Buying from a Chinese seller on Amazon

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We recently wrote about a Chinese seller on Amazon manipulating search results and delivering a poor customer experience. This is something that’s been rife on eBay and is starting to become more common on Amazon.

On eBay it’s almost impossible to filter out search results from Chinese sellers – some do have fulfilment houses in the UK, others claim to be in the UK but their products ship from overseas and take weeks to arrive. A similar experience is becoming all to common on Amazon, as eBay tighten requirements such as for the Premium Service badge, Chinese sellers are migrating to Amazon where loopholes are still all too easy to exploit in their favour.

I made three recent purchases from Chinese sellers on Amazon to check out their service. One transaction from a Chinese seller was flawless, but then you’d expect nothing less as the product was in FBA so Amazon physically had the item and it arrived in record time. The second two items were supposed to ship from China but neither actually arrived.

Amazon Chinese seller 1

The first seller waited three days and then cancelled the order.

“Dear Customer
Thank you for purchasing my product.
But I am sorry to tell you that your order is out of stock. We have already refunded you. Please pay attention to check the balance.
We are very sorry for bringing you such inconvenience.
Looking forward to your next visit!”

That same product is still on sale and has been every time I checked since placing the order. What I suspect happened, as is often the case with Chinese sellers on both eBay and Amazon, is that they list based on a stock list from a local Chinese manufacturer and only purchase the product when they get an order. The problem with this strategy is when an order is place and the manufacturer doesn’t have stock they can’t fulfil the order.

Amazon Chinese seller 2

The second seller shipped the item but bizarrely it didn’t get through customs when it arrived in the UK. This was after a wait of two weeks due to the long delivery estimation.

“Firstly, thank you very much for your purchase; we really value your business.
Then we have to say sorry we got a news that your package had been declined by the Custom House which we can hardly control. You know,sometime like this did happen.
We are willing to resend the new to you. But we are afraid it will take you a long time,so we have refund the money to you,please check your account.
Really sorry about this situation,hope you can understand and forgive us.
Once again, we send our sincere apology.”

This doesn’t sound quite right as the product perfectly innocuous. One might suspect that the seller did something like claim a product was a ‘sample’ or a ‘gift’ to try and circumvent import duties and VAT. Whatever the reason, generally the only reason that products are blocked by customs is that paperwork is incorrect or taxes haven’t been paid. From the seller’s claimed experience, that sometimes things like this happen, that it’s not a one off and that they rely on not getting caught most of the time, rather than making sure everything is in order for customs.

Additional information required from Amazon seller

What stood out from both of these sellers is that the message came through as “Additional information required from Amazon seller”. Whether this is a ruse to get around Amazon seller metrics or simply the most expedient option isn’t relevant to the buyer experience – when an Amazon customer waits weeks for a product to arrive and then receives an email informing them that additional information is required in order for their product to arrive, the disappointment to realise that the seller has simply cancelled their order is a terrible customer experience.

A Chinese seller can deliver just as good an experience as local sellers, as evidenced by the order delivered from Amazon FBA. Three sellers is a small data set to judge from – perhaps I was particularly unlucky that the two that self fulfil from China both failed to deliver. What we can say is that as well as some delivering a great service, Chinese sellers can also deliver terrible customer experiences and, if Amazon don’t get a grip on it, with the number of Chinese sellers on their site consumers are going to tire of broken promises and start to shop elsewhere.

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