Good interior design and renovation need not be expensive
Contrary to common perception that sourcing from China is risky, I’ve actually had a pleasant experience so far, purchasing more than USD1500 worth of goods from lamps, LED lights, kitchen taps, shower faucets, bathroom mats, wall switches, cupboard handles and even a garburator. And no, you don’t even have to know the Chinese language to do this. Yes, it took me quite a while to get to the point of placing my first order, but once that psychological barrier is crossed, the floodgates are opened. It’s not all smooth sailing (I once had to ask for a refund and they gave it to me), but overall I am glad I have tried this avenue of sourcing for reasonably-priced items.
Caveat – my experience so far is based largely on sourcing on AliExpress, which is a subsidiary of soon-to-IPO AliBaba. AliExpress is a curation of better quality suppliers who have the experience of manufacturing for international markets (as opposed to just Chinese market), hence you can expect better quality items, better service, and guaranteed shipment. This is speaking from experience, and not some marketing goobledidoog.
So here goes my list of what to do on AliExpress to make sure you have a pleasant shopping experience.
1) Do transact only with credit card. Never ever TT payment.
Once cold hard cash goes out, it’s never coming back. I have been fortunate so far with all of my goods arriving intact, without me having to cancel payment halfway. And there has never, ever been a case of a vendor asking me to TT payment (and I have bought more than $1500 worth of stuff for the last 6 months).
2) Do buy from better profiled suppliers.
It’s true – bigger is better. I’ve encountered smaller suppliers who have been good, alas for their parcel tracking – it leaves me torn and tattered. I’ve been left waiting and hanging dry for the last batch of lamps to arrive, it took a good 4 weeks when I had thought it will arrive in half that time. With bigger merchants come better delivery infrastructure, and near guarantee of goods arriving properly packaged. Bigger ones also usually ship goods via DHL, FedEx or HK Post, rather than China Post, which takes like, F.O.R.E.V.E.R……
3) Do your research over time and don’t rush into buying.
In AliExpress, you can “like” an item and add it to your wish list. If that item goes on discount later, you will receive an alert. This is how I saved more than $500 on lamps and electrical stuff. I buy mostly when it goes on 10%-15% discount or more, especially for items that cost more. Even without those discounts, I still save a good 20% – 30% compared to Singapore prices.
4) Do negotiate.
Common online buying experience has ingrained in us that “the price you see is what you pay”. This is not true for buying from China. Like all things Chinese, ANYTHING can be negotiated. (I learnt this from living in China for 10 years!) I usually select the items I want, add to cart, but not pay at this point. This is when I email the supplier (via the AliExpress email system) to negotiate. Remember, anything can be negotiated. Ask for a better discount (even if it’s already on discount). Ask for supplier to absorb the shipment, especially if your item is a light item. Ask supplier to provide express shipment (if you need your item in a hurry) but not charge you for it. Ask for an extra throw-in e.g. small parts that’s not worth a lot but a hassle to get a replacement later. If you don’t ask you will never get it. The Chinese are practical businessman but they also value your feedback. Promise to give them a good feedback and they will likely relent. Once you’ve reached a consensus with your supplier, he should be adjusting the final total price in your shopping cart, and that’s when you pay.
5) Do over communicate.
Even if the description is clear, it is always better to double check over email about the item you want to buy. Most items I bought so far have turned out as advertised. Maybe I was fortunate. But I always made sure I communicate with supplier about the colour, size, weight, shipment, parts, warranty, voltage, etc., before I decide to buy. It does take up a lot of time, but this is comparable to the time spent trawling stores in a physical world.
Buying online may not be for the most picky of shoppers, or anyone who wants to see the item before they commit to buying, but it did save me lots of $$$$. E.g. the LED downlights I bought online cost only a third of what it would have cost me if I had bought them in Singapore. The vintage lamps I bought online cost less than half. Some items are just cute and can’t be found in Singapore, like my oil-rubbed bronze vintage taps.
So happy shopping! If you encounter any sites for sourcing good quality, value-for-money items, do share with me too! I’m always game for a new experience.
In my next post, I will share about the don’ts of sourcing from China.