In-depth investigation of the Alibaba-to-Instagram pipeline for scammy crapgadgets with excellent branding


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/31/shenzhens-revenge.html


#2

…scammy crapgadgets with excellent branding…

Wait, what does the Boingboing Store have to do with Alibaba?

First!


#3

Also note that ebay and Alibaba have a (symbiotic? incestuous?) close relationship…


#4

Reminds me of this story from Buzzfeed in 2016 about Chinese scam brands on FB. Includes hilarious comparison images of what people ordered vs what they received.


#5

I cannot fathom why anyone would be the least bit interested in buying such crap, much less analyzing its heritage. After all, a wristwatch that costs less than the shipping charge for is not worth paying shipping for.


#6

…Unless it’s a Casio F-91W.


#7

I think it was Madrigal that I heard get interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition recently, had to be.

This kind of human behavior seriously depresses me. Why in the world would anyone, while flipping through an Insta feed, see some promoted content and think to themselves, Hey! That’s what I’m looking for! And then buy it from who-knows-whom, who-knows-where? I ain’t poor and I ain’t rich, but I also ain’t gonna be flushing money down some shithole marketing scam just to help top off the local landfill with more stupid crap. Seriously depressing that Irish 17 year old youtubers can make cash like that. Seriously.


#8

Alibaba is dangerous, man. One time, my dad decided he wanted a little nylon wrist-lanyard for a camera or something.

My dad being my dad, he hopped online and figured out he could buy a bulk package from China for cheaper than one from Amazon.

Anyway, there is now a box in my parents’ basement containing 143 nylon lanyards leftover from the original gross.


#9

I think there’s a tempting and convincing narrative around markups here. We all know that retail stores take a massive markup on their merchandise, so it would stand to logic that if we could deal with the (real) factory directly we could hypothetically get the product much more cheaply. Those $10,000 watches are not worth 10k. That $300 sweater did not cost $300 to make.

Is that 10k watch only really worth $2.00 though? Of course not. But it’s very tempting to believe. I see it as belief in the corruption of american capitalism, which in and of itself is legitimate.

I really don’t fault the consumer here. This is precisely why consumer protection is a thing.


#10

DeFranco covered this practice on his channel a few days ago coincidentally and it’s such a scummy practice. I don’t mind necessarily that the items in question are cheap crappy items but the people presenting them in a way that’s deceiving is something else.


#11

I have noticed on ebay that sellers from China will have all kinds of unrelated things for sale, for ridiculously cheap, AND with free shipping. It’s occurred to me that “manufacturer AND wholesaler” is what’s going on, and that doesn’t necessarily sound suspect, but when I see something for only a dollar with free shipping from China I can’t understand how they make any profit. Is the Chinese government subsidizing their shipping costs?


#12

As a matter of fact, due to a sweetheart deal with the USPS, yes. The Chinese government does subsidize shipping out of the country.
eta: There are a lot of issues with buying cheap Chinese (or other items from the Far East) things from ebay. Just browse the bidding and buying forum, with key word Chinese and prepare to have your ears blistered.


#13

So, $10k for a $1k watch, or $10 for a $1 watch, who is the greater fool?


#14

I assume this is with the claims that they actually in the US. In my experience the cheap Chinese goods I buy from eBay (or Aliexpress or DX or Banggood) are the same Chinese goods I buy from Amazon or Newegg or Home Depot for not-cheap.

If I’m in a hurry I will look for a domestic seller, and would not like to find out that something I expected shipped quickly from California was instead coming by boat from Hong Kong.

At some point the shipping subsidy will probably disappear, but until that happens I intend to take advantage of it, especially as the local shops often don’t stock things I need and shipping to Hawaii from the US mainland is usually a ripoff. (I also buy a lot from European merchants, especially car parts, because the shipping is often cheaper and faster than from US stores.)

Just this week I got several shipments from Aliexpress of BSP plumbing parts that were simply unavailable locally.


#15

Definitely as far as ebay goes or seeking not just a deal but a deal that is “too good to be true” you get what you pay for.

As an example there was a somewhat scarce and rare vinyl figure i was looking to buy from an obscure anime. The legitimate figure brand new from Japan was something like $186, imported and bought from the US was closer to $200… but mysteriously you’d also see loads of $50-100 ones that shipped from China. I was immediately suspicious, though i was tempted to buy a cheap one just to see how good it might be for a knock off but in the end i decided that it wasn’t worth taking that kind of gamble (and also give money to these kinds of sellers was not something i wanted to encourage). I bit the bullet and bought a legitimate one after doing tons of research on how to tell which ones were fake regardless of the price or shipping location.


#16

The hardware will be worthless; but surely the tangled supply chain that manages to deliver something approximating a watch halfway across the planet for peanuts while still leaving room for parasitic middlemen is a object of interest?


#17

You can buy ANYTHING from China, but it will often be a thing-shaped object.

The telescope I work on has a 1980s vintage mechanism with stepper motors, using an obsolete motor driver chip. One of the engineers wanted to get a replacement, and he saw it listed on ebay. I told him that it wouldn’t work, but he figured it’s only five dollars, so why not try it? He bought a couple chips, tried them, and they didn’t work. Obviously some random part in the same package with the part number restamped to match the part he wanted.

Clearly this makes money for the suppliers, even though EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER is sorely disappointed.

That’s free enterprise in a nutshell.


#18

My relatives are somewhat addicted to ordering from Alibaba; for just a few dollars, they can order toys for their kids that are knockoffs of toys that cost $30-$40 in stores. The quality’s crappy and they take a month or more to arrive, but their kids don’t seem to mind. I don’t want to be the bad uncle telling them it’s a reaaalllly bad idea.


#19

Have you explained that the Chinese toys are made of lead?


#20

The stuff they buy are mainly knockoff Lego sets, so I think they’re safe from a lead standpoint.

But I seriously don’t trust a single thing out of a Chinese factory these days. Call me paranoid, but no thank you.