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How to Buy Gadgets from China – 10 Steps Guide

Relaxed restrictions on international trade have opened new doors for buyers and sellers alike. Until about a couple of years ago, it was only businesses that could afford to purchase products from overseas, that too in bulk, thus requiring huge funds. However, even a layman can now make a one-off purchase without worrying too much. Thanks to some companies selling products online, purchasing phones, tablets or any gadgets is not hard at all, and sometimes advantageous because the same products come down late to the other markets, and the buyer can get it from China before it officially gets launched elsewhere.

Many products that we buy locally are sourced from China. There are various levels of resellers that find livelihood in this arrangement, which means that you have to pay a whole lot more for a product than it generally costs. However, you can now give all that a skip and buy direct from China; it’s never been so economical.

There are an insane number of online marketplaces that put you in touch with sellers in China. However, we’ll take the example of AliExpress, which is a retail-only version of Alibaba.

How to purchase products from China – AliExpress

  1. Head over to AliExpress, create an account. Be sure to use a genuine email ID (do not use a throwaway ID), because it’s going to come into use later. You can also sign up using Facebook, but that’s not recommended.
  2. Confirm account creation by clicking the link which AliExpress sends to your inbox.
  3. Next, search for the product that you wish to purchase, say OPPO Find 7 or OnePlus One.
  4. The result will be a lot of listings, through which you have to sift to find the most accurate. This is the most important step, because there can be con artists posing as genuine sellers.
  5. As a general rule, make it a point to purchase high value stuff (>$50) from sellers with more than 2000 rating points and more than 98% positive feedback. This will ensure that the seller you’re dealing with isn’t a con artist, and is fairly trustworthy.
  6. Chat with seller before making the purchase: The best thing about AliExpress is that you can chat to your hearts content with the seller. Generally, sellers are responsive even though there is a sort of a language barrier. Ask the seller about stocks, and maybe even ask them to send a picture of the product in question. Some sellers will also give you a small discount when persuaded.
  7. Check the correct bundle, choose shipping mode (more on this later) and hit buy now. Enter your details (including address, contact number, etc.), and then hit ‘place order’. You can also leave an order message in this step – for example, if you want it gift wrapped, customs declaration (more on this later), etc.
  8. There are various modes of payment you can opt for. It is generally a good idea to pay using a credit card rather than a debit card so you can file a chargeback later if anything does go wrong.
  9. Sit back and relax. Buyers often tend to get restless and impatient, which is something definitely not needed.
  10. Tracking is important, only if you have opted for a particular shipping service and you are given the tracking ID for the same.

AliExpress has buyer protection, and the money is safely stored in Escrow until you acknowledge receipt of your parcel. This means that if you do not receive your parcel/are unhappy with the quality/quantity, you can file a dispute. Payment is released to the seller only when you hit ‘confirm order received’; this doesn’t mean that you take unfair advantage of it, though.

About shipping modes and customs declaration: depending on the value of your product, it is a good idea to opt for various shipping modes. Say you’re buying yourself a smartphone charger worth $5. It wouldn’t make sense to go for express shipping, because shipping will itself cost more than the product. In that case, post is a good idea. Singapore Post, HK post, China post are usually the options available; we’ve found that the first two usually work faster than any other (free shipping) mode.

Customs declaration can be tricky, especially with high value items. Express shipping often causes duties to be levied on incoming parcels, but buyers often ask the shippers to undervalue the parcel in order to avoid paying customs. We do not encourage the practice, since it can back-fire and might even be illegal. You can always opt for free (post) shipping if you’re willing to take the risk — and be patient — to avoid paying customs duties.

Do let us know how it goes for you, or if you wish to know more!

By Yash Garg on Friday 7th of Nov 2014


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