Alibaba Review

We gave you a brief idea of what Alibaba is and how it works, but is this online portal for buying or selling wholesale goods a benevolent merchant, or a petty thief?  We'll break down what's good and not-so-good about using Alibaba for business.


  • Large selection of wholesale goods — You can buy and sell many different things on Alibaba, including clothing, accessories, furniture, sports equipment, toys, and more.  There's something for everyone!

  • Skip the middleman — When shopping on Alibaba, you get direct-to-consumer prices on most of their goods, so you stand to save a bit of money by avoiding distributor markup.

  • Supply companies in need — You can also register as a seller on Alibaba.  Since Alibaba is one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world, your products will be in front of thousands of potential buyers!


  • You have to buy in bulk — Most products on Alibaba have a minimum order quantity attached to them.  There are some products that you can buy one at a time, but they are relatively few and far between.

  • Watch the shipping costs — Most of the products that you buy on Alibaba come from mainland China or one of its overseas territories (like Hong Kong), so shipping costs can get expensive.  See if you can get free shipping on certain items!

  • Limited seller capabilities with free account — Without a Gold Supplier membership, you can only list about 50 different products for sale on Alibaba, among other restrictions.  Free accounts are also usually not as trusted as Gold Supplier accounts, since they have less to lose if they are caught breaking Alibaba's rules.

The bottom line: 6.5/10

Our score for Alibaba is based on if you're using it as an individual buyer.  If you own a business that needs to move a lot of product at once, Alibaba is significantly better in terms of putting your merchandise in front of a lot of prospective buyers at once, or buying your base product in bulk.  If you're just shopping for yourself, though, Alibaba is very hit-and-miss.  It has a wide selection of goods at below-retail prices, but shipping costs can drive prices back up, and you often have to buy more than one of an item at once.  You may want to try Alibaba's sister site, AliExpress, or American-based online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon if you're looking for an e-commerce portal better suited for solitary shoppers.


Next, we'll share some tips for buying or selling safely on Alibaba (which can be used on AliExpress, too), and then get to how to buy or sell with it!

Is Alibaba Safe and Legit?

We’ve introduced you to Alibaba and given you our take on what’s good and bad about it.  Now, we’ll address the giant panda in the room: is it safe to buy from companies that sell on Alibaba?  Before you put stock in the exaggerations and tall tales that you might hear on the Internet or elsewhere about widespread scamming and counterfeiting in China, take some time to read our assessments and advice.

Is Alibaba legit?

Alibaba is one of the largest e-commerce portals in China — and perhaps the world — so it’s definitely legitimate.  The suppliers who sell through it, though, are another story.  While the majority of them are there to do business honestly, there have been some cases of them scamming their customers.

So, how safe is Alibaba?

Alibaba provides certain trade guarantees and secure payment methods to protect your transactions.  It also has protocols to make sure suppliers are legally registered, and allows you to report a seller whom you suspect of fraud.  These tools help to keep you safe on Alibaba.

With that said, the platform cannot guarantee the ability (legal or otherwise) of their suppliers to list certain authentic branded products for sale.  There have also been cases where suppliers have slipped through cracks in the verification process and ended up scamming buyers in various ways.

All trading (online or otherwise) comes with a degree of risk.  The risks (or at least the stakes) are assumedly higher on Alibaba, though, since you’re often forced to buy multiple units of a product at once.  That means more money changing hands, and more products that have a chance to be counterfeit or otherwise defective.  Buying on more consumer-focused e-commerce portals — such as or — can decrease this risk, as you can often buy items one at a time.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risks that come with buying in bulk, and weed out the scammers.  We’ll explain more below.

Top 5 tips for avoiding Alibaba scams and fraud

1. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, especially on certain products.

There are certain products that are especially popular bait for counterfeiters and fraudsters.  These include digital media (such as DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, video games, and computer software), computer memory storage devices (such as USB flash drives and external hard drives), and items from popular Western brands (e.g. Apple, Nike, Sony, Disney, Marvel, and so on).  Almost all of these will be not-as-advertised, if not outright knock-offs.  Even some products supposedly from major Chinese brands may be fake, too.

If you’re unsure about a product on Alibaba, try to find an identical or reasonably similar one elsewhere online.  If the one on Alibaba is in the ballpark of 50% (or more) off the price of its counterpart, it’s a sign that you might be dealing with a faker or scammer.

2. Try to deal only with Verified Gold Suppliers.

An easy way to avoid dealing with a dishonest seller is to buy only from those who have the Gold Supplier status.  This means that they have a paid account on the website, and have verified that they have a registered business, so they have more to lose from being caught scamming.  This isn’t a total guarantee, though, so try to find Gold Suppliers who have been on the platform for a number of years (say, a minimum of 3); they’re likely more trustworthy.  You can find this information on a product’s details page, in the upper-right section labelled “Supplier Details”. 

3. If you’re still not sure about a supplier, do some more research.

Under the “Supplier Details” section that we just mentioned, you can also click Contact Now or Chat Now / Leave Messages to send an email or online chat to a supplier.  Ask as many questions as you need to in order to be sure that you’re dealing with someone on the level.  You may also want to click Visit Minisite to see what else the supplier has for offer, or look them up using a regular search engine and see if they’re authorized to be selling everything that they list.  If your intuition tells you that something is off, it may be a better idea to look elsewhere for what you want than forge ahead with a risky deal.

4. Always use secure payment methods.

Look for the “Secure Payment” box underneath an item’s ordering options on Alibaba.  This will tell you that if you buy from this supplier, you get three safety guarantees.  First, your payment won’t be released to the supplier until you receive your order and are satisfied with it.  Second, you will get a full refund if your order is late (or never arrives) because of the supplier’s error.  And third, if you receive your order and it is significantly different from how it was listed, you can keep it anyway and receive a partial refund.

It is also wise to use your credit card or PayPal account as your actual method of payment.  PayPal or your credit card company may be able to step in and help you if something goes wrong, as opposed to if you pay with a money order or bank transfer.

5. Never deal with a supplier personally outside of Alibaba.

This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with our previous tip.  Some sellers may try to contact you and/or ask for payment outside of the Alibaba website.  Don’t respond to them, even if they claim to represent the seller that you want to deal with!  They may be trying to hijack your purchase by posing as the seller, then taking your order payment and not sending you anything in return.  Only deal with the official representative for the seller that you want to buy from by using the methods described in tip #3.

Also, even if a seller is (or appears to be) legitimate, they may be attempting to avoid selling fees or taxes by having you not pay through the Alibaba website.  At worst, they may be trying to scam you, and at most, they aren’t using the website properly.  Avoid doing business with these people.


That’s our best advice for how to stay safe when using Alibaba!  Now, let’s get buying and/or selling in the next two tutorials of our Alibaba course!

What Is Alibaba and How Does It Work?

Need to move a large quantity of wholesale products at once?  Or perhaps you'd like to buy a bunch of wholesale goods in bulk.  If either of these scenarios apply to you, consider shopping at — or becoming a seller on —  It's one of the largest marketplaces of its kind for moving wholesale goods!

So what exactly is Alibaba?

Alibaba is an online platform that connects manufacturers and wholesalers in China to individuals and businesses around the world looking to trade or resell.  Users buy products for their business and then use or re-sell them, or sign up to be a supplier looking to use Alibaba as a selling platform.

Alibaba is somewhat different from AliExpress (its sister website), as well as other popular e-commerce platforms such as eBay and Amazon.  This is because its focus is more on trade between businesses, rather than a direct-to-consumer or person-to-person approach.  That is, its business typically consists of products being sold in bulk by suppliers at wholesale prices to small or medium-sized businesses worldwide, who then re-sell them for a profit in domestic markets.  In that sense, Alibaba is more akin to "drop-shipping" services such as

As a result of this model, many of the items that can be purchased require you to buy a minimum number of them at once.  However, there are some items that you are allowed to buy only a few of at a time, and Alibaba has no problem with people buying products from its suppliers to enjoy for themselves!

How does it work?  3 ways to use Alibaba

1. A large collection of wholesale products

Alibaba lets you get direct-to-consumer prices on a wide assortment of items from Chinese manufacturers.  Clothing, accessories, home & garden fixtures, sports & leisure equipment, toys… you're sure to find something that you like!

2. Search options help you narrow your bargain hunt

Are you looking for a product in a certain colour or material?  Or maybe something in a specific price range?  Or an item that you can have shipped for free?  Alibaba has several convenient search features that will help you filter through the selection until you find the perfect product for you.

3. Become a supplier and fill your own orders

Looking to sell instead?  You can sign up to be a product supplier on Alibaba.  Build your company profile, list and sort your products, and keep in touch with clients and partners without clogging up your personal email inbox.  If you buy an upgraded Gold Supplier account, you can even create your own mini-website on Alibaba, and create "showcases" to put your products in front of more potential buyers, more often!

(Image source: Alibaba)


Throughout our course on Alibaba, we'll show you how to buy or sell on the platform, as well as providing you some safety tips for doing so.  Remember, Alibaba is one of the largest portals in the world for buying or selling wholesale goods, so if you need to purchase it or move it in bulk, consider choosing Alibaba!