being re-sold in the USA or Europe for much more.
  • Many shoppers = many reviews: the items I shop for have hundreds if not thousands of reviews. This is the best way to see if the item is as advertised, if sizes are accurate and if shipping was on time. People will also review their experiences with returning goods which is helpful when choosing one of many sellers that sell the same item.
  • Free shipping: most items are available with free or really cheap shipping. As I already mentioned, I’ve bought $1 items and had them shipped for free. How is this possible? China exports their products all over the world and they just have amazing deals that lets them ship things for free. Many free-shipping items come via boat so they do tend to take longer to arrive. Some stores have re-sellers in other countries but whenever I select shipping from the USA it jumps up to $10+.

Cons:

  • Slow shipping: this is the biggest complaint that I have about AliExpress. However, from my experience they are very honest about shipping time. I have had items arrive in a week and in four months. If quick shipping is promised I always double check the reviews.
  • Ethical issues: child labor/environmental concerns. When a dress is sold for $5 there is a reason to be concerned. Is is being made by children or slave labor (like most smartphones)? Are materials being sourced in a way that damages the environment? I would say yes to both about all of my AliExpress purchases. This being said, the very same Chinese products are sold on Amazon, Wish, Walmart, etc. I can’t afford to only shop at local family-owned stores. I don’t believe that shopping on AliExpress is any more harmful than buying anything mass-produced that comes from China. No matter the price you pay for it.
  • Item not as described: sometimes the photos are beautiful but the item that arrives is completely different. This happens a lot and there are so many hilarious threads on Facebook about this. This is why I only buy from sellers that have great reviews. If the particular item I want has no reviews, I’ll check other items in the store to see if the seller is reputable. It’s time consuming but helps avoid this happening.
  • Plastic packaging: China loves plastic. I lived in China for two years and witnessed the obsession with plastic first hand. Anything ordered from China comes in a plastic envelope with bubble wrap and several plastic bags. I have my own online business so I re-use as much as I can, but it is over the top and ridiculous. According to the news, this is slowly changing. I can’t wait for the day that a dress I order comes in a regular envelope without unnecessary plastic.
  • Online shopping in general is bad. In an ideal world we would need less stuff and we would trade rather than shop. There are many communities and Facebook groups where people do this. If you need to shop, second hand is the way to go. Or, shopping local to support the economy, small businesses and to avoid the environmental damage of shipping items.

Coronavirus:

If you consider shopping on AliExpress now, beware of the shipping delay. There were three full weeks when nothing shipped. Today I still have three open orders from January waiting to be shipped. However, some newer orders have been shipped. It depends on the city that the seller is in. To be 100% sure there’s no delay, just send a message asking the seller before you order.

Do you have experience with AliExpress that you would like to share? I’d love to hear the good, the bad and the hilarious in the comment section below!

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One comment

  1. It kills me when people say buying from China supports child labor and the like, then they buy the same thing from Amazon for ten times the price…

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