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Is it safe to buy from Alibaba?

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Quick 2 min introduction for those of you that don't know me. My name is Rick and I have been manufacturing all sorts of products in South China since 2009. In my early days I probably spent more hours on Alibaba than I did Facebook (back when Facebook was actually half decent). I've no idea what TikTok is, so I won't reference that.

People often come to me and say "is it safe to buy from Alibaba?" or "is buying from Alibaba safe?" and to answer that question I have to ask another question.

Is every plumber guaranteed to do a good job?

Is every used car salesman selling you something that won't make it out of parking lot?

Of course Alibaba is safe to buy from, its a listing website for pretty much every factory on the planet. But many people continue to have horrible experiences that unfortunately taint their perception of manufacturing and put them off sourcing from China for life. It's like everything, there are always going to be a few bad apples that fall from the tree. So how do you sift them out and how do you know whose legit and whose basically...well....not.

Well actually - the responsibility for not getting scammed is on you. Yes! Spoiler alert.

Think of it like this and break it down for a minute.

You open up Alibaba and you go to the search bar and you type "business backpacks," you skip the first few because nobody ever talks to the first one right and you hit say the third or fourth one down. You hit the contact now button and say "Hey, can you make this backpack?"

Of course the answer is going to be "yes, of course we can." You exchange emails, trade a few pleasantries and eventually you get a quote from the named supplier. It seems ok, to be honest you don't really know. The order quantity seems a bit large, but factories need big orders right? STOP RIGHT THERE! Back track 3 steps. Turn off your computer, reboot it and lets' check this again.

Would you drop a picture of a Land Rover to a used car salesman and go "you got one of these?" NO. You wouldn't. You just wouldn't do it. And Land Rovers are reliable (sorta). You still wouldn't do it.

They are by the way pretty much indestructible and should outlive your grandkids.

You'd say "When was the oil last changed, hows the transmission, when were the cam belts last serviced. How are the filters? How many miles (or kilometres if thats the way you roll)? What's the tread like? etcetera etcetera.

Now apply that logic to talking to a supplier on Alibaba. Imagine they are a used Car Salesman. You know you can get a great deal if you are savvy, but you proceed with an err of caution and you definitely walk right out the door if he's sporting a dodgy moustache.

So yes Alibaba is perfectly safe to buy from, and its a great resource but you absolutely have to approach them armed to the teeth with the right questions and knowledge. In short, when you present yourself to the supplier online, you need to immediately qualify yourself as a serious well informed buyer who knows exactly what he wants. One that is not to be trifled with.

But how do I qualify them I hear you cry, when I am here in Sunny (insert home town) and they are all the way over there in (insert China)?

There are a total of 10 things you need to do to vet your supplier for the job, before any money changes hands.

1. Geographical knowledge of where your product is produced and where the supplier is. 2. A Guideline on what you think it should cost. 3. What is your MOQ limit (don't deviate from it) 4. What processes you should expect to be out-sourced. 5. How long you should expect it to take. 6. What is likely to go wrong (something always does) 7. The ways to validate your chosen factory. 8. A breakdown/oversight of the production processes. 9. When to conduct your inspections 10. An understanding of the logistical implications once manufacturing is complete (things can go horribly wrong here)

You might be reading this blog thinking, ok I did a search on sourcing, found this sourcing website. read your piece, it sort of makes sense - so whats the sell?

Well my sell is very straightforward and simple. It doesn't involve me sourcing your product for you, but rather lending me an hour of your time (you'll get it back 10 fold I promise with saved hours on Alibaba) and let me give you the toolkit so you can map out your own strategy to success with sourcing online. I want you to be independent and be able to reap the benefits from online sourcing.

In this hour we will cover the 10 points listed above as well a little bit extra. After our call I will help find you 3 factories that are suitable for the product you are trying to make (you can be as vague or as detailed as you want with the information you provide) and I will put together a short concise brief that outlines the expected processes and steps you will need to take to bring your product to life as well as the predicted timeline. That will take me about a week to do.

Alright. Last sentence then I will leave you be. What does it cost?

$97 USD for a full hour consultation at a time that works for you.

If this interests you, fill out the form below and we will get in touch to fix up a time.

Thanks for reading.

Rick & the team


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