Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Alibaba hits nearly $18B in ‘Singles Day’ orders in 12 hours (nytimes.com)
208 points by smaili 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

I've only bought a few things from Alibaba over the years, but most of them have turned out to be either faulty or a typical case of 'chinese manufacturer disappointment' which has led me to being reluctant to buy anything larger/more expensive. When I was in Marrakech a couple of years ago, the guy who owned the riad we stayed in referred to many things in the souks as being "China quality", and I guess that's the problem. I don't expect something for nothing, but it's so hard to tell if you're going to get something that's going to be as I would expect (i.e. functional, accurately manufaturered), or as I've experienced (borderline functional, poorly manufactured or badly designed). The best purchase was a secondhand (rare) motherboard for a client's laptop, sadly!

It's a real pity as I'm sure if there was a way of really knowing the quality of what you were getting (other than getting samples, which I've done and had issues with several of them) then it would be a great place to buy either for personal consumption or for a business opportunity. At times like today I spend a while browsing and see things I would be interested in if I wasn't concerned they would be 'China quality'.

Am I missing something here? Is there a better way of sorting the wheat from the chaff? Or is it just a case of a lot of hit and miss and hopefully building a relationship with a decent supplier at some point?

What kind of things have you ordered? I order there often and had consistently solid products. I order mostly electronics and I order from companies that shipped over 1000 items with good reviews (which are fake but with over a 1000 it seems ok). Might have gotten Lucky but I order often And when something is wrong later on I have gotten a replacement no questions asked.

A good friend of me who used to be a manager of the repair department of a big computer manufacturer always told to switch a device on (laptop for instance) and have it run a something heavy (like a benchmark) for 24 hours to rule out factory issues. I never had any from Alibaba: I did have one from lightinabox who sent a laptop which caught fire during the test. They said I should not have done the benchmark and refused to refund so never bought anything there again.

To be honest I had more issues with Amazon (seller) products, but those also were quickly refunded or replaced.

Anecdotal ofcourse. Might be totally different when my next order arrives.

Nowadays everything is made in China. A lot of things we buy are just repackaged stuff that sells for 3x the original price. I've bought decent stuff like a manual coffe grinder, or glass bottles, usb cables, or cheap gopro accessories. You are just cutting the middle man.

The quality can still vary a great deal. There are many tiers for merchandise. For many items, there are very low quality versions that have the flaws described in the gp, that you might never see depending on where you shop or live.

For example, butane torches. You can go to Bed Bath and Beyond and buy a chinese made creme brûlée torch for $30 that lights well, smells clean, feels tight, doesn't leak butane and has a lifeime guatantee. Or you can go down the street to 'smoke shop' and pay $30 for a chinese made torch that leaks butane, has problems with the venturi lever, smells like vinegar, and lights on 3 out of 5 attempts.

The difference is that the second one is sold at the manufacturer level for a much lower price and has gone through more distributors and markup. When you order a random product online it's hard to know what tier you are receiving.

Given the number of not-up-to-spec cables on Amazon (there's that Google guy who reviews them and found a lot of them to be faulty), I would be extremely wary of buying anything USB on Alibaba.

Wasn't it only USB C he was finding issues with?

Benson was focusing his efforts on usbc, presumably cus it's got a higher propensity for damage, what with the higher voltage and all. I wouldn't be surprised if he could find issues with non usbc stuff too though.

> what with the higher voltage and all

I'd think the higher voltage would have fewer problems since there's less current and voltage drop... covering up for less-than-spec wire gauges.

When renovating my apartment, it surprised how few of what I had to buy was actually made in China.

Once you want anything custom-looking, it quickly stops being mandatory. In the end, I have one ceiling light and one bathroom shelf from China.

Of course this would vary by locale, I guess.

I have had some experience on Taobao and Tmall. Taobao is for C2C (customers to customers) while Tmall is b2c (business to customers). Tmall has better quality in general (the brands sell directly to customers). For Taobao, the quality varies greatly. For me, I always read the ratings and reviews, in particular negative reviews very carefully. If the percentage of negative reviews is high, I would avoid that product. So far, I have had good experience. I bought some really high quality goods at very low prices. Similar goods would cost a lot more on Amazon.

Is it possible to buy from Tmall via an English-language website?

You're looking for an agent service (can't think of the proper name right now). They exist for Taobao.


China quality is fairly meaningless considering iphones etc are also manufactured in China. Overall I've never been disappointed with what I have purchased from China. Always does what it says on the tin.

The stuff you order from sites like aliexpress has no quality control.

It is a ridiculous and overly broad statement to say that of the tens or hundreds of thousands of companies selling on these sites, none have a QC process in place.

I think the intent is to say that there are no site-wide quality standards.

Sure but then by that measure neither does Amazon. I bought a metal plant off of Amazon stand that literally had half the nuts and bolts with no threading. There's no way that passes any kind of QC.

that not true, i ordered a tv box that is clearly not as described ( i provided a prof ) , the only thing that is saving me is paypal from geekbuying. they are offering only part of the refund and shipping it back is to expensive for them.

on amazon if something is not described ( i ordered anker dongle for my macbook that did not work on the 2016 model) i get a refund right away and the shipping covered.

Thats not QC, thats customer service.

>that not true, i ordered a tv box that is clearly not as described ( i provided a prof )

Err, that proves the parent's point -- if Amazon did some quality control they wouldn't sell it.

Read the reviews and do some external research to make sure the reviews aren't bought. Exactly like on Amazon. Amazon has the same level of quality control as AliExpress. Same process applies.

The same holds true for Amazon. Read the horror stories. So it's not like it's unique to aliexpress.

You need to realize that pretty much all electronics is manufactured in China / Hong Kong these days. You can get quality things, you can get cheap crap.

But how do you discern ahead of time which is quality and which is crap?

You read the onsite and offsite reviews, just like with every other store?

The iPhone is also manufactured there, but AAPL engineers are assuring that no corners are cut

With other, no brand stuff you can expect to get what you pay for. As always.

>'ve only bought a few things from Alibaba over the years, but most of them have turned out to be either faulty or a typical case of 'chinese manufacturer disappointment' which has led me to being reluctant to buy anything larger/more expensive. When I was in Marrakech a couple of years ago, the guy who owned the riad we stayed in referred to many things in the souks as being "China quality", and I guess that's the problem.

Which doesn't mean much ("China quality" that is) since iPhones are also made in China -- as are expensive clothes for the likes of Armani and co and tons of other high-end stuff. And of course lots of Chinese designed and made products that are of high quality.

Of course tons of cheap stuff is made there too -- almost all the world's manufacturing of cheapo stuff. Heck, almost anything you can get on a place like Walmart is probably made in China too, but sold for 2-5 times as much as in Chinese sites.

If someone buys some $80 "laptop" off of Alibaba, or some "leather jacket" for $30, or some no-brand el-cheapo "camera drone", of course they're gonna get subpar quality. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably ain't, and if there are no reviews (on third party sites) or nobody knows the brand name, well, those things don't point to getting a good buying experience.

Of course if you're buying the cheapest stuff manufacturers are going to cut corners. When you buy more expensive stuff that is well made, like Apple products which are also manufactured in China but much more expensive, of course you're going to get something that's good. Your problem is to not go for the lowest denominator and generalize.

I've been buying from there since 2012. Early on, I would agree with you and say the quality of a lot of the products was pretty poor, but in the last few years, I've been really happy with all my purchases.

As well as getting really cheap stuff, AE is really handy for getting hard to find things. Especially if you live in a small town as I do.

Probably depends a lot on what you are buying. I've been buying electronic components, Arduino compatible boards and sensors, that kind of stuff for a while. Quality has been pretty solid with all of it, about 100 orders so far across a bunch of different merchants. I've heard that clothing can be really hit and miss.

Yes, clothing is problematic. Quality isn't great, and you need to order at least 2-3 sizes up. Even then, the sleeves might still be short: XXXL just means you're getting the overweight size, not the long-limbed size.

XL, XXL, etc. are overweight but not particularly long-limbed sizes in the US, too, the long-limbed (and long-torsoed) versions are XLT, XXLT, etc.

Put, yes, different countries have different sizing standards and you can't blindly assume US sizing when buying from elsewhere.

It just means its made for asian heights and bodies.

Same is true in the US though: American L translates to XL on shirts and XXL on boxers and the like in my country.

We buys tons of stuff off AliExpress. Mostly jewelry and cellphone accessories for retail, but I’ve also bought car parts and electronics.

Watch the shipping prices and times to be sure you know what to expect. But we have never had any issues with quality or reliability.

Most of these Singles Day sales are likely brandname products, not no-name products. For example, I've purchased several Singles Day items this week. A breadmaker by Panasonic, a noodlemaker by Philips, a vacuum by Midea (a Chinese brand), and some glass food containers by Lock & Lock. If you buy no-name stuff, you're taking a risk. But even for the no-name stuff, I've done OK when purchasing stuff that has a lot of good reviews. I think just need to be careful when browsing.

The sellers are often negotiable and will give you discounts and photos of the actual product if you ask nicely.

You don't know how to shop from China.

Please enlighten us - it's often a whole different world if you're used to Amazon.

I don't think it's worth shopping from China unless you're in China or reselling stuff made in China and have deals directly with the suppliers. A lot of products are cheaper buying from retailers outside of China if you're also outside of China. The cost isn't worth it to ship to individuals outside of China unless you're willing to pay the shipping fee, and that erases the cost benefit that most people would hope to get?

edit: sp, silly auto-correct :)

If you are talking about retailers like the merchants on Aliexpress, many of them offer free shipping. So the prices are lower and the shipping is free. It's crazy that I sometimes buy an item that costs less than US$1 that comes with free shipping. I read somewhere that the Chinese postal system subsidizes a lot of it - not sure if true.

Shipping via regular post from AliExpress is often free or very cheap while the same items on Amazon cost 3-5 times more and shipping to my country is $10-15. The downside is 1-2 months waiting times vs. a week from Amazon but I can wait.

You're paying your saved shipping fees in taxes. It still costs the postal services the same amount to deliver the package from the import warehouse to your door but they cannot charge you nor the seller according to international agreements.

Still significantly cheaper, also I'm paying only for the domestic part.

If you know how to shop with taobao/tmall with alipay and tao consolidate shipping. It's way cheaper to buy there.

Is it possible to do that in English and with a US/EU/Australian credit card?

lol the laptop you type on is likely made in laptop as is the phone you reach in your pocket. You keep typing "China Quality" Like it's a novel concept.. china is the world's manufacture. Your anecdote is just that...

Yes, but in this case there's a big name company putting their name and reputation on the line. AliExpress primarily sells no-name Chinese stuff where reputation is disposable.

I've purchased things from AliExpress that were useful products, but everything was fragile or had substantial bugs I had to work around. Always was happy for the price, but would rather find something in between the AliExpress price and the western price if I could get non-brittle plastic.

Foreign outsourced production to China SEZs (and therefore aren’t even considered domestic for tariff reasons) is hardly indicative of Chinese domestic goods quality.

Every year around this time we get the singles day news that yet another record has been broken. I'm going to guess it's going to be the same next year and the year after that since the Chinese middle class is growing (and adopting Western debt-driven spending). Not really a surprise.

If anyone in the US wants to partake in the frenzy, I believe aliexpress is doing a Singles Day thing (using US timezone, so it hasn't started yet as of this writing), but be careful with the shipping timelines on the products. I've had situations where items didn't arrive until weeks later and I had already forgotten that I'd bought anything.

I really don't think the US is prepared for what happens when the entire world turns towards Chinese consumers and away from them.

Why would this happen? Are French markets ignored because the US exists? Nobody wants to leave billions on the table...

When you're designing an iPhone, the French market is an afterthought. The US and Chinese markets are not. In a decade or two, the Chinese and Indian markets could get so huge that the US market becomes an afterthought. Although unlikely, it's a definite possibility.

At what percentage of the global economy do you think the US will become uninteresting?

(it's currently between ¼ and ⅕ of the global economy)

Once China reverses its mercantilist policy that % will plummet and the US will suffer very high levels of inflation.

That will probably happen once corruption in China becomes manageable, the Chinese stop moving their assets offshore and the US has no industrial technological advantage any more (i.e. once China can make equivalently good airplanes and microprocessors).

You mean the Chinese government will stop protecting their currency and hurt their export?

That isn't likely to happen soon even though other governments want them to float freely rather than in a price band.

China doesn't hold enough USD to hurt the US economy without hurting themselves even more seeing as the bonds are non-callable by the buyer.

>You mean the Chinese government will stop protecting their currency and hurt their export?

Right. Exactly like the US does right now.

>China doesn't hold enough USD to hurt the US economy

It isn't about who holds the little green bits of paper. It's about who can turn off the wealth spigot.

The US would experience a huge bout of inflation right now if China decided to just float, it's just that China would probably suffer too. Once the US has nothing China wants (soon) they will have no reason to keep giving us a bargain on their imports.

I've been reading this argument since at least 2003.

And? In 2003 they weren't even close to technological and industrial parity but even then it was fairly evident that they would be within < 25 years.

Now they're not far off parity - maybe 5-7 years before they can manufacture anything the US can.

Trends that continue for a long time do not continue forever. That goes double for things that look like a free lunch.

Exactly. People seem to forget that the fastest (publicly known) supercomputer in the world is made of components that are 100% chinese made (including the CPUs). They are catching up fast, and yet folks continue to bury their heads in the sand.

>You mean the Chinese government will stop protecting their currency and hurt their export?

For the last two years, their problem was the opposite. They went quite draconian on people selling RMB to keep currency strong.

The main motivation is to allow CCP keep throwing money around the globe, buying allies

This is interesting because the US was the record holder less than five years ago. Five years later, China's Single's Day is several times that of the US's Black Friday. Very soon, it will be an order of magnitude bigger than the Black Friday of the US.

More reasonable reason, the online shopping experience in China is much much better than in US. In China, if you are living some metropolis, the logistic is really faster than in US without any prime membership (normally within two days). And also the price is much cheaper compared with physical retail store. So, most people would prefer online shopping if possible.

Online shopping works pretty well in the USA. My wife (Chinese) doesn’t see too much difference since we moved to the USA from Beijing last year. We no longer buy things like bottled water (well, we don’t need to!) or other groceries/soft goods online like we did in BJ, but we have semi daily packages of everything else.

China has great same day logistics using poorly paid guys on electric bikes (so food and soft good delivery is very reasonable), but everything else is equivalent or a bit worse than the states.

Are you joking? I lived in Seattle and so desperate about my Amazon experience. For your logistics statement, isn't that one of China's advantage? And also, for those delivery workers, most of them are from small villages or suburb, so they are happy doing logistic in the metropolis as they can make far more than as being the farmers.

My point was that it couldn’t last. And damn it, I don’t miss the backup sounds of the electric trikes beneath my apartment (we lived 13 floors above a small depot in taiyahggong).

Sorry your amazon experience has been so horrible. We live in Bellevue and it has worked out well for us. Sometimes we have to use the amazon delivery lockers at the 7-11 across the street, though.

I live in Thailand and buying from US online merchants is usually a nonstarter because of shipping costs which are often much more than the price of the item itself. When I buy something from Aliexpress it is usually free shipping, or something reasonable for heavier items. There is no Amazon here but there are a couple local versions, Lazada being one. They usually have shorter delivery times but cost more than Aliexpress, though not always. US online merchants aren't even in the ballpark.

I ordered from Amazon while I was in Thailand and it actually worked pretty well. The shipping wasn't cheap, but it wasn't prohibitive. The most expensive part was the import duties charged by Thai customs. It still ended up being cheaper than if I'd bought the items locally. Though I was on an island in the south, so that might not have been the case in Bangkok.

Still...it's definitely not a non-starter. And with the exception of shipping updates which were non-existent once Thai post got their hands on the package, everything worked surprisingly well. All told, it took 7 days to arrive, shipping was ~$50 and customs was ~$65 on a ~$300 order that would have cost over $500 locally where the selection would've meant getting something that wasn't exactly what I wanted.

That's not too bad.

Not Amazon, but a recent experience I had. I wanted to order a kit from Vex Robotics. Cost of the kit was $80. Shipping from the US was $150. Supposedly it's available from a Vex reseller in Thailand so I contacted them and they quoted $190 for the $80 kit with a one month delivery time. So they are just ordering it from the US and having it shipped at a somewhat lower cost. I am not desperate for the kit so its a nonstarter for me. I can almost certainly find a serviceable substitute from a Chinese supplier who will ship to Thailand at a fraction of the cost.

How long does it take for packages to get to you? In Australia I had a run of less than two weeks but it's been back up to a month recently.

It varies a lot. Sometimes 2 weeks, more often 3 to 4. Currently a number of items seem overdue at more than 5 weeks.

It's still a hugely significant number. $18B is $13.20USD for every man, woman and child in China. Considering China's GDP is $8000USD, that's basically 60% of a single day's earnings for every person in China being spent at just one company in 12 hours.

It would be the same as everyone in the US spending $100 on the same day or $32B in a single day (which is almost half of US online spending for a year).

US consumers spend over $32 billion every day of the year. The average American adult spends $57,000 per year as of 2016. The consumer economy in the US is around $13 trillion.


China's GDP is $11.x trillion for 2017.


That's a bit of a misleading stat since most consumer spending is on stuff like housing/transportation/food/utilities.

That's not misleading at all. That's how consumer spending is measured. How would you go about explaining that water, electricity and food are not consumption goods, but an iPad is?

It's misleading because nobody is buying water or electricity or paying rent on Alibaba today for 11.11.

Comparing apples to apples would mean comparing the amount spent online in the U.S. with a single company. Even comparing apples to pears would mean comparing all online sales in the U.S. to Alibaba 11.11 sales.

Comparing all "consumer spending" in the U.S. with Alibaba 11.11 sales is, well, it's misleading.

It's misleading here because it has nothing really to do with Alibaba or Amazon; of course there are differences in cost of living in the USA and China, the interesting figure here is online spending, or luxury spending, etc.

Your numbers on US online spending are way off. US online spending was about $400B in 2016. In 2017 Amazon alone has posted about 120B in revenue (low 100s minus AWS) year to date with guidance for 55-60B in Q4 alone.

AliExpress is huge in Russia and CIS countries and that contributes a lot to the sales volume.

> I've had situations where items didn't arrive until weeks later and I had already forgotten that I'd bought anything.

This might be a good litmus test for whether you actually need what you're buying :-)

> I've had situations where items didn't arrive until weeks later and I had already forgotten that I'd bought anything.

I love that! It's like getting a present from myself.

(Depending on how important the item was, of course...)

I do this with Chinese electronic modules. I order a bunch of interesting things and get mailbombed about a month later. $10 spent is hours of fun! Granted most of it is crap but it’s fun finding that out and tutting and shaking my head in disgust.

If you're in the U.S. just wait a few more years because this is what Amazon models their Prime day after.

That is typical for the order times, it takes weeks. Now that it is the singles day, it would take even longer.

An easy solution is to look for the ones with ePacket shipping. It is tracked and you'd normally expect it in two weeks. Some give it for free, some charge about a dollar for it.

Singles day is way too close to Black Friday, I don’t see room for both shopping frenzies in November. Besides, most cultures aren’t into numerology as much as Chinese are (they don’t think 11/11 is that interesting), so the gimmick doesn’t really translate well outside of china.

I added a few dollars to the frenzy. Been adding items to my Aliexpress shopping cart for the last week. Mostly small electronics hobbyist items and Arduino compatible boards and sensor modules. Pulled the trigger after the 11.11 sale opened up.

Just out of interest, can you check a couple of prices on Dealextreme, Gearbest and Banggood to see if they're comparable?

Among the items I ordered today:

HC-06: Dealextreme $5.50, Banggood $5.99, Gearbest $6.57, Aliexpress $2.58

Arduino Nano v3.0: Dealextreme $3.46, Banggood $2.77, Gearbest $4.27, Aliexpress $1.66

HC-06 is US$3.46 on Ebay. Arduino Nano v3 is US$3.29

Ebay has a pretty good return/refund policy. And then you can fall-back on Paypal too.

> Ebay has a pretty good return/refund policy. And then you can fall-back on Paypal too.

Anecdotal evidence, but I have had far more success with AliExpress' dispute/buyer protection system than eBay's.

eBay is laughably bad at disputes. I have received several items from eBay which were DOA, and my options were to take a very reduced refund, or ship the item back to the seller at my expense.

Same issue with AliExpress, upload evidence (pictures/video) of the DOA item, full refund no further questions.

PayPal is another nightmare in of itself.

Wow! I haven't seen that kind of differential for a while. I wonder if it's just because of 11.11

I made a mental note of some of the prices before the 11.11 discount kicked in. The discounts were around 10%, sometimes less. So the Aliexpress regular prices were already way lower.

The thing is, on Aliexpress there are many, many sellers of each of those items and there is often a significant price difference among them. If that is due to quality or delivery times I have not figured it out yet. So I usually buy from the cheapest who has a fair number of sales and few if any complaints in the reviews.

Man, can you share some more of your shopping list for those of us with similar interests?

Other items from my 11.11 shopping list:

KY-008 laser transmitter module $0.32

5V stepper motor with driver board $1.82

LCD1602 I2C board $1.68

4X3 membrane switch keypad $0.52

STM32F103C8T6 dev board $1.58

K975 Micro 130 Vibration Motor (2 pcs) $1.48

Tilt sensor module $0.37

KY-013 temp sensor module $0.29

GY-521 gyro/accel module $0.99

WS2812 RGB LED 12 bit ring $1.40

RF receiver & transmitter module pair $0.82

IR obstacle avoidance sensor module $0.69

HC-SR502 PIR motion sensor module $0.72


Are the sales numbers inflation adjusted?

And your prediction will certainly be true because Chinese are usually not very honest and like to brag that they have just set another new record (I'm married to a Chinese and she says the same).

Many people stayed up late last night to take advantage of limited-time deals (e.g. ones that were only available for the first minute after midnight) or deals that had only limited stock.

Some friends of ours chose today to go to Ikea, figuring they'd be free from the usual massive crowds, as people would be at home doing online shopping, or sleeping in after staying up late last night. It turned out they were right.

Back when I was living in China, I wished China had the Black Friday as in the US because of discounts and promotions. Now I am back in the US, I wish the US had the Single's Day as in China. What a Change!

I feel like the deals in the U.S. have really gone downhill or maybe they were never deals to begin with. The internet has made everything pretty transparent at least.

Deals in the US vary in direct proportion to the state of the economy (or a given retailer's plight). In 2009-2011 for example, the deals were frequently tremendous due to bad economic condition of consumers.

Now the US has a U6 unemployment rate near 20 year lows and has added $45 trillion to its household wealth number in the last seven years, while incomes have also been rising modestly well the last several years. The need for substantial deals to move most merchandise is vastly reduced accordingly.

"One offer, from the Chongqing-based online alcohol brand Jiang Xiao Bai, allowed 33 fast-moving customers to make a single payment of 11,111 yuan, or $1,673, for a lifetime supply of a grain liquor known as baijiu"

A gallon of baijiu is a life time supply of baijiu, dependent on intake rates.

Less than 4 liters of any alcoholic drink, including pure 100% alcohol, sounds like a month-long supply at the very best.

I think the parent wanted to say baijiu is an acquired taste.

Alternatively, if you consumed a gallon of baijiu in one sitting, it would likely be the end of your life.

You got what I was going for :)

> pure 100% alcohol

= free auto-gas supplement.

Or home heating.

My dad just looked at the last three orders he had on AliExpress, all from more than a month ago. They appear now on the website as if they have 30%-50% discount, but the end price is exactly the same, for all of them. I'm not sure how much of a sale it really is...

Purchasing inside of China, it's different, I think? All the items I bought, I can clearly see what the original price is. I remember last year buying a clotheswasher. Two months after Singles Day, checked the price and confirmed that it did indeed have the higher original price.

this always happens anytime there's a sale on aliexpress, most of time it actually costs more when it's "on sale"

For someone having never ordered from alibaba or aliexpres - other than briefly fleeting with drone spare parts - what exactly of use and purpose would you buy from there? I can see large scale uses for industrial machinery / commodities but what about the day to day consumer. Pointless gadgets? I briefly looked at lightinthebox for female accessories and they seemed tacky, overly glittery and just plain cheap looking. It did make me wonder about the premium Western consumers pay to line corporate profits for chinese factory products. Ignoring secure, specialised electronics factories, most day to day fashion accessories in Sachs 5th Av, Macy's etc will be quality controlled chinese/indian products. Is it possible to get hold of these on aliexpress?

I order 3D printer parts, physical hardware (fasteners, typically), electronics components (Arduino work-a-likes and shields), small tchotchkes for kids [birthday party giveaways], cheap computer accessories and cables (USB chargers, USB cables, USB-C adapters, audio adapters and cables, etc).

That's all aliexpress. Alibaba is more industrial, negotiate for pricing; Aliexpress is a pure marketplace. With the subsidized shipping, I can often get something for <$2 that would be $8 on Amazon and $25 at Staples/BestBuy.

As I re-read my comment above, it seems hyperbolic, so I went to check the actual data on the last time I tried to buy something at Staples.

I needed a 1/8" stereo mini to 2 RCA male cable.

Staples: $15.59 - https://www.staples.com/Staples-7-3-5mm-to-Dual-RCA-Y-Adapte...

BestBuy: $9.99 - https://www.bestbuy.com/site/insignia-6-3-5mm-mini-to-rca-st...

Amazon: $4.76 - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IE7Z628

Aliexpress: $0.56 / $0.82 - https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1-Mini-Plug-3-5mm-Plug-Jack-...

I love Monoprice, but in this case, it's going to be another $2.49 in shipping, where Amazon and Aliexpress prices above include shipping.

I have ordered Lepin from AliExpress, which is a Lego knockoff—the sets are the same, but the prices are 25%, and the quality is 90%.

Do they have knockoffs of the Lego education stuff, like WeDo and Mindstorms? I've been searching on Aliexpress just now and don't see anything like that.

US name brand stuff like this is particular troublesome for me because I am not living in the US. So I pay big shipping costs and then risk corrupt and extortionate customs actions. If I buy local the cost is just as high.

Also, have you seen anything that looks like Vex Robotics knockoffs? Same story - I have a Vex IQ kit and want to buy more but shipping costs are way more than the price of the item I want to buy.

The prices are 25% because the designs are stolen. Not just from official LEGO sets but also from unsuspecting hobbyists.

If you want to buy LEGO knockoffs that's fine, but there are plenty of brands that are almost as cheap as Lepin and produce original (non-stolen) designs.

> there are plenty of brands that are almost as cheap as Lepin and produce original (non-stolen) designs

Lepin does as well, just under the XingBao name.

But the joke's on the both of them—I just buy them for the pieces, not for the set designs.

Honestly if Lego just sold big boxes of bulk technic pieces (like they do for their normal blocks), I'd probably just buy those instead.

Most of the comments here focus on the business aspects of US/China retailing. I'd like to remind techies here that Alibaba has become a tech powerhouse as they learned how to deal with ever increasing traffic. Their work on infrastructure has been phenomenal. It's not a joke to handle up to 45 million database transactions per second, or 256K payments per second. Few US companies could do it without breaking a sweat. Check out their work on JStorm, Flink, messaging queue, container, JVM, ML platform, and databases. Alas, tech innovations came from real and challenging business scenarios. It's like diamonds are forged by extreme heat and pressure. Now look at Silicon Valley, how many companies can claim tech achievement similar to that of Alibaba, except the same ol' Google, Facebook, and Amazon? I don't think it's due to lack of tech talent. Instead, it's due to lack of business scenarios at scale for most of the companies.

A friend of mine from China was showing me an article in Chinese about the Huawei website (huge site like Amazon + Apple + FedEx) . They have 300 sub stores/warehouses just in his city they are for stock piling popular items. A man ordered something from the Huawei website at midnight and he received the package 12 minutes later.

THIS. I feel people outside of China dont understand how efficient sales in China is. I lived in Beijing during its boom form 2008 - 2010ish and it was CRAZY. My friend literally went on Taobao, messaged a seller for the latest macbook speced out decked out, talked down the price and half an hour later a guy came during our lunch break (we were in international school) and waited at our school gate where he took out the ordered macbook pro and showed him that everything was brand new unbox therapied that shit to us and my buddy paid in cash with options to pay using card. I was like "woah shit" . The most impressive thing was he did not have to pay until he was satisfied with what he was being showed. I enjoyed living in China, and am still waiting here in Canada till the day something like this is possible.

As per the legend.

With Alibaba launching their own hosting services as well, where do they stand at scale compared to Amazon? I realize Alibaba is mostly targeted inward to China, unlike Amazon that has some international markets, but are they a contender when it comes to global sales (and possibly China facing hosting?)

Aliyun has been around for sometimes, and is now rebrand as Alibaba Cloud and expanding beyond China. It is competing with AWS, Google Cloud, Azure etc. And this August report says Alibaba Cloud has surpassed Digital Ocean to be number 2 in hosting. https://news.netcraft.com/archives/2017/08/22/cloud-wars-ali...

Singles Day sales is a few times bigger than Black Friday or anything Amazon has. Kind of strange to ask if Alibaba Cloud can scale as AWS.

Actually, Aliyun built data centers all over the world, including the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America etc. It is the second largest IAAS, second to only AWS (yes it is bigger and growing faster than Google and Microsoft in IAAS).

That doesn't sound right, unless microsoft has been shrinking: https://siliconangle.com/blog/2017/09/27/report-aws-leads-ia...

The data in your link is for 2016. It's the end of 2017 now. Alibaba Cloud is growing definitely much faster than Microsoft (126% vs 61%) and Google and bigger than Google. It is very close to Microsoft in terms of revenue if not bigger right now.

Would you have that data then? Also note that neither Google nor Microsoft break out their cloud computing revenues, making comparisons difficult, although you can figure out upper bounds by the nearest business unit.

Right, but MS was more than 2x the size at the end of last year, so Alibaba would need to continue that >100% growth, and MS would need to not grow at all. I doubt that's the case.


their latest quarterly report I believe

According to Bloomberg, Alibaba hit $675 million in sales for their cloud services for fiscal 2016. So they're likely comparable, or a bit larger than, Google presently (~1/2 the size of Azure and far behind AWS).


Has anyone else noticed over the last 6 months or so that AliExpress isn't necessarily the cheapest anymore? Same thing happened with Amazon a few years ago.

I have not noticed, but I am interested. Where are you seeing better prices?

I also found the following aggregators/search engines:




Banggood mainly - I've had better luck with them than Gearbest.

OzBargain.com.au also seems to like Lightinthebox, Rosegal and Zapals.

I do wonder if there's a way to go "one level up" - who supplies all these Chinese stores?

I think you have to go there yourself. Watch some of the videos by Bunnie Huang to see how. For example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAXNv_rNGcc

Is it just me, or is GearBest carrying fewer items by far than they were a year ago?

What's the cheapest now?

The Alibaba Group's revenue for the entire 2017 was ~$23B (see https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/BABA/financials?p=BABA), so making $18B in a single day sounds unbelievable.

Is one of these numbers incorrect?

They're both correct. Alibaba makes almost all of its money from advertising.

They're frequently incorrectly portrayed as a traditional retailer, akin to Amazon (which itself is increasingly not a retailer).

They're a retailer in the sense that eBay is. They own no merchandise, they sell no merchandise. They're a platform that other people sell on/through. They don't primarily make money from listing fees though (as eBay does), in their case it's from ads and equivalent. Alibaba has a lot more in common with Google than Walmart (which is also why their profit margins are so high, versus eg JD.com).

Incredibly, when Alibaba was founded, China's GDP was ~1/11th what it is today. Which is another way of saying, they were dramatically poorer just 18 years ago. That factor combined with non-existent online micro charging capabilities circa 1999, no smartphones, etc. meant that Jack Ma couldn't easily charge traditional listing/selling fees to be on their platform. So they went with a mostly free platform that made money via ads. That is also a big reason eBay failed in China despite being there semi-early:

(story from 2010 about what happened to eBay in China) https://www.forbes.com/sites/china/2010/09/12/how-ebay-faile...

I see, so it looks like what's being measured here is "gross merchandise volume", which is the total value of orders placed on their platform. Whereas the revenue in their financial statements is the money they make from advertising and their other businesses.

That's right. eBay's gross merchandise volume for example was $84 billion in fiscal 2016 (their revenue take was $9 billion).

Every year the media makes a big deal about Alibaba's merchandise volume. It's a cute soundbite, and it's certainly a large number, but it's not how they make money at all. Their own revenue can technically grow far faster or slower than the merchandise volume (I would expect them to outperform their merchandise volume growth rate in the coming years, as they increase ad rates as China's economy scales the value ladder & GDP per capita keeps climbing, while their manufacturing and exports grow very modestly if at all).

the alibaba site is a marketplace, the $18B are made by all the merchants, not soly by the alibaba group

Recent talk about their JVM server architecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4tmr3nhZRg

Man, western ppl are missing out on not so cheap but high quality clothes in TaoBao. My wife wears these winter jackets so elegant ppl in usa compliment her on the quality and style. All made in china. Thing is you gotta know chinese to know what to look for in taobao.

As a European that takes in a good bit of american business reporting (doesn't everyone?), I'm kind of amused and surprised at how China's rhymes. The common sense understanding of a consumer driven economy, the fantastical scale.

I sort of imagine that to a caricature of an old americana businessman, this sale is a significant event. The quantity of the chinese market (even per capita, by the satisfyingly physical measure of "biggest sale ever" and it's easily visualised as a mountain of packaged goods), is a quality of its own^. At least, that is what my caricatured character believes intrinsically.

^This is a made up quote attributed to Stalin. I love how american sounding it is, in retrospect.

> is a quality of its own^

> quote attributed to Stalin

Actually, that was comrade Hegel at the source of the idea, but the marxists did run a lot with it, mostly into the ground ...


"[...] a basic law of materialist dialectics, according to which a change in the quality of an object occurs when the accumulation of quantitative changes reaches a certain limit."

According to Bloomberg they were processing over 1/4-million transactions per second. What are they doing that Bitcoin and Ethereum can't do?


Not running transactions against a massively distributed blockchain using a proof of work system?

Hmm, So ultimately centralization is demonstrably better for transaction per section?

Being able to trust all the machines in the network allows you to perform better, yes. What is your point?

> What are they doing that Bitcoin and Ethereum can't do?

Processing over 1/4-million transactions per second.

Um, not requiring a Proof of Work / Proof of Stake?

I guess the proof of stake is the credit card validation and the charges and fees are settled a day or two later?

It looks like Harbor Freight's made in China, sold from USA products are now cheaper than those made and sold from China.

It's now way past 22B USD.


What are individuals buying on Alibaba? All I see is "Contact Supplier". Are individuals buying in bulk?

They are buying on Aliexpress.

There was a report in Taiwan that merchants on TMall would fake transactions worth up to 1.5bil RMB. https://tw.news.appledaily.com/international/realtime/201711...

“Process payments with facial recognition” ??

Can anyone tell me more about that?

the thing amazed me is that the way they deal with the high traffic,in real time, for money transactions, not many companies can do that level of technical stack.

I would have preferred the old one, since the NYT article hits you with a paywall.

Paywalls with workarounds are explicitly allowed on HN [1] and NYT submissions are as standard as you can get here.

Other things being equal, we'll prefer a non-paywalled URL as in [2] from earlier today, but in the present case there was a clear quality difference.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html

2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15672936

An unofficial workaround: go to archive.is and paste the link.

Non-paywalled: http://archive.is/waNw6

Clear the cache of NYT, and you can view another few articles.

Just use the mobile page without paywall https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/business/alibaba-singl...

Applications are open for YC Winter 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact