Alibaba experiences

Continuing the discussion from Bead and blank sources:

Hey folks.

So I have been looking at Alibaba for the last few weeks because I need to source twinwall polycarbonate. Best price I can find in the 3 major cities around me is 50-60$ a sheet. China could , according to Alibab, do it much less.

Now I am assuming I am going to have traiffs and duties , and taxes, but I want to know those that have used Alibaba , how was the experience? I don’t want to get ripped off on a thousand dollar order. Or find out quality was horrid. (I’m 99% certain the local suppliers are getting it from China anyways)

Also they are quoting an insane price on shipping. I am going to pester them more, but want to make sure that’s to my door, and not to Vancouver’s port or something. Anyone have comment on that?

So… Alibaba , yes , no , maybe?


Not for me, ever again. Got skunked on some empty iPod nanos once, when I was younger, and considerably more foolish. :unamused:


unfortunately, this is a lot like asking whether you should trust ebay. it comes down to individual sellers, most of whom are 100% legit - it just looks sketchy because the english is often not very good. you’ll definitely have to pester them to ensure it comes to your house, but the shipping isnt too surprising - remember dan complaining about shipping wide products?


I’ve heard many horror stories about Alibaba purchases - often, what shows up is of substantially lower quality than pictured, if anything shows up at all.

Many of my artist friends have found their work offered on Alibaba as well, either in the form of poor copies, or listings using their photos. Perhaps some of the vendors who sell there are legit, but there are definitely a lot of scams. I don’t think there’s any kind of vetting on that site.

“Ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances”


And yikes… just to illustrate my point, last year one of my mask designs was copied by one of the Chinese manufacturing companies. For the last several months I’ve been playing whack-a-mole, filing DMCA take downs to have their eBay and Etsy listings removed. Not only did they copy the mask, they’ve been using my photos (including one of my daughter modeling the mask) to sell their listings.

This thread reminded me that I should probably check over on Alibaba as well, since so many of my mask maker friends have had their work show up there… and yep, it’s there. They bought one from me last year so that they could reverse engineer it for the pattern :frowning:


Ouch! That’s no good! :angry:

I’m rapidly becoming an Alibaba expert.
First; For polycarb or anything else to big to ship via DHL air… is going to be a problem. The only way to ship heavy/big things is via sea freight and it isn’t for the light hearted or shallow pocketbooks.

Second; Quality is very much a concern. Always get samples of anything before you commit to spending money with a given company. Additionally; always get samples of new product from the same company. Case it point; one Vendor I use to use was able to source this product after some workmanship issues:

but then failed to meet my quality requirements trying to send me this for “gold” and “silver” plate:

Finally; If you really must do Alibaba… use the RFQ system to quote from many vendors. It will be painful; but may help to identify the diamonds in the rough. Whatever the case use Alibaba’s Trade Assurance:
to order anything from the vendor… at that helps reduce some of the risk when ordering overseas.


Personally, I would be pretty worried about most products from Alibaba and wouldn’t chance it. I would especially never buy anything mechanical/electrical from them. I also would never buy a “name brand” product thinking I was getting the real thing or expect great quality. (“Yeti” tumblers for example.)

The one thing that I might test the waters with would be basic wood products like the cutting boards or other sustainable products like baskets etc. Of course, it wouldn’t be feasible unless you could do a large bulk-buy, but at least there are no parts to break/catch fire or fake labels sewn inside. They only real concern would be how the wood was treated if it was actually going to be used for food preparation. Some industrious soul could organize a co-op buy of 500 or so and I’d certainly risk money for 20 or so boards.


Very good advice, thanks for sharing. Good to hear from someone who’s been there, done that.
Edited to add; cool pinball machines in that link!

1 Like

great post. i just want to add that if you figure out the system, it’s pretty safe to order from. i mean the company makes just bucketloads of cash, it’s clearly not all scams.



Most of my electrical products on are built in China. The reality is that is the only way to keep the prices of these low volume products at a reasonable level. If you are clear with your China team about what is allowed to be substituted; then you should be ok. Example: I had a supplier substitute a purple LED with a much inferior LED when I was clear that the part wasn’t to be substituted. Upon getting the product and a couple of customer complaints later… I sent my manufacturer and note and they figured out the substitution had occurred with their supplier. Without any real pressure from me; they agreed to re-build the boards with the correct LED at no cost to me. So; basically I’m saying that you can control your vendors well enough to get inexpensive but quality products.

You just have to learn to be patient and deal with lots of questions.

I would not; however, buy laserable products from China vendors without some strict additive/material specifications. I’m not sure I’d trust the lasered combustible gasses coming from a China product to be compatible with the optics of a Glowforge. That said; I’m somewhat confident that a large percentage of the Acylics in the US are manufactured in Mainland China.

1 Like

By the way, since my Alibaba search came up dry (despite some “interesting” finds), if anyone knows anyone who makes/sells medical latex tubing that sells 3/4" (19mm) penrose drain tubing (not precut into 18" lengths, I need ~50’ spools) I would appreciate the tip… This is a very special thin walled tubing, and not the usual surgical tubing.

It’s for a medical simulator, so don’t care about sterility, etc…


I would haggle with to or three local guys, they can come down on their prices. Have you tried OutWater plastics?
I ordered several small things from alibaba, got half of them over a 3 month period and was not impressed with quality.


Have you tried Aliexpress? Often the same vendors but in smaller quantities (at slightly higher price).

Also your funds are held in escrow until you successfully acknowledge receipt of the goods.

Have successfully used many times including refunds.


if you search around for silicone tubing that otherwise matches these specs, you may find something; i certainly couldn’t. that said, it has to exist in longer lengths somewhere along the manufacturing line. have you reached out to medical companies that make the tubing? maybe if you explain your needs they’d be able to figure something out.

not always. sometimes people assume there’s just all this magical margin and if they ask nicely, they can haggle you down.

I use them a lot for electronics parts, and more recently for Cermark-related chemicals. On two occasions they sent me a totally unrelated thing (like a med women’s cotton top). I just shoot a photo of the wrong thing and submit it on their dispute site, and in every case have gotten a full refund right away. My only complaint is that it takes forever and a day for things to ship to me.


Yeah, I called several of the “manufacturers” including the largest in the US of penrose drains, and they also purchase them pre-cut. For “business reasons” they wouldn’t divulge their supplier. I have a friend who did consulting to a few of these companies so I may go through him to find out if someone will let me know who the mythical OEM of these tubes are…


I’ve ordered through Aliexpress numerous times, all with good results. However, everything I’ve bought is fairly small, so shipping was not really an issue, though ti can take a loooong time.

Quality is going to be hit or miss, but the manufacturers are getting better about putting up higher quality images, specs, and there’s usually a few reviews.


that’s so stupid.

No kidding, not like I am going to be suddenly trying to take over the “super profitable” penrose drain market… I mean the technique dates back to Hippocrates (the greeks used copper tubing) and not like it’s a huge selling item…