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The Pitfalls and Pleasures of Buying Direct from China

Steven Stone shares his experiences with overseas shopping…

I like to feel smart. One of the easiest ways to feel smart in today’s world is getting the lowest price available for a product. We call those people “smart shoppers.” And no one ever dissed someone for being one, but sometimes even smart shoppers can “get hoisted on the point of their own petard” as my long departed dad used to say…so in hopes that you won’t be among those so hoisted, here are some of my own experiences purchasing high and low tech products directly from China. 

AR-china10a.pngI’ll begin with those sites that have consistently delivered on their marketing department’s promises. At the top of my list is Ali Express. I have purchased Tennmak and KZ in-ear monitors from Ali Express on multiple occasions and each time the product arrived within a couple of weeks, shipped directly from China via China Post. Ali Express does an excellent job of providing tracking info at every step in the process. Other items I’ve purchased on Ali Express included KZ silver headphone cables, portable storage cases, optical mice, and headphone stands. So far, Ali Express has proved to be as reliable and convenient as Amazon. 

Bang Good is another Chinese commerce site that should be on your radar. They specialize in all manner of electronic gadgets and musical instrument accessories. I have purchased a variety of items from Bang Good including cow bone guitar pins4.2 Bluetooth receiver/DAC, headphone hangers, copper tape for shielding electric guitar control cavities, a pair of large diaphragm microphones, and scuba mask cases. Although Bang Good’s automatic tracking isn’t as comprehensive as Ali Express, but they have provisions for tracking issues. On one occasion Bang Good over-sold their inventory of a particular color of guitar stand, so they offered me a choice of differently colored replacements or a complete refund. 

Ar-china9a.pngI’ve had one buying experience with the Gear Best site. I purchased an Xiaomi home security camera. It arrived safely, but I could never get the Xiaomi dedicated App to connect with and properly set up the camera. Customer support via Gear Best or Xiaomi was not sufficient to get the device to function. This brings up one of the fundamental issues when buying directly from China – support. Obviously, some products, such as a folding guitar stand, are unlikely to need much in the way of support, but anything electronic, especially if it is an Internet-aware device, can require some assistance in set-up. That may be in short supply with a product imported directly by an end-user. 

HiDiz manufactures portable players and earphones and they have a website for ordering directly from them. Currently they have a new player, the AP80, available on Kickstarter. I purchased their AP60 II player at discount directly from their site. Although it took almost 50 days to arrive, it did finally arrive. HiDiz site’s tracking was minimal and not terribly useful, but since the player arrived, finally, it was OK. About three months later I ordered the new upgraded AP60 Pro player. After 70 days I contacted HiDiz to enquire about the status of the order. I received an email saying they were looking into the issue. And then nothing. I sent another email, received the identical response and then nothing. I sent a third and fourth letter. I was about to reverse the charges on my card when they responded that the shipment was lost and they would offer a full refund. I’m still waiting for the charge reversal to come through… 


HiDiz products are also available from Amazon. After my experience with HiDiz’ website and shipping I would not use them again. 

So, as you might expect, ordering stuff from an overseas supplier is not without risk. Sometimes the transaction goes as smoothly as if the seller was just across the street, while other times they might as well be in an alternative universe. 

Drawing on another quote I heard first from my dad, “You pays your money and you take your choice.” When it comes to purchases from overseas sellers, nothing could be closer to the truth…

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