Well before the Chinese eCommerce company Alibaba began making IPO rumblings in America, I was familiar with its offerings.
Not only have I stumbled across Alibaba products many times over the years, as an entrepreneur Iâ€™ve been intrigued with this company that is bigger than Amazon and eBay combined â€“ and is almost unknown to Americans.
Iâ€™d never bought anything from it â€¦ until this month.
After hearing all the stock excitement, I wanted to see how the experience of this soon-to-be-global company matches up with the sites I use regularly, so I did a little experiment. I searched one of its subsidiaries, AliExpress, for something Iâ€™d never heard of: a watch with a denim band.
Our senior programmer at OnMilwaukee.com is a bit of a self-professed raw denim nerd, and I figured Iâ€™d spend a few bucks to buy him a token of my appreciation of his hard work. My search for "denim watch" yielded 627 resulted, and in fact several looked good and cheap; $5.99, $5.79 and $11.93, all with free shipping. It seemed worth the minimal risk to at least get some good blog fodder.
While each of the transactions worked, Alibaba feels very much Chinese â€“ or at least non American. The omnipresent generic, slightly fuzzy stock photography, the Asian style kerning of the fonts, even the verbiage itself; itâ€™s clearly not written by native English speakers. Even the available credit cards that can be used for purchase include several brands Iâ€™ve never heard of, and Iâ€™ve done enough international traveling to recognize non-American financial institutions. Notably, Paypal is missing.
But three things jumped out at me as major red flags in a all of this. The hoops one has to jump through to buy multiple items are significant; thereâ€™s no commitment when you click "buy," and the shipping time is snail-like, at best.
Keep in mind that AliExpress is a little like a less crafty version of Etsy; youâ€™re dealing one-on-one with the creators of the items directly in China, lan…Read more...