Shopping In China

Buying From China Tips Vol.1

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AliExpress: the big name in buying from China

Giant online marketplaces such as AliExpress let individual traders from East Asia sell direct the whole world buyers.Know what you’re doing and it’s possible to pick up huge bargains.The biggest categories include clothing, shoes, homeware, accessories, watches and stationery.

When we checked, we found the following examples, all including postage. Bear in mind the price in pounds might rise or fall, depending on currency fluctuations.£1.73 striped T-shirts (we found similar for £5 at New Look).60p iPhone 6/6s cases (comparable basic cases are £3.82 on Amazon).22p women’s belts (similar cost £1.99 on Amazon).This isn’t a straightforward click-and-buy situation though. Just as with eBay, there are no guarantees – the deal’s only as good as the seller you buy from, so check feedback thoroughly.You have fewer rights than when buying from the UK and also need to factor in customs and delivery charges. Plus you need to beware of fakes and consider safety issues.For more shopping tactics and techniques, see our Cheap Online Shopping, Amazon Tricks, eBay Buying Tips and Shopping Secrets guides.

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When it comes to buying goods directly from China, there’s one site which dominates – AliExpress.While AliExpress specialises in goods from China, several other big-name marketplaces also connect you with sellers from east Asia. Some traders sell on a few different sites and vary their prices, so for belt and braces it’s worth checking these too.


Buying From China Tips Vol.2

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‘I’ve bought over 150 things from AliExpress…I love  it’ – some inspiration before you start

We’ve had reports of huge successes from buying from AliExpress and similar marketplaces. Here’s some inspiration – please do tell us your successes and include links to the products if possible.

Forumite sillygoose says : My purchase history from AliExpress is now over 150 purchases. I must admit I love it! My wife has a huge collection of office dresses from Ali costing £10 to £15, good quality and fit. Tools, watches, trainers. One of my recent favourites? A set of real ceramic-blade kitchen knives at £7.82 delivered!

Pulliptears says : I do loads on AliExpress, mostly phone cases and jewellery, but I recently bought a pair of wireless headphones for £11.50. They arrived and were actually very, very good indeed.

JC383 says : I recently got into cycling and ordered cycling tops and shorts from AliExpress, which came to £15. While they took 3-4 weeks to arrive, the quality was as good as that of a UK shop, but at a fraction of the price.


Buying From China Tips Vol.3

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Factor in delivery – it’s often free…

For a true picture of the total cost, it’s important to include the cost of postage to make sure you really are getting a bargain.Many items often have free – albeit slow – delivery. But always double-check postage charges before buying.For example, when we checked at random, we found £6 bikinis, £1 belts and £1 yoga mat bags with free postage to the whole world.However, for bigger items postage can sometimes be pretty steep.


Buying From China Tips Vol.4

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Online shops based in China and elsewhere in east Asia are not the places to grab last-minute birthday and Christmas gifts. Items from east Asia typically take 3-6 weeks to arrive. However, goods can take longer if they’re held up by either UK customs or customs in the country they’re sent from.Many sellers offer expedited delivery for an additional fee. However, there can still be customs hold-ups which are outside their control, so question if it’s worth it.

Forumite paddyrg sums it up : I’ve used AliExpress for several years. I’ve had plenty of VERY FAST deliveries


Buying From China Tips Vol.5

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Let’s be straight – buying online from China is a relatively new concept

If you buy online from a seller in the UK or EU, the Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you can cancel the order within 14 days of arrival for any reason (apart from perishable or personalised goods). You’ve then 14 days to send it back. So you’ve the comfort of knowing you can return it regardless of the reason. See our Consumer Rights guide for more.This is in stark contrast to buying from China, you almost always have the right to return an item, even if faulty. Many of the sites listed here have their own buyer protection policies (as described in the top sites section above), but these are not the law.


Buying From China Tips Vol.6

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Keep your order below £15 and you shouldn’t pay any tax

Buy goods under £15 and you shouldn’t pay any VAT, customs or handling charges.  What you pay depends on the item’s value, but an easy rule of thumb is that above £15, customs, delivery and VAT charges can add 30-40% to the list price. So first ensure you know what you’ll pay – the pricier the item, the bigger the fees.Buy goods worth more than £15 online from non-EU online retailers and you need to pay 20% VAT. This is calculated based on the total package cost, regardless of how many items are in it. It’s charged on the full price of the package, not just items with a value that exceeds £15.
There are about 16,500 custom duty classifications for products, with average percentages between 5% and 9%. However, customs duty can sometimes be as low as 0% or as high as 71%, depending on the goods in question. 


Buying From China Tips Vol.7

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Check if it’s cheaper over here first

Just because something comes from East Asia doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bargain – especially once you factor in tax and customs charges.Always benchmark the price in the in other stores; use shopbots (shopping robots), which whizz through scores of internet retailers, to find the cheapest price.Then compare the benchmark price to the East Asian one, factoring in shipping, tax, customs charges and any Royal Mail charges.For more online shopping tactics and techniques, see our Cheap Online Shopping and Shopping Secrets guides.


Buying From China Tips Vol.8

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AliExpress’s standard currency is US dollars

That means you’re at the mercy of currency fluctuations, so bear this in mind as well when comparing prices. The site lets you choose to pay in US dollars or pounds. However, paying in pounds means AliExpress is doing the conversion, and rates are poorer than you can get on some cards.We analysed the price of 10 products in USD and GBP and found AliExpress adds an average 2% fee when you pay in pounds. So, which currency you pick depends on your situation:

  • If you have a top overseas card, pay in US dollars. Most debit and credit card firms get a near-perfect exchange rate from Mastercard or Visa, but then add a 3%-ish ‘non-sterling exchange fee’ to what they charge you, so £100 of US dollars costs you £103. Yet a few specialist credit cards have no exchange fee, so you get the same near-perfect rate the banks get – but ensure you repay IN FULL each month to minimise the interest you pay.If you have one of our top travel credit cards, the cheapest way to pay on AliExpress is to use yours to pay in US dollars.

  • If you don’t, pay in pounds. As above, most debit and credit card firms add a 3%-ish ‘non-sterling exchange fee’ when you pay for goods abroad.Because AliExpress’s fee is 2%, doing the transaction in pounds is usually cheaper than paying your bank’s charge. This is especially the case if you’ve got one of the debit cards from hell (including ones from Halifax, Intelligent Finance, RBS, NatWest, Santander or Lloyds TSB). As well as charging exchange rate fees, these fine you up to £1.50 each time you spend on them abroad. So, something priced £5 could cost you £6.50.


Buying From China Tips Vol.9

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How to check out a seller on AliExpress

With a little digging, a wealth of information is available on AliExpress sellers – in fact, its reviews are far more detailed than eBay’s. Scrutinise listings carefully before parting with your cash.

  • Look for a feedback score of at least 97%. Feedback is your most powerful tool when you’re choosing who to buy from. Look for a high feedback score (we’d say at least 97%) and click to read reviews. If you’re making a big purchase (although we advise against spending more than £15 on an item), use Google Translate to decipher feedback in other languages.
  • The more orders, the better. Underneath the item’s title it will show how many times that particular item has been ordered, so you can see how popular it is.
  • Feedback for that specific item. The boon of AliExpress is buyers can leave detailed feedback on specific items. People can also upload images, so you’re able to compare the listing with what people received. There’s often useful feedback on whether sizes come up big or small compared to what’s listed.
  • Chat to the seller before buying. Use the ‘Contact Now’ button on the ‘Feedback’ section of a seller’s ‘Store Home’ page to ask them questions about your purchase. 
  • Look for a long-established seller. The ‘Sold By’ box on the left-hand side of product pages shows how many years that seller’s been trading. Avoid newbies.
  • Don’t assume the photo is what you’re getting. Remember the descriptions are only as honest as the sellers – and their images may not win any prizes for accuracy either. It’s worth asking for a photo of the actual item they’ll be sending. 


Buying From China Tips Vol.10

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New to AliExpress? Buy some small items to learn the ropes

In essence, AliExpress (and other sites that connect you with East Asian sellers) are marketplaces. While it’s easy to snap up a scorcher, it’s also easy to get burnt.So, it’s a good idea for newbies to learn the ropes by buying a few small items, such as stickers or bottle openers. This way, you can learn how the system works before bidding on more costly wares.It can be bewildering working out where to start.

One easy route is the website AliPromo which is a curated list of products – simply scroll down or use the tags at the top and categories on the hand to see what’s new, popular and recommended.