Alibaba.com sells almost every single thing imaginable. However there are real risks involved in buying goods from suppliers listed on the Chinese mega website. Here are 6 reasons to be very cautious when using Alibaba .com
1. It’s not an ecommerce site. Alibaba was originally made as a simple listing website where factories could advertise the goods they produce. It hasn’t really evolved much beyond this. Because a factory is listed on there does not mean they can produce what they say they produce or that the products they make are any good. It may not even be a real company listing!
2. There is no way of knowing the factories track record. Unlike ecommerce sites such as eBay or Amazon where sellers and products are given published feedback by buyers, on Alibaba you will not find any feedback on the sellers. Manufacturing has too many variables to give a simple positive or negative feedback score to a supplier. Basically when you contact a supplier you have no idea of their history, legitimacy, ethics or quality of goods they make. Sounds risky? It is
3. Suppliers are not obliged to send ‘high quality’ products. In fact the notion of what is high and low quality is completely different between China and the West. For many Chinese factories there is basically no bottom limit to how low in quality they would be willing to produce. It really is a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. This is a confronting and truly bewildering concept for most Westerners. So be careful how hard you bargain!
4. Sometimes factories disappear, or to be more accurate, never existed in the first place. There are still loads of fake companies listed on Alibaba whose aim is to take as many orders as possible in a given period, collect the money, then disappear. They will just delist from the website, leaving buyers from all over world out of pocket and with no way to find them. We often get emails from people wanting help to track these rogue sellers; unfortunately it’s a lost cause L
5. Communication breakdown. Unlike an ecommerce site where you are buying already made goods, most things on Alibaba need to be made on demand and require customization. Unless you speak Chinese it can be very difficult to explain to the factory people what you want. Constant misunderstandings of what was requested often leads to costly mistakes, as do the sales people pretending they misunderstood the request.
6. Little to no chance of return or refund. Say you happen to place an order for 2000 phone cases with a factory you found on Alibaba. You send them the payment then wait a month for the goods to arrive. However you receive 2000 cases that are completely wrong. Possibly they sent you stock that they couldn’t sell to others. Unless you are willing to get on a plane to China and visit them, then you basically have no chance of getting a refund or getting a replacement on the goods.
So be careful out there!