Risks of Buying Items From China on eBay

When Purchasing eBay Products from China, Let the Buyer Beware

eBay China
Goods made in China often take 6 weeks to arrive in the USA. Getty Images

Some of eBay's biggest discounts are available from sellers from China. While Chinese sellers usually offer the lowest price, there are drawbacks to ordering from a Chinese seller. Be careful when buying from China as there are special circumstances that may arise when dealing with Chinese sellers.

Pay Attention to Shipping and Handling Time

One of the deciding factors for many buyers is the shipping and handling time. Many Chinese sellers (and sellers elsewhere overseas as well) tell you to expect shipping times measured in weeks (4-6 weeks is common), rather than days. They're usually not lying or exaggerating. It can take 6 weeks for an item to arrive in the USA from China. 

Verify the Item Is Authentic

The Chinese are notorious for making counterfeit, fake, or knock off goods. If you see a Coach handbag or iPhone listed by a Chinese seller, you can safely assume it will be fake. Counterfeit items are not allowed on eBay, but unfortunately, eBay isn't able to police the millions of listings as well as they should. A safe rule of thumb is to assume that any well-known designer or brand offered from a Chinese seller is not going to be authentic. If you order an item from China, receive it, and discover it is a fake, always report it to eBay's Vero Program

Look at the Seller's Feedback

Just as with any other seller, foreign or domestic, always look at the sellers' feedback. Do they have negatives for the item matching the description? Do they ship the item securely? Is there anything unfavorable in their feedback? How long have they been a seller? Make sure the seller has built a successful history of providing good customer service, shipping on time, and delivering a quality product.

Do your due diligence before buying from any seller, especially one from China.

Make Sure You Won't Want to Return the Item

Returning an item to China is going to be expensive. If you are ordering clothing, shoes, or accessories that might not fit, it is going to be a huge hassle to return them. Also be careful ordering electronics accessories as they may not work properly with your device.

For example, Chinese sellers offer Otter Boxes. They are cheaply made and may not fit an iPhone properly. 

Remember You Get What You Pay For

Goods made in China are typically made with very cheap materials; the quality is inferior and the product may fall apart quickly. Plastic electronic accessories, toys, and automobile accessories are a good example. Some items can actually be dangerous. According to the New York Times,

"Consider the safety issue: a scary one, indeed, because China has a very well-deserved reputation for producing inferior and often dangerous products. Such products are as diverse as lead-filled toys, sulfurous drywall, pet food spiked with melamine and heparin tainted with oversulfated chondroitin sulfate."

Furthermore, there may be a language barrier when asking questions or reaching out to a Chinese seller after the sale. Chinese sellers probably won't provide acceptable customer service.