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Should I buy that item from China?


Should I buy that item from China?

Since China is where many consumer goods are made, many of the best deals are to be had from Chinese producers and sellers. eBay lets you trade with them directly.

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Question: Should I buy that item from China?

Virtually every eBay shopper has at some point found themselves face-to-face with an auction that seems ideal in every way but one. The goods are just the right thing—often even a hard-to-find just-the-right-thing. The feedback profile is somewhere between excellent and perfect. The price is excellent, bordering on amazing. Everything seems to be great, except...the item is overseas, often in China or another manufactured exports country.

At this point, most eBay shoppers still click the "Back" button on their browser, giving up on the listing. It's the obvious and correct thing to do, right? After all, there's no way that a deal direct with China—or some other faraway, exports-oriented country—is a good idea. Or is it? Should I consider buying that item from China?


In fact, the vast majority of Chinese sellers on eBay absolutely deliver, shipping absolutely sound goods (often the very same goods you'll find in North America or Europe, minus the brand markings) at absolutely unbeatable prices. Those feedback profiles aren't lies; that Beijing seller probably has shipped several thousand orders overseas to the U.S., satisfying nearly all of his or her customers in the meantime with a great product at a great price.

So in general, yes, you should consider buying the item from China or elsewhere. Certainly you don't want to dismiss or ignore a listing just because you're afraid to do business with someone overseas. Here is what to keep in mind as you consider the listing:

  • Due your due dilligence. Just as you would with any other item listing, read details about the item condition and other listing details carefully. Study the seller's feedback profile and detailed seller ratings. Make sure you're okay with the stated returns policy.
  • Pay careful attention to shipping and handling times and/or expected arrival date. One of the deciding factors for many will be the shipping and handling times involved in a trans-oceanic transaction of this kind. Many Chinese sellers (and sellers elsewhere overseas as well) tell you expect shipping times measured in weeks (4-6 weeks is common), rather than days. They're usually not lying or exaggerating—a purchase made in mid-January from Shenzen province can be expected to arrive in mid-to-late February in many cases. You're gaining a good price, but losing expedience, by buying from a Chinese seller.
  • Make sure the goods are genuine. There are several categories of goods you probably ought to be careful about buying from overseas, and they are the goods whose value lies significantly in intellectual property like brand names or information/data. Be wary about buying designer handbags or Microsoft software from China, for example—and be prepared to report a seller to eBay's VeRO program if you receive a fake.
  • Know what you're looking for. Many of the goods coming from China and similar markets are consumer electronics and high-tech goods. If you're buying these, be sure you're buying the right part, accessory, or device from the start. Educate yourself about compatibility and features, for example—because if you have to return an item, it's going to take a while to ship it back and wait for a new one to arrive!
  • Don't worry about currency and customs complexities. Shoppers that encounter an international auction listing are often wary of the difficulties that they expect with things like currency conversion and customs issues. Don't sweat this stuff—PayPal will handle the currency conversion for you for a small fee, and those sellers that have good feedback are already veterans at this process and will handle the customs paperwork properly for you, without your having to say a thing.

Of course, some shoppers hesitate to buy from sellers overseas in places like China for political or other personal reasons. If this is you, then you have a choice to make—don't feel guilty for shopping your conscience, but at the same time, realize that for the most part, these are the same goods as the North American or other versions you'd be buying instead, often made in the same factories, so there's a good chance you're not actually avoiding China by buying locally instead in many cases.

The best advice about buying from overseas sellers is to use the same eBay common sense and red flag avoidance techniques you use when shopping from domestic sellers, but not to be afraid of buying from sellers in (for example) China just because they're Chinese. Most of the time, you'll find that your Chinese purchases on eBay will be great deals that arrive slowly—nothing more, and nothing less.

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