It is not easy to stay safe while shopping online. For every reputable, legitimate eCommerce site, thousands of people want to take your money and run away, never to be heard or seen from again.
If you want to stay safe, it is necessary to research the site where you are buying products. Take AliExpress, for instance. How does the site protect buyers? How does it handle disputes and refunds? Is it easy to avoid AliExpress scams?
Let's dive into the world of AliExpress and answer some of these questions.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a part of Alibaba Group. The group is a Chinese eCommerce company that provides many retail services to consumers and businesses globally. In April 2016, Alibaba overtook Walmart to become the largest retailer in the world.
Alibaba launched AliExpress in 2010. It is an online-only company that sells Chinese products mainly. It works more like eBay than Amazon - a platform that allows third-party companies to sell their products. It does not sell products by itself.
AliExpress is widely used throughout Latin America and also the most popular eCommerce site in Russia.
5 Safety Tips to Avoid AliExpress Scams
Find a Reputable Seller
The easiest way to avoid AliExpress scams is to find a reputable seller. It makes ordering from this eCommerce site much less anxiety-provoking.
If thousands of happy customers have bought products from the seller in the past, the chances of you having problems are much less.
The most obvious way to check on a seller is to see their history. On any merchant page, click the Feedback tab for the full breakdown.
Each seller has a Positive Feedback percentage. Scroll down a bit. You can see the star ratings broken down into three sections: Item as Described, Communication, and Shipping Speed. For each one, you can see if the seller is above or below the site average.
Finally, at the bottom of the page, you will see a historical look at their scores, along with buyer comments.
In short, it is best to buy from a seller that is over two years and has 90% positive feedback or higher, especially if you are buying costly items.
Check the Quality of the Products
The quickest way to do so is to check out the reviews of previous buyers. Lots of buyers upload pictures of their orders and give feedback.
This is an excellent way to confirm if people are getting the right product regularly and are satisfied with the quality.
The reviews also come with dates. So it is best to check out the most recently reviewed purchase. If it is the most recent, that is a good sign that people are still buying it.
Also, look at the frequency of purchases. If it is consistent, that is also a good sign.
If people have not purchased a product in the past six months or more, that is a red flag. It might not be available, or the store might be closed.
Suppose you are still in doubt after reading all the reviews. In that case, you should contact the seller before making a purchase.
Ask all the questions you need regarding the quality of the materials, warranties, refunds, and everything else you need to know.
Check if their answer matches what they mentioned on the product page and previous buyers' feedback.
And after receiving your orders, do not immediately confirm your receipt.
Test and see if it is as advertised and satisfies you. Only when you are happy should you confirm your receipt.
Understand AliExpress's Buyer Protection Policy
Buying online always comes with inherent risks. Unlike shopping in a physical store, you cannot see or touch the actual item before buying it.
Usually, when buying online, you have to make your own decision based solely on the description and a few photos.
This fact eliminates an essential part of the buying process. You cannot test an electronic item to ensure all features work as described or feel a product to check build quality.
If you buy products from a well-known brand, you can read online reviews or even go to a physical store to negate problems.
But is AliExpress reliable for buying online? After all, many cheap white-label Chinese products on this platform are not available in physical stores. Therefore, the website must have a trustworthy buyer protection policy.
Fortunately, the answer is yes. The company offers two crucial guarantees:
- Full refund if you do not receive your order: If the item does not show up or even does not arrive within the time specified by the seller, you can request a full refund. After that, you will receive a full refund within 15 days.
- Full or partial refund if the item is not as described: If your purchase is significantly different from what you expected, you have two options. You can return the item for a full refund or keep it and receive a partial refund.
Check Seller's Guarantees
Sellers may also offer buyers specific protection. As a general rule, the more guarantees you get, the more confident you can be with your purchase. Once again, this helps make AliExpress a more trustworthy eCommerce store.
Sellers offer warranties on an item-by-item basis. Just because they submit multiple guarantees on a single product does not mean the same ones are repeated across their entire catalog. Make sure you do your research carefully before you commit.
There are four different guarantees that sellers can offer:
- On-time delivery: The seller promises a full refund if your purchase does not arrive on the pre-agreed time.
- Return and refund: The seller promises a full refund if the product is not as described.
- Domestic return: The seller has a depot in your country. You can send their products back without having to worry about customs fees or shipping costs.
- Guaranteed genuine: If you're buying a costly electronic item, this is one to look out for. It means AliExpress has confirmed the product is authentic.
Resolve Disputes Appropriately
If you got scammed on AliExpress. This is the first thing you should try. Unfortunately, as with other eCommerce sites, getting a refund for a missing, incorrect, or faulty item is not as simple as clicking a "Refund" button. There is a whole dispute process that you need to go through.
On AliExpress, the dispute process consists of three steps:
- First, you need to contact the seller and raise your issue with them directly. If you are in dispute before or after more than 15 days the order is completed, this is the only option open to you.
Suppose you are still in the pre-completion stage and the seller refuses to cooperate. In that case, you must wait until the order is closed and then raise the issue with AliExpress.
Sadly, if you go over the 15-day mark and the seller refuses to cooperate, you have run out of options.
- Second, if you are within the 15-day period and not satisfied with the seller's response, you can open a dispute ticket. This makes the process official.
- Lastly, if you are not satisfied with the formal discussions, you can escalate the matter to AliExpress. It will then act as a middleman between you and the seller to reach a solution.
You can open a dispute during the Buyer Protection period in the following states:
Remember that you only have one attempt to submit a dispute. If you use it before receiving your products, you have to resolve all problems before they reach you. So try not to open a dispute before receiving them.
Be a Smart Shopper to Avoid AliExpress Frauds
No matter what level of security the website has, you always need to take some responsibility for your own actions.
The eCommerce site offers some helpful suggestions to make sure you avoid AliExpress scams. Although most of them are common sense, it is still prudent to recap some of them:
- If the price is too great to be true, it perhaps is. Unfortunately, you will never get the latest iPhone for $10. Maybe you are buying a brick.
- Never deposit money into a seller's bank account. If a seller wants you to send money directly to them instead of AliExpress, do not proceed. Sending money outside of AliExpress means it will not protect you if you get AliExpress credit card fraud.
- Do not confirm delivery before receiving the order. Never say that you received an item before it is in your possession and that you thoroughly checked it for problems.
It is also best if you are self-aware of web skimming whenever you shop online to avoid AliExpress phishing.
So, is AliExpress Safe?
Chinese products often have an inadequate reputation for being cheap and of poor quality. This is not entirely true.
Many products on AliExpress are well made and available for a fraction of what you would pay for a comparable item in stores in North America or Europe.
In short, if you are a clever shopper, it is very unlikely to get AliExpress scammed. This eCommerce site is no more dangerous than Amazon or eBay. If you still do not want to use it, there are some excellent AliExpress alternatives, too.
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