“Alibaba is a SCAM” – you’ll find this written everywhere online! The truth is, yes, it is possible that you may get scammed on Alibaba.com IF you don’t know what you’re doing. However, with the information you learn in this blog post, the chances of you getting scammed on Alibaba will be very slim.
Is Alibaba Legit?
Just to be clear: Alibaba itself is not a scam. In fact, it’s one of the largest companies in the world, with a market value of tens of billions of dollars. Alibaba.com is simply a platform where buyers and sellers meet. Yes, there are some scammers on Alibaba, just like any other online platform, but that doesn’t mean Alibaba itself is a scam. By that logic, you can say that eBay, Amazon and Gumtree are scams because you can find MANY unscrupulous businesses on those websites, too.
That’s why I find it hard to answer when people email me asking for an Alibaba review, because that depends entirely on the seller. If you’re asking purely for my review of Alibaba as a website, then the answer is I love it! Yes, it is reliable! It’s made sourcing from China, and many other countries, incredibly easy and opened up opportunities for people who previously would never have been able to start their own private label business. So if you’re wondering if Alibaba is legit and safe to use, then my answer is a resounding yes. But of course, that is true IF you know what you’re doing.
And that’s what today’s blog post is all about. I’m going to show you how to spot scams on Alibaba and how to find trustworthy and reliable Alibaba suppliers, using the 15-step system which I’ve used to find suppliers for my own 7-figure Amazon FBA business.
The Myth of the Alibaba Scam
And for me the biggest problem that this “Alibaba scam” myth creates is that it makes people who are new to importing too afraid to even start their research process. They have that one line repeating in their minds “Alibaba is a scam, Alibaba is a scam, Alibaba is a scam….” and that’s why, with today’s blog post, I want to clear the air once and for all. I will give you a step-by-step filtering system that you can use to spot Alibaba fraudsters and avoid 99% of scams on Alibaba and unlock the potential of one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces.
Also, we need to differentiate scams from bad suppliers. A scam is when you buy something and never receive it. Or receive a fake item. That’s a scam. A bad supplier is someone who suddenly changes an item’s price in the middle of the order, has a high defect rate in the final order, sends you poor quality goods, etc. That’s a bad supplier and unreliable supplier and someone who you should no longer consider trustworhty with respect to your expectations, but it’s hard to call it a scam, as maybe they simply can’t produce goods that are up to quality you want. That is a whole other conversation, of course, but this article is specifically focused on obvious SCAMS where the “supplier” takes your money and disappears with it.
Before we get into the actual verification and scam filtering process, let me quickly remind you that you cannot get any kind of branded items wholesale from mainland China. I’m talking about everything from electronics, video games and software to designer clothes, shoes and other similar items. If you’re looking for anything branded, China is NOT the place to go. At worst, you’ll get scammed and receive nothing. At best, you’ll receive worthless fakes.
What is a branded product?
By branded products, I mean products that are manufactured by well-known companies, like:
- Under Armour
These are brands that are well known to everyone, and even though most of their products are manufactured in China, you CAN’T buy them wholesale from Alibaba or other similar sites—you simply cannot!
Companies with manufacturing operations in China have very strict distribution policies in place, so it’s not like someone can walk out of a Foxconn factory (they do most of Apple’s products) with ten iPhones or iPads in their pockets to sell on Alibaba. It is simply not possible to buy iPhones directly from Foxconn, even though they’re the ones who manufacture them.
This is NOT how things work in China!!
All of those well-known brands only distribute their goods through official, tightly secured channels. You won’t find these products advertised on Alibaba. If you do see ads for such products, there’s a 99%+ chance that it’s a scam!
Another product type you have to be VERY careful with is licensed products. These are products that carry some sort of intellectual property on them, such as:
- Disney cartoon characters
- Images of famous people
- Sports team logos
- Olympic logos/themes
- Video/mobile game characters (Angry Birds, Pokémon Go, etc.)
- Automotive industry logos, trademarks (Audi, BMW, etc.)
- And so on!
To produce products with intellectual property designs on them, a manufacturer needs a special license agreement with the IP owner and has to pay fixed or ongoing fees for each item they produce. Most suppliers in China don’t have any such agreements in place, so they basically use these designs WITHOUT the owner’s approval. This is illegal, of course, and purchasing these items can get you in a lot of trouble.
In some cases, large manufacturers will have licensing deals in place, but you should always ask for proof and try to verify it if possible. These will be very rare situations, though, so in general, I recommend you STAY AWAY from any products that involve IP designs when ordering from Alibaba and China in general.
Now, back to Alibaba. The company has actually improved its website and listings significantly in regards to counterfeit and unlicensed products. These days, it’s very hard to find any “branded” items on Alibaba as they have removed most of these listings and suspended the offending advertisers. Years ago, you could do a search for any hot selling product such as consoles, shoes etc. and get hundreds of results full of Alibaba fraudsters. I just tried a similar search and it returned ZERO results.
They now even put up a special message when you make searches like these, warning you that it’s a branded product and you need to be very careful when ordering such items from suppliers on Alibaba.
Anyway, what does any of this have to do with our original topic? Well, the number one rule for how to avoid getting scammed on Alibaba is: STAY AWAY from anything branded! You can only source unbranded goods wholesale from mainland China!
That’s what you want anyway, right? I mean, if you want to source products from China to sell on eBay or Amazon, you will want genuine manufacturers who can supply you with products you can put your brand on, provide custom packaging, etc. There’s only a very small profit in brand-new branded goods for online resellers (in most cases), so it’s not even worth considering if you want to build a profitable business.
Marketplaces are full of sellers offering branded items and because multiple people sell the exact same product, the only differentiator is the PRICE! Whoever offers the lowest price for the item makes the majority of the sales. And trust me, when your competitors deal in tax evasion, grey imports and even stolen goods, you won’t stand a chance competing with them.
Once you eliminate branded goods, you’ll see that it’s actually very difficult to get scammed on Alibaba because most “normal” product suppliers on Alibaba are genuine companies.
And that’s why this is my number one tip for how to not get scammed on Alibaba.
Plus, Alibaba offers a range of tools to help us verify the supplier, use safe payment methods and they cover the whole transaction inside Alibaba’s Trade Assurance platform.
Still, by using the following Alibaba scam-filtering system, you will quickly and efficiently filter out bad suppliers and identify the best of the best! As I said, it’s not enough to simply filter out scams, you also need to avoid bad suppliers as no one wants to deal with defective products, delayed orders, mispacked items, etc.
Without further ado, let’s get straight into the process of finding GOOD suppliers on Alibaba, which will also show you exactly how to avoid scams on Alibaba.
This whole system relies on your ability to analyse a supplier’s profile on Alibaba (and outside of it) and to know if a seller on Alibaba is legit. If this is the first time you are using Alibaba’s website, take some time to analyse a few supplier profiles. This will help give you some context for all the information I cover in this post.
Once you become more familiar with the process, you will realise that you can filter out suppliers VERY quickly just by taking a look at their profile. So, there’s a small learning curve involved, but it’s really nothing to be afraid of.
Here are the 15 KEY elements to look at when you evaluate a potential scam on Alibaba.com:
1. Gold Supplier
What is GOLD supplier status on Alibaba? It’s a premium, paid account status for suppliers and it costs several thousand dollars per year. Having this status doesn’t necessarily mean that the supplier is 100% legit, but scammers usually don’t pay for Gold supplier status because they need to change accounts very frequently and this extra cost is simply too much for them.
Scammers usually stick with FREE Alibaba accounts and simply hope that newbies are unaware of this because they don’t understand how Alibaba works.
I personally NEVER deal with any free account suppliers as the concentration of scammers is the highest within this group!
If possible, I always try to stick with Gold suppliers who have at least a three-year track record on the site. Gold supplier status is still the number one thing to look for when searching for reliable suppliers on Alibaba and to avoid scams, especially when used in conjunction with filtering out first-year and second-year suppliers.
To see if a supplier has Gold status or not, you simply go to the product page or supplier profile and look for the number, which also tells you how many years the supplier has had that Gold status. This is the same number you can see in the search results, so if you get a huge list of suppliers for the product you’re searching for, you can identify the most established suppliers right from the search results.
If you see a Gold status supplier in their sixth, seventh or eighth year, it’s a sure sign that it’s an established company. The chances of them being scammers are incredibly slim. Scammer accounts simply don’t last that long. They get caught sooner or later.
There is an Alibaba fraud scam currently going on involving Gold suppliers, though, as scammers sometimes HACK Gold status supplier accounts or buy them from companies that go out of business. This is a very smart tactic because you, as a buyer, could tick all the boxes I cover here, and it could still turn out to be a scam.
So, how can you spot these scammers? In 99% of cases, scammers will use the Gold status supplier accounts they’ve acquired to sell highly popular BRANDED goods, like PlayStations and similar. Remember, I’ve already warned you that Alibaba is NOT the place to look for such items, so if you see these types of offers, you will know immediately that it’s a scam.
Furthermore, when you start communicating with scammers, you will quickly realise that they’re full of s**t! They oversell to you SO HARD by offering incredible deals, like “Buy two PS4 consoles and get one free”. All with FREE delivery, of course. C’mon! It’s way beyond a too-good-to-be-true deal! Plus, they will only use unsecure payment methods, which we’ll cover in more detail later in this post.
2. Verified Supplier
You can select the “Verified Supplier” filter right from the search page, if you want. I don’t do this, though, as not all suppliers are verified, so if you’re dealing with a product that is not very popular, you could filter out many suppliers who could be good, even though they’re not verified.
What does verified supplier mean on Alibaba? “Verified Supplier” means that a third-party inspection company (such as SGS, Bureau Veritas, TUV SUD or others) have carried out an independent inspection of the company. They check and verify things like:
- Company profile certification
- Business scope certification
- Enterprise qualification certification
- Product R&D capability
- Quality assurance capability
- Aftersales service capability
- Associated factory
- Cooperative factory
If the supplier has been verified, you will see the special verified logo on their Alibaba profile, as well as a list of things that have been verified.
Then, you can click on the individual items to get more information or access visual materials on the aspects that have been verified. This is a super powerful and easy way to see if you can trust this Alibaba supplier and if they’re who they say they are.
I have been in the business of importing goods from China for more than 15 years now and I have seen how Alibaba and suppliers on the Alibaba platform have progressed over the years. A decade ago, all we had to go by was the Gold supplier status—that’s it!
Nowadays, we get so much information, pictures, videos, certificates, verification seals, etc. It has never been easier to spot scammers because the good, genuine suppliers have nothing to hide. They know that people have “trust issues” with Alibaba, so they invest their money into Gold supplier membership, verification, panoramic images, videos and everything else!
As soon as you start researching suppliers, not only will you be able to filter OUT scammers and bad suppliers, but you will also be able to filter IN the really professional, established manufacturers from the short-lived trading companies and other middlemen.
So, please use all this additional information to your advantage. Be sure to check out all the verified documents, images, videos, certification and compare suppliers to find the most professional and reliable ones.
Ok, the next part of my filtering system is:
3. Trade Assurance
Trade Assurance is Alibaba’s own platform for placing orders and managing payments. If the supplier accepts Trade Assurance, it’s another great sign that it is a legit Alibaba seller. When orders go through Trade Assurance, IF DONE PROPERLY, you will get protection for your order and you will be able to use safer payment methods, such as a credit card.
Now, if you don’t use it properly, things can still go wrong with a Trade Assurance order, especially when there are differences in opinion about the quality of the items delivered. To minimise problems, you have to be very specific with your order, have all the item specs written down in your order, stick to the payment deadlines, etc. I won’t get into all the details in this article as I have written a separate guide on Trade Assurance here.
Just like with the Verified Supplier filter, you can select the Trade Assurance filter directly on the search page, under the Supplier Types dropdown menu:
Trade Assurance is definitely a good sign of a trustworthy supplier, but you shouldn’t automatically eliminate everyone else. Some perfectly legit suppliers on Alibaba do not use Trade Assurance. Basically, you have to look at it from the perspective of how many suppliers there are for the product you are searching for. If you get TONS of results, then it can be a good idea to only contact suppliers who accept Trade Assurance.
On the other hand, if there are only seven suppliers and three of them don’t use Trade Assurance, I would consider all seven before making any decisions.
4. Transaction History/Level
Transaction history is indicated by the small, orange diamonds next to the supplier name. These are also shown in the search results. Basically, it indicates how much in sales a supplier has done on Alibaba and, obviously, the bigger these numbers are, the better. It is a good indicator that it is a legit company with regular orders.
Of course this is fairly self explanatory – if I see a supplier on Alibaba with hundreds of thousands in sales, then it’s very unlikely they’re a scammer as after a few people complain of a scam then you can trust Alibaba to take the seller off their site.
I wouldn’t rule out any supplier simply because they have no transaction history, though, as only Trade Assurance orders are included and many companies work outside the Trade Assurance platform.
Just keep this filter in mind as an option for extra proof that you’re dealing with an established seller.
5. Ratings & Reviews
This is a relatively new feature on Alibaba, but it is highly welcomed as we can finally see what other buyers think about the supplier and their products.
It’s great that they also list which product the feedback/review was left for and the buyer’s country. I don’t know how much feedback manipulation goes on within this process, but so far it seems quite believable because the review numbers are not that high and, in most cases, they do seem quite honest to me.
It’s probably not that easy to scam the system with fake reviews as these are from genuine orders that go through Alibaba itself, so it would be a lot of hassle to game the system that way.
Anyway, I wouldn’t base any decisions on looking at the reviews alone—unless they’re very bad, of course! If they clearly indicate that the product quality is low, the supplier made mistakes with the order, etc., that’s a good reason to remove that supplier from your shortlist. As time goes by and the number of reviews increase, this will become a much more useful tool for buyers. Again, bad reviews doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an Alibaba fraudster, but it does mean you should keep looking for a reliable and safe supplier!
6. Factory Inspection
This is a SUPERB way of looking behind the curtain and seeing whether the Alibaba profile of the company matches with what they’re actually doing. One of the biggest problems that buyers encounter is separating trading companies from true manufacturers. An inspection report solves this problem as it will be OBVIOUS from the images in the report if it is a factory or trading company.
Trading companies usually don’t do these inspections at all, and if they do, all you will see is an office building or office space with chairs and desks. However, factory inspection reports will show you their manufacturing plant, the tools they use, their warehouse space, etc.
I have already written a guide on how to do Chinese supplier inspection on your own, but it’s great to see that Alibaba has implemented this into their portal and allows suppliers to do this themselves by uploading inspection reports on their profile page.
One thing to look out for on these inspection reports is the DATE of the inspection. If the report is several years old, a lot of things could have changed with the supplier. They could have moved locations or sold the business altogether. Ideally, I would want this report to be no older than one to two years at the most.
Not all suppliers will have them uploaded, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not a good supplier. I have often done inspections on my own, even paying for them if the final supplier I have picked for a product meets all other requirements, offers the best prices, has great sample quality, etc. Again, you can read more about that process in my Inspection Reports blog post.
Many suppliers will show off scanned certificates for their products (CE, for example), their manufacturing facility (ISO) and other parts of their business. It’s just more proof that you’re dealing with a genuine supplier.
Also, there will be some products that require specific certificates to import goods from China, so be very careful when sourcing such products and always look for companies who have those certificates on hand.
Be warned, though! There are cases where suppliers use fake certificates, so to be 100% sure, you should verify these certificates. Usually, you’ll find the company/organisation name of the certificate issuer on the certificate itself. You can then contact them and ask for verification of that certificate.
Many testing houses even have online testing facilities that allow you to check such certificates for free, instantly, like on SGS’s website, for example.
Once again this is an expense that most scammers simply won’t bother with and an easy filter to help you avoid getting scammed on Alibaba.
8. AliExpress Store
These days, more and more Alibaba companies are opening AliExpress stores where you can shop safely for small MOQs and pay securely via escrow using your credit card. If a supplier has an AliExpress store, check it out. Specifically, check out their feedback as it can tell you a lot about the product quality, how quickly the supplier dispatches goods, etc.
How do you find out if a supplier has an AliExpress store?
Simply go to the supplier’s profile, then click on “Contacts”. Usually, suppliers will put a link to their AliExpress store under the website links option—if they have one, that is.
And you can take this even further. Quite often, just to save myself some time and avoid unnecessary communication, I use a supplier’s AliExpress store to order samples. This way, you can easily check the quality of the product and, if you’re completely happy with everything, place your real wholesale order by contacting the supplier directly through Alibaba or even through AliExpress!
Yes, you can even get significant discounts when buying in true bulk on AliExpress, so if you want to stick with AliExpress and its escrow system, you can simply negotiate a deal with your supplier there. Just keep in mind that it will always be more expensive than dealing with the supplier directly, as AliExpress takes a cut in fees for each transaction.
Again, not all suppliers will have an AliExpress presence, so don’t eliminate any supplier just because they don’t have a store. True manufacturers usually don’t deal with retail customers, so they typically won’t have an AliExpress store. Often, though, they will have a sister trading company that deals with retail customers, so you can always ask the supplier whether their products can also be purchased on AliExpress or not.
In terms of filtering out any scammers, think about it from their point of view – why waste time with small orders on AliExpress? If you can only scam a few people before Alibaba shut you down then of course you’ll go for as high an order value as possible. That’s why an AliExpress store is another easy sign that you’re dealing with a reliable Alibaba supplier.
9. Live Factory Video
If a supplier has a video on their Alibaba profile, check it out! If it’s produced by Alibaba themselves, it’s a sure sign that the company is real and genuine. If not, use it to look for signs that this truly is the same company they claim to be (logo/company name on office walls, factory footage showing production of the goods they’re advertising, trade show footage, etc.).
And this also applies to the images a supplier uses in their profile and product listings. I’m always wary of suppliers who use stock images in their profile or listings. Only one thing crosses my mind: they have nothing to show!
Trading companies are usually the ones who do this. They only have a few office images, stock product images and some mysterious, blurry factory images, so you can’t really understand what is going on there.
My ideal supplier has tons of pictures showing their factory, the entrance to the factory, the reception desk with a logo on it, etc. The more images there are with the factory name or company name showing, the better! These are all great signs that you’ve found a reliable Alibaba supplier that you can trust.
If a company owns a proper, standalone website in English, that’s another good sign that you’re dealing with a reputable company. You should also do a “Who Is” database check to find out when the domain name was registered. In this case, the older the better.
But don’t expect world-class website design here! Most Chinese supplier websites are very basic, even old-fashioned, and they load very slowly. This must be something to do with the internet connection speeds in China or their hosting, but it’s okay. In fact, it’s completely normal.
On a side note: even if a company has a decent website, I usually stick to dealing with them through Alibaba. Sometimes, there can be exceptions. For example, sometimes the sales agents on the website’s live chat are much faster to respond than those on Alibaba. This is most likely because they view a website lead as being much higher in value than an Alibaba lead, where they get lots of time wasters.
So, yes, if you need to make contact and the website has live chat, do try to use that option. But mainly this is just another indicator of a genuine long running supplier.
11. Trade Shows
Whether it’s on a company’s Alibaba profile or their website, look for trade show information.
Scammers, in general, DO NOT attend trade shows, so if you see trade shows listed for the up-coming months or past trade show information with pictures, it’s another good sign that you’re dealing with a legitimate business.
However, always try to verify this information on the official trade show website (for example, China’s biggest trade show is called Canton Fair). As you are now aware, some Alibaba fraudsters like to make things up, so you can’t blindly trust everything they say and show. Make an effort to verify all information on your own before you believe it.
12. Google Search &
Global Sources Profile
Do a quick Google search of the company’s name. Quite often, you’ll find links to their profile on other Chinese B2B websites, such as Made-in-China.com or GlobalSources.com.
If the company has a verified profile on Global Sources, the chances of them being a scam are reduced to an absolute minimum because Global Sources takes its verification process very seriously and has extremely stringent requirements for authentication.
So, depending on the number of stars that a supplier has on Global Sources, you can be sure that you’re dealing with a real company.
While you’re doing your due diligence on Google, do another search for “company name + scam”. Usually, this will pull up any forum posts or scam reports associated with that company.
13. Invoice/Bank Details
When you’re already in the negotiation process and receive your first pro-forma invoice, always check the company name, address and bank details. It should be exactly the same as on their Alibaba profile.
NEVER send money to a personal bank account! This is the most common scam played out on Alibaba: the supplier will tell you that they’re having a problem with their business account and will ask you to please send the money to their boss’s account. NEVER do that! Money that goes to a personal bank account is usually money down the drain.
Scammers will also often try to use different companies for receiving money. If the company name on the invoice is different to what you’re dealing with on Alibaba, be very careful. It could be that they have a legitimate sister trading company set up for dealing with international clients, but you definitely need to ask questions and get answers that 100% confirm what they’re saying.
14. Payment Options
If the only payment methods a supplier accepts are Western Union and MoneyGram, run away! I would never even consider dealing with such a supplier. While not all suppliers in China will accept PayPal or use the platform’s Trade Assurance, a bank transfer to a company’s account should be a default payment method that is always available to use.
If they also accept Trade Assurance, a letter of credit or PayPal, even better! But never use a supplier if the only payment options are Western Union or MoneyGram!
The only time that I’m happy to use Western Union is when paying for samples, and that’s only because it’s quicker and cheaper to send small amounts via WU than to do a bank transfer. But even then, I’m also prepared to lose that money if everything goes wrong (I’m talking about small amounts here, always less than $100, usually less than $50).
Nowadays, however, there are very cheap ways to pay for samples and get mid-market exchange rates without going near Western Union or MoneyGram.
With companies like Wise, your money is always converted at the mid-market exchange rate, making them up to eight times cheaper than banks when paying international invoices.
Setting up the payment is simple, too. You sign up for a free account, set up your transfer by entering your supplier’s bank account information, state what currency you’d like to pay them in, and then fund your transfer. The funding options include bank transfer and debit/credit card. Your supplier won’t need to do anything. For them, it’s just like receiving cash into their bank account.
With over five million customers and co-founded by the first employee of Skype, you can be assured that your money is sent securely. However, just like with a normal wire transfer, your money is not protected if your supplier turns out to be fraudulent, so it’s best used when you’re paying a supplier you trust.
You can find out more about TransferWise in my post here.
15. Product Selection
The last filter on my list is product selection. By that, I mean the types of products the supplier has listed on their Alibaba profile.
For scammers, the strategy is simple: they have a limited time to use the account before it gets banned, so they will try to list all kinds of unrelated but very popular products to lure people in quickly. They know that they can’t use brand names in their listing texts and titles (because Alibaba filters them out), but they can still do it by uploading images of branded goods, which are much harder to spot.
It’s not uncommon to see a scammer profile on Alibaba that sells iPhones, Nike’s and PlayStations all under one roof. Again, you already know by now that branded goods on Alibaba mean it’s a 100% SCAM! But you still have to be cautious and do your due diligence, even when you’re searching for unbranded goods.
True manufacturers will usually offer one type of product, cover one product group, or deal with groups of similar products. They won’t offer socks along with electronics. Yes, there are trading companies who do this, and they can be totally legit, but our goal (in most situations) is to find product manufacturers, not trading companies. So, I would recommend staying away from profiles that have all kinds of unrelated products listed.
Another reason to be cautious is that a genuine Alibaba supplier profile could have been hacked. For example, consider a profile that sells gardening hose products. A scammer hacks it and lists a few highly popular products that are in the household goods category (say, TVs and other related products). For them, it’s an easy way to lure people in. They’re using a legit profile, so they can ask for payment via Western Union, MoneyGram or a personal bank account and scam the buyer while hiding behind a legitimate business.
So as a final filter always take a look at what other products the supplier is offering on Alibaba and use that to spot any potential scams.
These situations are very rare, though. If you avoid branded goods and follow my 15-step filter process, the chances of you getting scammed are down to almost zero.
So, how do you feel now about getting scammed on Alibaba? Is Alibaba safe?
After reading through all of the steps in this blog post, I’m sure you’ve come to realise that it’s the people who don’t investigate suppliers or who don’t know much about the platform who get scammed on Alibaba. I mean, we have so many tools and so much information at our disposal.
You have to be very greedy and avoid every red flag and common-sense warning to fall for those scams.
Just stick with this guide and you will avoid 99.99% of scams. There are, of course, many smaller filters you could also use, like watermarked pictures. If a supplier has their own watermarked pictures on their Alibaba product showcase, it’s another good sign that they are a legit supplier because scammers usually don’t have the time or resources to get unique product pictures.
You also have to consider the communication style and how aggressively the supplier is offering incredible deals (offers like: Buy 2, get 3, FREE shipping, etc., which are all clear signs of a scam!). In short, use common sense! If it looks too good to be true, it definitely is!
Sure, you can get unlucky. No one is protected 100% and risk is part of any business, but in general, you’ll stay safe and avoid scams on Alibaba if you follow the advice in this blog post.
Let me quickly remind you once again that there is a difference between getting scammed on Alibaba AND simply getting a bad supplier with low-quality stock or a supplier who is lazy, unresponsive and doesn’t want to hear about your problems after the sale is made. There are good and bad suppliers everywhere, be it China, the UK, Argentina or anywhere else!
That’s why you should always start with a sample order, just to test the product quality and the supplier’s reliability. If you’re happy with the sample order, then you can place your first real order. I recommend you keep your first order to a relatively small amount and increase it gradually. Why? Suppliers often send out a perfect sample. If you place a massive first order and they send you a lower quality product, you’re stuck with a lot of it.
Ideally, you would do a factory inspection before you place your real order if an inspection report is not already available on the supplier’s profile page. This way, you can verify that the supplier is actually what they appear to be and reduce the chances of you getting scammed.
Verification is also important if you want to deal with manufacturers ONLY, as many trading companies advertise themselves as manufacturers when they’re actually just a middleman and don’t have any manufacturing facilities. An inspection report will reveal the truth!
Well, that’s it for today. I really hope you enjoyed my “review of Alibaba” and that this helps you to stay out of trouble and avoid scams on Alibaba! As I said, there are not that many scammers left on the platform at all, but if you avoid branded goods and follow my 15-step process for how to avoid scams on Alibaba, your chances of getting scammed are reduced to an absolute minimum.
To educate yourself more on this topic, please check out my TOP 10 Scams on Alibaba article to familiarise yourself with the telltale behaviours of a typical scammer, which will teach you how to spot scams on Alibaba from a mile off!
If you have any questions, I’m here to help! Please leave your comments below the post and I will personally answer them within 24 hours, Mon-Fri. I’m happy to share my knowledge and 15+ years of experience with anyone who is new to this process and needs help.
Lastly, if you would like to learn more about importing products and building an Amazon FBA business using your own branded goods, check out my Amazon Sharks program:
It’s got 20+ hours of video lessons on how to start a successful Amazon FBA business that take you from A to Z. Branding, importing from China and everything else you need to know is covered in great detail in the course. You will also get my personal support, various bonuses and free updates for life. So definitely check it out here.
Good luck with your importing and stay 100% SCAM-free! 🙂
Click Here to Leave a Comment
I Just got done reading your blog and I’m kind of nervous that my my package won’t arrive. I just ordered it (Date:Jan. 21 2014) Time: 19:28 and the seller isn’t a company it’s a person. The seller started his business since March/12/2013 The seller’s feed back score is 749 , So do you think it’s a SCAM?
What’s the seller ID/link?
I’ll take a look.
Feedback looks good.
Why do you think it’s a scam?
ok thanks, I was just wondering
Im currently placed an order in Aliexpress until I saw your blog.
I sent my items via China Post Mail going to Philippines.
Now I’m scared it wont arrive here. but my order status is still in processing orders.
They say it will took 20 days.
Anyone out there who have successful shipping to Philippines via China Post Mail? Or should I opt to a more pricier shipping option (DHL, UPS, etc.) ??
Thanks for your comment.
I don’t know how reliable/fast is China Post to PH, so can’t comment.
I personally never use China Post as it’s very un-reliable and slow. HK post is better but still – most of the time I just make my orders bigger to justify additional cost of using a courier service. I would recommend you do the same and take out the hassle/long waiting times of China Post.
Hello Good day Andrew…have some questions bothering me.
Can the escrow service really be trusted? And is the 5% charge fixed?
How long those it take for one to get a refund if items supplied are not of good quality.
Thanks for stopping by.
I have never had problems with escrow on both Alibaba and AliExpress but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe either. Read through comments in this post, plenty of people share their negative experiences.
I personally think that IF you do your home work, research potential supplier, stay away from high risk items, Escrow is as safe as it gets when importing goods from China.
Nice website and thanks for this great articles, you have done a very great job in enlighten those how are interested in doing importation from China. Thanks a Million
Am a reseller of memory cards and external hard drives. i have been purchasing from Aliexpress.com before now with no itch. but upon trying to expand my business and buying in bulk from Alibaba.com i was scammed a chunk of $280.
but i still believe there are honest and trusted suppliers of memory cards in midst of those scammers like you said. i have been making a deep research into alot of supplier using your top ten guidelines. leaving me with only Ibiz Asia Company limited and Jimpower industry. To your own professional examination,what do you recommend.
I would also be very greatful if you have any trusted supplier you can recommend to me that is honest,trusted and dish out quality cards in wholesale.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m afraid I can’t recommend any specific suppliers as I don’t deal with memory cards and related products but if you say those two companies look good to you, order sample from each and see how it goes!
thanks alot then, i do just that.
Plz what do you mean by the word branded goods. Can you enlighten me more.
Thanks for your time
By branded I mean Sony, Sandisk, Lexar and other branded memory cards.
Just came across this supplier, Haojue Hardware Furniture Factory, looks okay to me…but your advice would be great as I am a noob..
Thanks in advance…
Thanks for your comment.
They look ok to me. Organize samples and then see how it goes.
Kudos to you and your efforts.
When speaking of Aliexpress, is it dangerous to use WU as you have mentioned on previous posts and why.
Also you mentioned using a debit card, which I understand ( from my bank) that there are no protections because it is just like a check and can be charged again and again without your authorization.
How long should I wait to receive goods before I should protest?
If Aliexpress is just a middle man, and won’t protect you, is buying with a credit card your only protection?
Thank you, Chuck
Thanks for your questions.
I would never use WU, even on Ali Express to pay for full orders. There’s no protection then, there’s no Escrow and you’re simply shooting in your feet. Only use Ali Express checkout page, pay with a credit card (and not debit card) and stay away from high risk items and sellers with bad feedback.
How long to wait? I wouldn’t wait for than 10 days for courier shipments and 30 days for regular post.
Hi Andrew, I have been researching purchasing from Alibaba for the last few weeks and noticed their customer feedback on the site has the exact same feedback under different names and when I Googled the names the information was different to the site so I have my concerns. I Google Alibaba feedback and found this which is great and very helpful advice. I will definately ask for a samples before I buy.
Thanks for your comment.
Not sure about those feedbacks but I have been using Alibaba for many years to find suppliers in China. You have to evaluate each supplier individually as Alibaba won’t do much to protect you if you decide to deal with a scammer. Follow my filters and always start with a small sample order.
I have a pending order at aliexpress that needs payment, unsure if I will use my credit card directly to pay the seller. Now, my question would be. Is it safe to use credit card payments using aliexpress website?
Thanks for your question.
I have always used credit card to pay for Ali Express orders with no problems whatsoever. It’s not that seller is processing your transaction – it’s Ali Express. And they keep money in Escrow until you receive goods and mark order as received in your Ali Express account.
Thanks for the post, it’s very helpful! I was wondering if you could tell me if you think this company is legit? I’m planning to order $350 worth of product and shipping. They won’t let me pay through escrow and they haven’t listed paypal on the product I wanted to order but have it listed on other products. Is that unusual? They only offered me Moneygram, Western Union, and T/T. Also, does Alibaba on site inspection and verification really mean much?
Here’s the company:
Thanks for your comment.
Very rarely a company on Alibaba will accept Escrow with such small amounts – $350, so that’s nothing un-usual.
But I would recommend paying via PayPal – even if they haven’t listed it online, chances are they still can take it.
If we talk about this specific company – don’t order anything from them! They sell FAKE, counterfeit goods which are illegal to import and re-sell.
Thank you for lots of valuable information you provided. Great website!
I have got question.
How would you treat Gold Supplier company on alibaba whose membership year doesn’t match establishment year? I came across companies having 3, 4, 5 year gold supplier mark but company profile says established in 2012 or 2013… Do you think is a scam?
Thanks for your question.
It could be a scam, yes but there could also be a logical explanation….
I have heard that some companies do purchase existing Alibaba Gold accounts, change company name etc. and that’s how they get older Alibaba accounts than the actual company is.
Your best bet is to contact supplier and ask directly about this, confront them with a direct question why your Alibaba profile is older than your company? And see what they say…
This is such a great article. Our company is considering using Alibaba to find suppliers and this information really helps. I just have two questions and if someone could help me out, I would really appreciate it.
In regards to the second point in the article, where do I find the information regarding complaints about a company? In other words, I cannot locate the spot where it says whether or not a company has complaints about them.
Second, what are the legal implications of doing business with suppliers in China or other foreign countries? For example, if I ordered a product from China which injured someone due to faulty manufacturing, what is my legal recourse? From my understanding, China does not uphold judgments made in U.S. courts.
Great to hear you’re enjoying my blog!
To answer your questions:
1) Currently they have taken down that information so you won’t be able to find it.
2) You, as a importer, hold FULL responsibility in such cases. You’re responsible that products are made of quality that meets trading standards. In USA I guess, you can’t even start this without having an insurance in place.
Hope this helps Natalie!
I have used your advice and i’m researching all sellers thoroughly. there are several 3rd+ year gold sellers that i have found using the escrow filter, but when i enter their page it has no mention of escrow only these payment option L/C,T/T,Western Union,MoneyGram. i’m a little confused.
thanks for this great post
Thanks for stopping by.
This isn’t 100% accurate, yes. Often times it works the other way around too – seller takes Escrow only after asking about it.
In most cases it will work as it should by default though.
Either way, you want to get in touch with supplier and ask whatever they accept Escrow via Alibaba or not. Some will take it but only if you cover Escrow fee, which is around 3%-5% mark.
You just have to be smart when buying. For example, my daughter wears fine boutique clothing such as Mustard Pie, etc. I see several suppliers who use the model pictures from Mustard Pie. I know those clothes are produced in China, but then why would they use professional photos of white children if it’s produced in China? Also they refuse to send samples. Verdict: don’t buy from them!
Another instance in which I was very very happy was I ordered 10 necklaces in bulk (not solid gold or anything just some cord necklaces with pretty flowers) and passed them out as mothers day gifts to my friends. They were nice and everyone loved them, they still wear them as well. It just honestly didn’t matter if the necklaces were awful bc I knew they were not a brand, were not real gold, etc. But they were lovely, so I knew what to expect. You have to use your brain in this, common sense will save you a lot of misery.
Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience with my blog readers.
You’re 100% right, on everything! People really forget sometimes that product quality can vary greatly, seller service can vary greatly and everyone should use common sense when importing goods from China. Very often people go just for the lowest price (too good to be true) just to find out later on that they’re scammed or have received low quality stuff. DON’T DO IT! And always start with samples.
Such simple advice but still….
Hello. I know many people have answered before. But I have my suspicions with a seller on Aliexpress. The name is Price Grabber – Best Price & Service
The aliexpress page is this one:
This is the product I want to buy from them:
I’ve read a lot, but have overlooked one thing that got me extremely suspicious, and that is at the end of the description and many other descriptions of the products of the seller. It says at the very end:
“Elijah store insists on doing the honest and efficient business!”
I cringed. I mean what? I have already transferred the money, and the money is on the way to the escrow account. Now I am thinking of canceling the order. This frightened the hell out of me. I am asking myself how to proceed. I invested long time researching, but stumbled upon your blog post here just recently. Damn, I overlooked this insane message there, otherwise I would’ve never bought from them.
Thanks for stopping by.
Sorry, but what’s so special about that line? Why it made you suspicious?
The seller looks established to be, with tons of good feedback…
Let me know.
Oh, yeah. Why the line got me so suspicions. Well, it was kinda irritating. Like if you make a deal there, you won’t get the proper communication, because they don’t care. It seemed like: “If you are unlucky, you are unlucky mate, you are the guy we get money from”. But until now it wasn’t like that. So, that’s what made me afraid. Otherwise they have a good amount of feedback.
I wouldn’t pay that close attention to their broken, un-readable English…
You see all kinds of such texts all over the Alibaba and Ali Express.
Yes. That seems to me to. I have just never seen a line like this. Otherwise I can say these sellers answered my questions and so forth very quick, and were friendly and adapting. That line just destroyed all my senses. Anyways, thank you very much for your answer. Your Blog here is actually very well done and informative. I will reply here again if there is something new.
Hi, sorry to be another person asking the same, but what would your impression be of :
HIMAN Industrial Supplies Co.,Ltd. Store No.806954
I was considering buying R162221420 and R185331310 industrial linear bearings from them but cannot find a standalone website for that HIMAN name.
Any advice would be very much appreciated as the price is almost too good to be true, but they may just surplus items from factories hence the low price?? I’m torn over whether to risk the money or not.
Thanks for your question.
If it’s a BRANDED product (and from the look of it, IT IS), then I would strongly recommend staying away from Ali Express or any Chinese retailer for that matter.
Even if it’s genuine item, it didn’t come via official channels, could be faulty or simply stolen from the factory.
For anything branded, China is really not the place to go for.
I wanted to buy some stuffs on Aliexpress but the seller has zero feedback, what other things do i look for in order to shop free of scam?
Never buy anything if company that dont have record.
They are robbers or they are new in business.
Thanks for stopping by.
I personally NEVER buy from a seller on Ali Express with zero feedback. It’s just too much risk to take on. Look for more established sellers that sell same item and order from them, even if the price is a bit higher.
This article is really helpful, but I still have no idea where to even begin. I would like to order wholesale t shirt dresses. I see a supplier that I would be interested in purchasing from. They say they offer free samples. I have an account with UPS when I have to pay the carrier fee, how do I go about that? Since there is a language barrier sometimes I am unable to understand what they are trying to convey. Please take a look at the link and tell me what you think about the supplier please. I would really really appreciate it.
Thanks for stopping by.
That company looks ok to me, only thing – STAY AWAY from any items that have team logos/characters on them. They’re not licensed merchandise.
But if you’re interested in plain t shirt dresses, start with samples. As you already have a UPS account, and samples are free, you simply provide this information to supplier so they can organize samples for you.
The shipping cost will be billed to your UPS account.
Hey, can you order quality brazilian hair (real human hair) from an alibaba supplier or will you receive cheap synthetic hair? I’m considering placing an order with guangzhou-baoxing-hair-business-firm
Thanks for your comment.
I’m not an expert in these products BUT as far as I know, you CAN get genuine human hair from Chinese suppliers. You’ll just have to do some research on how to check quality of these and order samples from several suppliers.
That company looks ok to me but still, do some further research and get some samples first.
i found a customer from alibaba.com and i order a 100pcs of micro sd cards they send me a good memory cards ,then i trust them i again order a 300pcs micro sd 474usd value and they send me a fake memory cards that not detect in any phone or computer ,now they not reply me
what can i do for this
Beneficiary Name: Esunko Development Electronic Limited
Bank Name: Hang Seng Bank Limited
Beneficiary Account: 255594319883
Swift Code: HASE HKHH
Bank Address : 83 Des Voeux Road Central,HK
Jingang Development Electronics Limited
Address:18# Fuming Road,Futian District,Shenzhen,Guangdong,china.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m afraid you can’t do anything about it. If you paid via bank transfer and they scammed you, money is gone for good.
It seems that you didn’t properly check supplier before making an order. A quick Google search shows many scam complains about this company:
This only proves yet again that you want to do more research before you order anything from China.
I was considering ordering from aliexpress.com and could use some advice, the person I will be ordering from has excellent reviews but do you think that I should use fed ex shipping to ensure my package gets shipped to the U.S so it can be tracked? and do you recommend a visa green dot card or a money transfer from my bank? any great advice helps. thank you! keep up the great work.
Thanks for stopping by.
A courier will always be safer compared to national postal services, so yes – if it makes financial sense to you, always try to use courier services for such shipments.
You can use VISA or money transfer – up to you really! I have always used VISA card for all Ali Express orders, with not problems whatsoever.
Sounds great. Thank you for your advice, I will gladly take it!
Im new to ordering things online and I purchased some items through Aliexpress which I believe is associated with Alibaba and I wanted to know if my items will arrive at my doorstep/home mailbox or willI have to go pick it up somewhere. Please answer as soon as you can.
Thanks for your comment.
It depends on what shipping method did you use?
1) If you selected courier (EMS, DHL, TNT etc.), package should be delivered straight to your door.
2) If you selected China Post, package will be delivered to your local post office and you’ll have to collect it from there.
Pls i ordered for samples from 2 different suppliers and the charges for a sample product was far higher than expected and the mode of payment was skeptical. I was told to make transfer but i wanted to pay through alibaba. Pls am i really safe?
Thanks for your comment.
Nothing is 100% safe in this World, so you should always do your home work and check supplier – whatever it’s legit or not.
No one will take such small sample fees via Escrow though. For samples we usually pay via PayPal, bank transfer or in worst case – Western Union (but only if company looks 100% legit).
I have found plenty of good clothes that I want to order but I wanted to ask if u can give me the names of good cloth’s sellers
Thanks for your comment.
I can’t give you any specific names – just follow this guide and you should be able to quickly filter out good sellers from bad ones.
Then start with a small sample order and see how it goes.
If you have any links you want me to take a look at, let me know.
Hi i have some
Questions i find product supl is 6 y gold mamber but he wont me to transfer cash via alibaba esxrow and personal email like gmail ,hot mail or yahoo stay away?
Witshine Tech Limited
Addr.: 27C1,Block C,Electronic Science and
Can you chech that company for me? Cheers
Thanks for your question.
At first glance they look ok to me. Looks like they’re a trading company, not a manufacturer as they sell all kinds of various brands of e-cigs & accessories in low quantities.
Product listings say they accept PayPal – so I would recommend you use that.
The fact that email is gMail, Yahoo etc. doesn’t really mean anything – it’s very common in China to use these, even for businesses (as they’re reliable).
Start with a small sample order, pay via PayPal and see how it goes.
Regarding brands, I have to say that if you’re byuing Chinese brands than Aliexpress is a good place to get discounts.
I have bought Huion digital tablets, tracing board and around 5 digital pens, they are straight from the factory original Chinese Huion brand, work wonderful, flawless. The only difference from buying from some ‘fancy’ store or directly from Huion is that you get the products in an ordinary brown cardboard box, instead of a ‘shiny branded one’ oh and there’s the LOWER price! But I guess the important thing should be the contents of the box, and not the ‘shiny’ box itself.
Sorry – off topic – I’m a professional illustrator, and have worked with ‘evil’ Wacom untill I discovered Huion. I’ll never go back to Wacom – overpriced in relation to performance.
Conclusion: there’s Brands and BRANDS. As long as you stick with Chinese brands, and the rules from this article it should be safe.
Thanks for your comment.
YES, Chinese brands are generally ok to buy BUT if you do, you should only buy from brand factories directly. There are many Chinese brands that are being copied too, so be careful even if it’s a Chinese brand.
I have send to Alibaba seller 120$ [T/T][[http://www.shenzhensciconn.com/]], he have get my money and didnt answer to me!
Any chance to get money back ?
Thanks for stopping by.
No, you won’t ever see your money – that company is a SCAM! They “sell” branded electronics for ridiculously low prices. It’s a classic scam scheme set-up to take advantage of people like you.
You always have to remember that you CAN’T get branded products from China!
Alibaba is a big scam. My evidence is they don’t make a rating for good supplier for a reason. I found this site here been scammed 3 times on alibabaas a pro alibaba to fix their image on the net. I have the big one is by alibaba themselves by the scam of supplier being a gold .They took my money big Bull Shit , don;t ever trust them.
Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂
I was wondering if you could give me an advice on shipping from China to UK.
I did wrote to you couple of weeks ago asking which shipping option to go for: sea or air? You did reply to my question, but still I have difficulties with understanding and checking the additional costs 🙁 By air, I mean: FedEx, UPS etc. At least that’s what I think it means. This kind of shipping will cost me around $400 and the goods I’m buying (fabric) will cost me around $250! If I choose sea delivery option the fee is only $40. Now, the supplier says that it’s easier and cheaper for me to go with air shipping (FedEx, UPS etc) and that they will just deliver it to my door with no paper work to fill out, no additional costs, while the sea shipping will be lots of hassle, paper work and additional costs. I don’t know if they just say so, coz it’s easier for them or they are honest and telling the truth.
Have you ever dealt with sea shipping before? Which option would you recommend and why? What shall I know about shipping goods from China? Is the sea shipping safe? What does it mean: FOB Shanghai?
I’m so sorry for so many questions 🙁 but please I need your help!!!!
Thanks & Happy Christmas to you too!
Your supplier is 100% right – courier way is much easier and hassle free compared to sea freight. The differences are covered in detail in these two guides:
BIG THANK YOU to you.
You are a star! I love your blog! Thank you!
You’re welcome Marta!
Glad I can help others my sharing my knowledge.
YOU WILL GET SCAMMED. DO NOT BUY FROM ALIBABA. I have been a member of alibaba for the past four years. I have been taken advantage of on several different occasions. Alibaba does not care about its costumers and has sided with swindling merchants. They do not resolve issues even after several attempts on my part to resolve issues. Do not buy anything off of the website expecting to receive what was advertised. YOU WILL GET SCAMMED. DO NOT BUY FROM ALIBABA. USE E-BAY, AMAZON or some other site that has some respect for you and your hard earned money, not a scam from china who you cant see or even speak with in most instances. STAY AWAY FROM ALIBABA>>>>>>>>
Hi does anyone on here know a good pet supplier fr from china on alibaba. Ideally one that takes escrow and is cheap. Ta
Thanks for your question.
What you want is simply do search on Alibaba for products you’re interested in and then find best suppliers based on filters covered in this blog post.
Alternatively, you can check out Global Sources magazines too:
I’m not sure they are as legitimate as you say, trying to get a response from them regarding a dispute is impossible. I have been waiting on a response on an escalated claim for over 6 weeks, I was told I would receive some response or comment within 3 working days; it has been over 15 working days, still nothing. If the so called ‘BUYER PROTECTION’ existed and you receive no response from the store, I should reclaim my money or in some form of credit, as I haven’t received my product.
Yes, you’re absolutely right! 15 days is totally un-acceptable….
You don’t say which site you’re referring to Alibaba or AliExpress? As this article/blog post is about Alibaba and not AliExpress. People often mix these two up and even though they’re under same mother company, they are two separate websites.
Hi, Andrew and thanks so much for you info.
You mentioned above about white ladeling that a lot of manufactures on alibaba do that, my question is Who dose the design , logo, for the box and the actual item ?
Depends on supplier – many suppliers will happily do designs for you, if quantity you order is enough. Others will ask you for design files.
One thing though – often Chinese made designs are quite low quality so you want to check what they can offer before moving on with order. For this reason, I always do my own designs and supply design files to supplier.
Thanks for replying,
Because of the low quality how do I brand on my own? Like what do I need to do is there a few stepls like getting a logo, designing a box or tags , [in simple words What’s The process on creating your own design?]
Andrew thanks for the posts, these are really useful. I bought two days ago this product: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free-shipping-2013-New-Arrival-Lenovo-P780-Black-MTK6589-quad-core-1-2GHz-4000mAh-1280X720-Camera/1541953689.html
The normal price here is US $245.00 – 269.00, but this guy offered a 45% discount two days ago, that was a limited time offer of course. Now after reading all your comments and others, I don’t know what to say about this seller. Do you think he /she is legitimate? I have sent him/her a message just to see if he/she responds but nothing so far.
I would appreciate your thoughts.
Thanks in advance,
Thanks for your comment.
Buy a branded smart phone off AliExpress @ 50% discount from a seller with NO feedback?
That’s not very smart thing to do, sorry. I would try to cancel the order as soon as you can and hope that you won’t get scammed. Don’t accept any partial refund or anything else – cancel for full refund. If the item hasn’t been shipped out yet, this shouldn’t be difficult. (go to your orders > Cancel).
The seller has apparently shipped the item yesterday, my bank has not yet authorized the payment yet, I actually called the bank to keep it on hold for now. One of my friends bought a Lenovo phone from Aliexpress, it arrived on time and it was not a fake one, totally legit. I know Aliexpress sells genuine Lenovo phones (these are made in China anyway) and the average price of Lenovo P780 is about $250 (on Ebay as well). This guy offered a 45% discount only for few hours. I am still unsure, probably you are right and I should cancel the payment.
Thanks so much for your advices.
If you can Zamir, cancel it.
Lenovo is a Chinese brand? If so, it could be that they can be bought directly from China. But 45% discount seems way too much, especially coming from an account with 0 feedback.
Andrew, just to let you know you were right, I got scammed but today I got refunded by Aliexpress.
I gained trust in them, I will surely buy there again.
Yes, Lenovo is a Chinese multinational technology company with headquarters in Beijing, they bought IBM’s PC business for $1.25 billion. Anyway, back to the point of the discussion, you might be totally right and I might have fallen victim of a scam. I will try to cancel the order if possible.
After my last experience purchasing from AliExpress… SCAM is the first thing that comes to mind!
Short story: I purchased battery, tracking number provided invalid, never arrives. I give adequate time to seller to deliver 90++ days. Seller lied, now refuses to respond. No problem, this happens in a market place. AliExpress has buyer guarantee…. except there is no way to register a complaint. So I snoop, find a corporate executive here in the USA to complain to… I get the runaround, then finally a real live customer service agent that explains that it’s my fault that the seller did not deliver the goods….. Hmm… This must be Chinese Customer Service.
Finally I get a complaint on their “Trade Security” desk that promises resolution if the seller does not respond in 3 days…. Oh, it’s been 15 days, no resolution, no way to contact, no way to complain.
OK, time to do a chargeback through the bank. I bank with USAA, the only company I trust. They refunded the money.
I’ll never do business with AliExpress, not because of the scammy seller, but because they botched their buyer guarantee.
There are no ifs ands or buts about it, AliExpress is a SCAM, and I have the paper trail to prove it.
Andrew, do not recommend using AliExpress or Alibaba as an e-commerce platform. Their platform is designed to protect dishonest sellers, and not buyers. By endorsing their service you are putting individuals and businesses at unreasonable risk.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
Sorry for being so harsh – but why did you wait 90++ days before filed a dispute in Escrow? Especially when tracking number is invalid?
You should have acted straight away – there’s an option in AliExpress escrow system where you can cancel order, dispute it if you do it in correct time frame.
Once again sorry for your bad experience but I’m doing all my business via Alibaba and many of my customers do same, without any problems.
I’m a really big fan of iPhones, but I don’t have enough money. So I started doing research online and I found alibaba.com. I found some cheap iPhones, but it’s probably just a scamm, right?
Thanks for your question.
YES, of course! It’s a 100% SCAM!
You can’t get genuine iPhone from China. Either you’ll get scammed and receive nothing OR receive a cheap, Chinese made clone of iPhone.
Best place to purchase an iPhone is from your local authorized re-seller or at least from a reputable eBay seller.
iPhones can’t be bought cheaply so forget about it.
Hope this helps!
[…] 2) Find the best suppliers using these filters. […]
hope you are well 🙂
I wrote to you before and I must say you were very helpful – thanks! I’m coming back to you with one more question regarding shipping, please…
I would like to order some fabric from company in China to UK and they are giving me two options for shipping. The first option is by air and it will cost me around $400. The second option is by sea and cost of that is $40! I will have to wait longer (I don’t mind), but it’s a lot of cheaper.
Now, my question is: If I choose sea shipping option, shall I be aware of any extra costs, taxes, paper work? And what is custom clearance?
Sure, no probs! Always glad I can help out!
It doesn’t matter whatever you’ll be using air freight or sea freight – you’ll have to pay VAT and import duty when goods arrive in UK. And take care of customs clearance.
That’s why I recommend using a freight forwarder in cases like these – they will take care of everything, deliver goods right to your door and issue invoice for taxes, shipping fee and small service fee. Get in touch with this company to get a quote:
Thank you for nice article .
I want to ask you :
– HOW I can protect myself when i pay by paybal(because this is the first time i make business)
– How I can guaranty that the product will be like the sample.
– I want by sticky bad for car and I choice this suppler ,can you give me your opinion on it (this is the link )
Thanks for stopping by.
1) When you pay using PayPal, ALWAYS fund the transaction with your credit card (and not PayPal balance or bank account). This way, if something goes wrong, you always have the option to initiate a charge-back claim with your credit card company.
2) If you want to be 100% sure about product quality – hire a quality inspection who will check all goods before they’re dispatched from the factory.
3) Get samples ordered first and then you can do further verification on this supplier. From the link alone I can’t tell anything good or bad about that company.
Thank you for your replay .
But what is the quality inspection and how can I use it?
Quality inspector is a person in China who will personally visit factory, check goods etc.
You can hire such quality inspectors easily directly on Alibaba:
Thanks Thanks Andrew
Now, I really prefer to buy everything from Thailand now, this is where I buy my stuff, for $20 “Personal Shopper Bangkok” (Google it I don’t have the exact link) will go shopping for you (anything), cheap and good, I would love to find the same cheap service in Paris or New York !!!
Thanks for your comment.
This is more about B2B transactions though but I’m glad to hear personal shopping works for you!
Thanks for the advice Andrew! You helped me a lot. I am interested in starting a business in the beauty industry and oh boy, it is difficult to find real 100% remy human hair extensions. I had nowhere else to look, so I started looking for suppliers on alibaba.com. Good to know about the gold star rating and the escrow service. Still a bit nervous about this though, but I am thinking of giving it a shot. Samples are very important people!
And yes, Alibaba is the place you want to look for 100% remy human hair manufacturers. Always get samples first and check whatever product is made of materials what it should be.
You have been a lot of help. I am trying to start a small business selling e-cigarettes and have come across scammer after scammer on Alibaba. It seems they either try to overcharge for the shipping or the weight of the products being shipped. They are even so bold as to list there products as twice, three times, or even four times the actual weight. Shipping is a big deal for me because am pretty sure it is a lot more expensive to ship to the U.S. Virgin Islands than the regular USA. I am not sure though because it is impossible to get an actual amount from DHL itself. It seems stupid that they try to do this. All I have to do is weigh the package when I get it. If it isn’t the weight they said I will not fulfill the escrow. I am really tired of all these Chinese suppliers assuming I am a total idiot. Please help!!
Thanks for your comment.
Is it for sample orders or real orders? For sample orders it’s quite common that suppliers in Chine charge some extra – to make some profit out of these sample orders.
But if they’re big/real orders, I have never really had a problem with this as if supplier is legit and genuine, they’ll try to help you and get as cheap shipping price as possible.
If no other way, you can get your own account with DHL, FedEx, TNT or any other company and then they’ll pick up packages for you in China and bill the amount you owe them. But just so you know – this may actually be more expensive as from my experience, Chinese get much better shipping rates than we do, if we sort out shipping in UK or USA.
Hi thank you for the post. its quite imformative. I am based in South Africa and would like to order shoes for my import business from oullus.en.alibaba.com are they a reputable company?
Thanks for stopping by.
Yes, they look ok @ first look. Make a small sample order and test product quality. If products are all good, get factory audit done. If that looks all good, then you can place a bigger order. Still, to stay safe, use quality inspector which will check manufactured shoes prior dispatch to you.
So u reckon i ahould buy nike free runs from alibaba Ali express bcoz its branded
you SHOULDN’T buy them, yes.
Anything branded on Alibaba, AliExpress OR any other Chinese store for that matter will be FAKES!
China is great only for un-branded stuff or your own brand stuff.
Well, it has been 3 year for me and aliexpress is my main platform for all my items.
I never feel that they dont help.
They have their own system, just follow this and you get auto refunds even if there is fake supplier,
I mostly deal with Gold supplier,,
Remember: Alibaba and aliexpress do not give your money to supplier until you complete your order by yourself and mark them as satisfied,
NEVER listen to Excuses from Supplier, professional suppliers never excuses they just do their work or refund you..
Aliexpress also says of you do not get your item before deadline always opened the dispute and supplier need to provide excuses and reason to aliexpress not to you
If you listen excuses from supplier and do not involved aliexpress, THIS IS YOUR MISTAKE
Mostly new buyers do it and blame to aliexpress..
at the end i will advise everyone that online- Fraud and Business are just like cousins
Listen to Parents (your Business platform guide and documentations AP or etc..) You will never get trouble or chances are very less to have any issue.
I Hope this helps
Thanks for your comments and for sharing your experience with us.
I totally agree with you 100%!
Most people who say Alibaba is a scam simply don’t know what they’re doing, don’t follow rules, source wrong products and just don’t do their homework. This is BUSINESS and it’s not for everyone! You have to be ready to take risks but most importantly – you HAVE to know what you’re doing!
if you do, 99% of scams on Alibaba can be avoided BEFORE sending money to anyone.
Excellent article, probably the best I’ve seen to help a beginner importer such as myself. I agree with you completely that Alibaba.com is a gold mine for the patient and cautions businessperson. I am located in the US and looking to import replacement motorcycle wheels for late model Japanese sport bikes to re-sell on ebay or amazon. I have been communicating with several manufacturers and trade companies and I think I have narrowed it down to one for my first order: Zhejiang Feiyue Vehicle Co LTD. The company passes some of your key tests, but not all. They have sent me a sample wheel that should be arriving in a few days (I paid them $120 via WU). When I asked what form of payment they could accept for the shipping of the free sample, they said they couldn’t accept Visa, MC, or Paypal.
I am trying to do as much research as possible so my interactions with the supplier don’t leave them thinking I’m a novice.
I have a few questions:
1. How should I expect to pay for the 50% up front and the 50% before shipment? T/T or L/C?
2. I understand that L/C is more secure, but I don’t know where to begin? Should I contact my local bank? How does that process go?
3. Should I find an inspector before the manufacturing process begins, right before the wheels leave the warehouse, or both?
4. I initially asked them their MOQ and they stated 200. Is it typical to negotiate that figure? I was hoping to order closer to 100 as the first order and based on how smooth the transaction goes, ramping that figure up in subsequent orders.
5. Do I have to have an established business to get the goods or can I complete the first order as an individual? I wanted to see if this is going to be a viable business before going through all the steps required to legally start a business.
Thank you in advance for your thoughts!
Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you find my blog interesting & valuable!
I’ll try to answer your questions one by one:
1) Ideally you want to pay via Aliababa’s Escrow system. If your supplier doesn’t accept that, then normally we pay via bank transfer (T/T).
2) Yes, L/C is more secure but most suppliers will take that only on big orders – $50k+
3) Yes, do both. Get factory inspected right now and do quality check inspection before you pay remaining 50% and goods leave China.
4) Yes, you should be able to negotiate it down to 100. Most suppliers are ok with lower first order as they know you’ll come back for more in future.
5) You can do first order as individual, no probs with that.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for your email.
Then you have been very un-lucky… or did not check companies properly.
Personally I and dozens of my clients have bee dealing with hundreds of suppliers on Alibaba.com and had very few problems (most problems are product quality related).
Simply, because I can’t find the right word (always hard to find the right word to appreciate good), I’ll say thank you very much for this. It’s so sooooo helpful. I am looking forward to starting my own importation business and have been doing my own research. I will be using either FedEx or DHL Express. In need clearity on these:
1) On suppliers’ pages I come across statements like this: “US $ 4.63 / Piece to United States by Express FedEx IE.” What does that really mean? (I’m in Africa).
2) Can I get good quality unbranded Tablet PCs that is as good as the branded ones from China?
Thanks for your comment.
1) That shows the shipping price to the USA for 1 unit via FedEx Express service. You want to contact supplier to get a shipping quote for your location.
2) Yes and no. Apple, Samsung quality? NO! But you can probably get something close to what cheaper brands are selling as at the end of the day, all tablets are being made in China. Just be prepared to pay PREMIUM price for premium quality goods.
I just bought a piece of equipment from Alibaba and was assured that it had a warranty from GlobalIPL and they completely ripped me off. The machine broke and the company refused to live up to the warranty or fix anything or give me a refund. When i complained at Alibaba, they did nothing to get this resolved. The company even admitted the machine was broken. Alibaba said that the fault was on BOTH PARTIES and didn’t even post my complaint of the company’s seller site. Alibaba does not protect anyone buy the seller. DO NOT PURCHASE ANYTHING FROM THEM!!
Thanks for your comment.
I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience but why do you blame Alibaba for this? It’s just a middle man – you are dealing with your supplier and not Alibaba,
That is if you didn’t pay via Escrow.
They key here is to deal only with good, reputable suppliers, get quality control in place when needed and ideally use Escrow for payment.
I have never relied on Alibaba that it will protect me in any way. Do your home work first and then you’ll minimize your chances of getting scammed.
I have liked this article very much and your replies to questions/comments.
I would like to ask a few questions to wrap-up what I have learned in the story and the comments.
1. Should I trust inspectors found at http://inspection.alibaba.com/. Are they 100% trustworthy.
2. Am I supposed to pay any taxes in China (or i will have only to pay import taxes in my country)
3. Do you know of any trustworthy exporter to Africa, in particular Kenya
Thanks very much in advance
Thanks for your questions.
1) Yes, as long as you stick with reputable inspectors with good feedback score.
2) No, you don’t have to pay any taxes in China. Only in your country.
3) Sorry, I have no experience with exporting to Africa.
I won’t use them again! I bought some curtain rods that showed up not exactly as described (measurements, materials) but not necessarily intentional. They just wouldn’t work for my window. After many back and forth denials of my request to return the rods (they will talk you to death suggesting solutions–buy new rings in your town, use a different bracket…whatever, fine….), I was worn down and didn’t want to twice pay the exorbitant shipping (more than the cost of the curtain rod) back to China and decided I could make no headway requesting a different agent to speak with or filing a complaint. So I just gave up and will sell this useless curtain rod to someone at a loss. But the way they have the online platform, I can’t make a complaint since I released my claim. But there was no alternative. Just a pain in the butt in every way. Avoid.
Thanks for your sharing your story.
Alibaba is really not a retail site and retail customers shouldn’t buy single units from China. The shipping cost alone eats up all potential savings you could make on item’s price.
Alibaba platform is meant to be used by companies, wholesalers who buy in bulk – pallets and container loads of goods, have goods inspected before dispatch etc. etc.
Hi i want to ask you how i can check the bank information if it is his personal account or the companu account how i can do that with the number of the bank account ( excuse my english ) thanks dear
Thanks for stopping by.
No one sends money to a NUMBER. Bank account will always come with an account name. And by that name you can easily see whatever it’s a personal (person’s name) or business account (company).
I have been reading your posts with interest and have found a lot of useful advice. I am hoping to import Fireplaces and Stoves etc., from a Foundry – Xuzhou Sunrain Foundry Co., Ltd., – The Web Site is -www.sunrainfireplaces.com – They have a 5 year Gold and use Escrow and Laser Card. Would you consider them a safe supplier to order from. I have imported from the UK and France but this would be the first time for China. I would be very grateful for your opinion. Thanks in advance.
Hi, peter now do you find suppliers in UK and France? Is there a site like alibaba I these countries?
There’s no site like Alibaba in these countries but you can always use Google which is a good starting point and then B2B, wholesale directories like:
Thanks for stopping by.
Yes, from initial inspection they look totally legit. Still, if you want to be 100% sure and you plan on ordering in volume, it’s always worth doing your own factory audit using an inspection service:
But all in all they look good.
Product is also not a high risk product, apart from quality of course which you’ll also want to monitor & check before your order gets dispatched to you.
Thank’s very much for the sppedy response and for your valued opinion. Will let you know how I get on. Many thank’s.