Is it Safe Shopping with AliExpress from the US

Living in the US, it's easy to get accustomed to the conveniences of Amazon.com and Free Prime 2 day shipping. However, Amazon no longer commands the best overall prices for online products. Long gone are the days where Amazon didn't charge tax at time of purchase (though there are still a few online retailers out there that follow that model). But tax benefits aside, some items can alternatively be purchased from AliExpress (owned by Alibaba... the Amazon of China). Depending on the item, a hefty price difference can be found. And if you're willing to purchase third party label, you are likely to find even better deals! But how does the process work and what are the difference when comparing AliExpress with Amazon. So I decided to make a purchase to find out.

AliExpress vs Amazon vs Alibaba... Whats the difference?

First, AliExpress.com and Alibaba.com are both part of Alibaba Group based out of China. Amazon.com is obviously owned by Amazon. AliExpress is Business to Consumer (B2C), which most closely aligns with Amazon. Alibaba caters more closely to Business to Business (B2B) and focuses on bulk orders.


AliExpress.comAmazon.com
Online ExperienceAliExpress.com does not feel as refined as Amazon.com, as its very common to see the same item duplicated many times.Has got their website figured out by automatically displaying the cheapest item for each item.
Product ReviewsProducts reviews for the most part are useless. I cannot even read or sort by reviewers by country, which feels important if AliExpress is to be a global online store.Their review system is very good and comprehensive. Q&A section is good for answer any questions before making a purchase.
PaymentI believe it's vendor specific, but I found that most of the items I wanted accepted PayPal.Easily pay with credit card.
ProcessingAliExpress allows the vendors 9 days to process!Amazon is mostly next day from Prime items, or within a couple of days.
ShippingA majority of the items have free shipping (or very low <$0.50) with no minimums, but shipping can take up to 20 daysWith Amazon Prime, many of the items have free 2 days shipping with no minimum order.
If you don't have Amazon Prime, then you need to meet a minimum order to obtain 5-7 business day shipping.

My Experience Shopping with AliExpress

So the item I ordered as a self watering pot that can sell on Amazon for between $25 to $50. On AliExpress, a very similar self watering pot costed ~$10. I chose this item to test for a couple of reasons:

  1. I wasn't in a rush to receive the item... my plant is still propagating.
  2. I wouldn't have to eat off the item. I'm still uncomfortable with the quality of random items from China without some notion of a US company enforcing rules.

In addition, the item I wanted didn't have a PayPal option, so instead I used a feature of my Citi Double Cashback Card to create a credit card number with a limit. I set the limit to the price of the item.

Below is a timeline of my order:

3/18/2018 - EveningOrder places on AliExpress.com with my temporary credit card number from Citi. I received an immediate confirmation email regarding my order.
3/19/2018 - EveningReceived an email stating my item has shipped. Email states I can contact the seller for shipping information and to "Click when Order Received", "Open Dispute", or "Extend Purchase Protection" link where necessary.
3/29/2018Package arrived to the US
3/30/2018Package delivered to my home. When delivered, AliExpress asks that you mark the item "Received" on their website.

The plastic pot arrived padded with plastic bubble wrap in a plastic shipping bag, heavily taped up. There is no visible damage to the product. The product itself was exactly as specified in the AliExpress product listing, and also undamaged. 

My overall experience is a positive one. I would in the future continue using an alternative credit card, and take a closer look at the shipper reviews. It took an overall time of 12 days, which turns out to be very close to the shipping times of Amazon (if you don't have prime and don't meet minimum shipping). From my experience, it is safe to shop at AliExpress, although I'd expect the prices to be lower given it's direct from China.


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