The wisdom of US Buyers buying from China - Pros & Cons
There are a few questions concerning US eBay Buyers purchasing from the Chinese eBay Seller market. The results, at least for me have been mixed. Mostly I have been very pleased with the shipping time, the prices and the items. But then there are those times when things don't go as you would like. I will cover the pros and cons of my experiences.
First let me say that I am here to do one single thing: Caution US Buyers to be very careful before buying from Chinese sellers. It is not my goal to tear down the Chinese eBay Market. However, after buying over 200 items from China (Hong Kong specifically) I do think it is worth noting that there are some things any US eBay buyer should consider carefully before making such a decision.
I believe the first caution is: You need to check where the item is coming from before you buy anything on eBay. You cannot easily tell that something is coming from China since eBay doesn't use the same italic price markers for China that they do for the rest of the World outside of the US. That has caused me to buy at least 2 items from China that I had not planned to buy from there. Check where the item is located if the prices seem too low to be true. But actually, in every case it would be wise to see where it is located because not everything sold in China is priced below the US market. So low price alone isn't a good test. It's also easy to get caught up in the moment and not think to check where the object of your interest is being sold.
So, why would you buy from China? There are several reasons for doing so. Things are usually less costly to buy directly from China. Many of the things we use every day come from China anyway. We know the quality we can expect, so most of us have a clear understanding of what goods marked "Made in Hong Kong" and "Made in China" will be like. Another reason is that there are things we can find sold in huge quantity that we either can't find at all from other places or would pay premium prices for those same items with added import costs tacked on. I have gotten a variety of items from China at very low prices. Often with free shipping as well.
There are problems and risks with this practice however, and on 2 occasions I have found it necessary to take action against a seller by filing claims. The results were very different in each case. I will give the details in a moment.
The main risks I have encountered is that it takes about 10 days to 2 weeks for things to arrive from China to the US once they are mailed. eBay allows 30 days however. If a seller ships quickly, your items will arrive quickly and all will be well. However, be aware if your items do not arrive within that time frame. Sellers don't always ship immediately because some items are manufactured after the sale. Other times they are over-whelmed with orders and have a hard time keeping up. If you contact a Chinese seller after waiting a reasonable length of time and they claim to reship the items, the extra 10 days to two weeks will put you at the absolutely deadline for filing a claim. So consider carefully whether to extend the wait and/or proceed and be ready to file an immediate claim.
Another risk I have found is that there has not been a single packing slip or list of item numbers included in any of the orders I have gotten. When winning multiple, identical items from a single seller and paying in batches it is extremely difficult to track what you have gotten and what you have not. Leave feedback can be tricky and it is absolutely necessary to give feedback on the old items first. I found what helped me was to make sure I paid for a different number of items if I planned to try and win many of the same items. 5, 7, 8, 12, etc. That way I could more easily track which orders had arrived and which had not. Some sellers ship very quickly and that certainly helps with this process. At first I was buying in batches of 6 items and it was impossible to track exactly what had arrived and what had not.
The first situation, the package didn't arrive during the initial waiting period, I filed a claim with PayPal and received the entire amount I had paid 7 days later. The second time, the claims policy had been moved from PayPal to eBay and the end results were far different. After going through all the reasonable steps: Order, Pay, Wait 30 days, Agree to wait an additional 2 weeks and finally filing a claim.....(you have 45 days to file) The order was for 5 separate items paid for in a single payment (to save the seller PayPal fees) and I filed a single claim thinking it was for the entire order. I received only the money for the single item connected by that item number to the claim. So I proceeded to begin the process to open separate claims for each item in the rest of the order. This is what I received from eBay:
"We're sorry there's a problem with your purchase. You have 45 days after you buy an item to open a case. Unfortunately, the deadline to contact us about a problem with this item was Feb-01, 2011.You can try to work out this problem by contacting the seller" You will note that I am writing this guide on February 2nd. So, my deadline for dealing with this has passed. Why? Because I waited the first 30 days and then agreed to wait an additional 2 weeks I was left with no time to file a backup when eBay didn't see it as a single order even though they referenced the PayPal payment number in the claim. And I stated that it was an order of more than one item in the claim.
That brings me to the question of is it worth the risk. And for me the answer is no. When I placed these 2 orders that I am addressing, both sellers had excellent feedback numbers. In both cases they sent 2 orders quickly and everything went well. In the third and final case each time, the orders did not arrive. In the 1st case I contacted PayPal. They asked me if I had contacted the seller. I had and had been asked to wait, which I did. Still the items didn't arrive and I got the entire amount back in 7 days. The second case, I was forced to place my claim with eBay. And after 7 days I received the money from only a part of the order. And because I followed the steps exactly as I was asked and eBay ignored the details in the claim, that this was for the entire order (which I had stated clearly in the original case), it is too late to do anything about this.
So you can check the seller, and pay quickly and wait and in most cases you will get your items and all will be well. The question you will need to ask yourself is: "Will be is it worth the risk?". To discover the answer to that, I will suggest a few questions you might ask yourself if you are considering buying from China for the 1st time: Will you stay on top it things? Will you follow through and cover all the facts completely so nothing can go wrong when asking for a refund? Will your savings be enough to cover an occasional loss? My losses ended up being about 5% of what I had won. Will I do it again? Probably not. I received a refund for 8 out of 12 of the items that I filed cases for. Not too bad some would say.
But compare that to the US eBay market: After buying from US Sellers for 11 years and 1000s of purchases, I have not lost a penny and I only had one seller that had to refund my money due to me not receiving my items. To me the answer is clear. There are fewer problems, faster service and less risks buying from US sellers. Also, I am a seller on eBay, and no one has ever had to ask for a refund from me due to an item not being received, I have sold and filled 1000s during the last 11 plus years on eBay.
I have tried to give a fair, honest evaluation of the risks and benefits of buying from China. I hope it will help some of you to avoid disappointments and loss in a market that requires more vigilance than the US market for the risks it has and the benefits it can offer.
Thank you for reading my guide.