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40% of the top sellers on Amazon are based in China, according to research (marketplacepulse.com)
309 points by juokaz 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 187 comments

I have to say the variance has become very high. In the past, I have, for example

- Ordered a brand product and gotten an obvious fake from China. Not good.

- Ordered a brand product, got something that had obviously been opened and used before.

- Searched for something, found only hundreds of mostly identical Chinese generic products. Ordered one, was complete and utter garbage.

- Searched for something, found hundreds of mostly identical Chinese generics. Ordered one, and it was actually pretty decent! Sadly, this happens less often.

Overall, I only buy electronic stuff on Amazon if it is cheap and/or no product with domestic (EU) assembly and QA exists. If it is a large purchase, or one which may put me, my family or the house in any sort of danger, I would never, ever trust Amazon anymore. I buy it directly or from a store that sources directly from the producer.

Additionally, you pretty much have to buy stuff which you wouldn't bother to send back, because these things usually go nowhere.

Edit: Oh and don't get me started on the reviews. I just to look at them. Now, they are mostly fake, especially for these Chinese generic brands.

I am convinced that some of these generic brands just receive the products that got sorted out of some real brand QA process and sell them anyway.

I'm finding similar things.

Also I'm coming across a lot more garbage brands on Amazon that I'm having trouble plowing through to find what I want.

It doesn't help that Amazon seems to be pushing me to buy a lot of garbage too with their suggestions, their own promoted sales, and etc. It feels like there is a very Wallmart type push for "hey this is 30 cents cheaper and look at all these reviews (fake, or by morons)!"

Prime Day seems more like a garage sale than anything else ...

I'm constantly seeing promotions for highly questionable health products / supplements...

Lots of wrong categorized products that seem like spam almost.

I feel like not just a lot of garbage but fewer quality products. I wanted a good HDMI switch, but all Amazon has are inexpensive (granted I have a couple and they're "ok") but not great switches and that is it. They really want me to buy these flimsy things that are all the same with these tiny annoying remotes.

Oddly enough for me Amazon was a route to find a variety of BETTER quality things than I might find in a store, it is becoming harder to do that now.

Yup. Something I learned too: e-commerce platforms do not work as product discovery tools, not anymore. They're all full of bottom-feeders selling various combinations of generic garbage-quality brands, fakes, and used items presented as new. If you want to buy something of quality, you need to explore the space elsewhere - e.g. via /r/$niche recommendations, Wirecutter, Consumer Reviews, etc., and then preferably buy directly from the vendor/official distributor.

This also affects crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo - a lot of "new products" there is just rebranded junk from Alibaba, that's often already sold on Amazon for half of what they ask for it.

Ironically, there's also a reverse phenomenon happening on Kickstarter. Between start and end of a crowdfunding campaign you may discover the crowdfunded product has already been cloned by the Chinese and is sold cheaper on Aliexpress.

Yeah I've found a few brands that I now just would rather deal with directly. Shipping and cost whatever ... Amazon is more of a hassle filtering sometimes.

Direct is the future of e-commerce. At the end of the day ordering directly is the only way to be 100% certain you're getting an authentic product.

Yep, I've lost a lot of trust in Amazon over the past year. I used to go and buy things there by default, now I think twice and often go to a brick and mortar on my way home from work instead. There is a huge opening here for someone (probably either Wal-Mart or Target in the US) to take back the market with a "you know it won't be total junk" sales pitch.

I had the same thought/hope: that someone else will use this as an opportunity to step in and re-raise the bar, for trustworthiness and supply chain integrity. Competition is good.

In the meantime, I've recently been experimenting with buying from other vendors for things I normally buy though Amazon, and with which I'd had trouble: particular brands of clothing, computer parts, water filter cartridges.

I've also been trying brick&mortar, and anecdotal results so far are that it's so-so or bad for selection, good for assessing quality and expected item and condition, and good for lead time.

Separate from browsing store inventory in-person, in-store pickup of online orders is consistently poor-to-ridiculously-bad so far (5 out of 5 times). The anecdotally worst major retailer thus far is surprising.

(Incidentally, I also realized, given the distinctive look of the Walmart shipping box in the lobby of a condo building of about 100 people, that I'd never noticed any of my neighbors buying from Walmart before. I suppose there's some stigma and general objection to Walmart to overcome, though Amazon hasn't been doing so great on reputation either in the last couple years. My two Walmart orders thus far have been wholly positive experiences.)

Target is fantastic for home goods.

Clothes, shoes virtually all can be bought directly from the manufacturer (well the brand owner.)

E-commerce outside of Amazon has improved greatly. I can’t even think of the last time I had a problem ordering from another e-commerce site besides Amazon. I order food from lots of different sites and I wouldn’t dare do that from Amazon anymore.

I think Best Buy has already done this in the electronics segment- I now will often look at Amazon first then switch over to Best Buy to find the equivalent, buy it, and pick it up on the way home. Their willingness to match prices with Amazon has been key.

>Their willingness to match prices with Amazon has been key.

Heck, I've had Best Buy associates whip their phone out and price check something without me even asking. I was super surprised because "don't price match unless the customer asks" would be the easiest thing for management to push for.

I increased my loyalty a bit after seeing that.

I would consider price matching something before or during the same time with your own phone. As you have no idea of what algorithm is being used to show the price he is getting on his phone for the same item. Your's may be higher or lower than theirs.

If I remember right, Best Buy did get some heat years ago for setting their online prices higher if accessed through their intranet compared to their public website.

Shady to say the least.

This is an annoying behavior let me count the ways

People frequently mistake a similar but not identical product and ask for the better product for the price of the lessor. Ex foobar-a is 199 and foobar-b is 179 at both current store and amazon. Customer searches for foobar on amazon and demands the foobar-a in hand for 179, the price of foobar-b on both merchants.

People google search a vague search term like foobar. This completely avoids bothering to discriminate between new identical products, used junk, data wherein google is just wrong about the price, auctions, sales in which the price is theoretically better but the shipping is adjusted up instead of raising the price. Ex: $20 with $30 shipping. This is usually a great indication of a scam because the shipping is non refundable.

This is especially annoying when the customer is in line with a bunch of other customers staring daggers at their back. Especially fun when its an item from the current store that is obviously not identical and the customers phone informs them that this product is not sold in stores. One wonders how they think they came to have it in their hands.

Even in the case where the product is billed as a new in box item sold by random bob34343 its truly NOT an identical transaction.

Imagine you are buying foobar for $99. What you are receiving is a handy retail environment in which to come pick up the item immediately with staff with a minimum level of knowledge on hand to help you find and select your merchandise not to mention unload, order, clean, maintain and manage the environment needed for this to happen even if you prefer to select your own.

If the same product is available from Amazon for $89 with "free" (that you pay for monthly) 2 day shipping, that actually takes 3-4. You are paying slightly less for that item but you are receiving it days later from a less reputable seller that is MUCH more likely to screw you over wherein replacement if something is wrong will take at least another 4 day turn around before you have a working product in your hands.

If you are standing in the store with the product in your basket you are tacitly acknowledging that the above that the in store experience, ability to exchange or return in store, the trustworthiness of the merchant is actually worth $10 and indeed none of those things are free to the merchant.

You just want to have your cake and eat it too.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Usually I'm buying something like a Nintendo Switch a printer or a backup inexpensive phone- I search both Amazon and Best Buy. Best Buy is usually near the same or same price for NIB product. I buy at Best Buy since I have lessened trust for Amazon lately, and pick it up on the way home.

Whose cake am I eating exactly? Best Buy is being rewarded for value and trustworthiness and Amazon loses out even though I'm a Prime member due to their recent failings. Its the market doing its self-correcting market things.

If you demanded that best buy sell you a PS4 for the price of the game cube you saw on Craigslist that would be silly right?

The point is that its cheaper on average Amazon to ship a 1000 ps4s of which 100 are used and 50 are broken than it is for best buy to maintain a retail presence and sell 1000 actually new ps4s.

You are insisting on the superior product but only willing to pay the cost of the inferior one.

This is only sustainable in terms of throughput at checkout or monetarily because most people unlike you aren't willing to do this with everything they purchase.

It's like a person that finds something to complain about regarding their meal to get free food. If everyone did it then either the restaurant would go out of business or they would stop giving away free food.

Best Buy has been doing great recently and I'm buying from the vendor you seem so think I should be buying from. You're upset I may be shaving a point or two off their margin by cross-shopping? Unless you own stock in BB I really don't see where your angst is coming from...

Dude I never get used or broken stuff from Amazon, I don't know what items you are ordering.

I've shopped on Wal-Mart's online storefront hoping I could have faith it isn't total junk. But unfortunately it looks like it's just as bad as Amazon with all sorts of third party sketchy knock off shit.

>>>you know it won't be total junk" sales pitch.

Costco does this. Everything sold in costco is super high quality best of breed.

> - Ordered a brand product and gotten an obvious fake from China. Not good.

> - Ordered a brand product, got something that had obviously been opened and used before.

> - Searched for something, found only hundreds of mostly identical Chinese generic products. Ordered one, was complete and utter garbage.

> - Searched for something, found hundreds of mostly identical Chinese generics. Ordered one, and it was actually pretty decent! Sadly, this happens less often.

Well, that's a daily life experience in China. Globalisation works both ways...

You have to cultivate your intuition. I have no idea how one gets it, but it helps.

I'm shopping on Aliexpress since it opening in 2010, I see that for me Aliexpress is an "easy shopping experience," but for people from my college class shopping there unending frustration. Somehow, they got an almost natural talent getting into trouble with scam deals.

Actually, what I do is to just shop elsewhere, and buy from brands that I know either produce, assemble or do their QA checks outside of China. Luckily, such brands still exist for most products.

Amazon was, before it got flooded by Chinese goods, quite useful. But rarely can I not wait a few days for my product, if it is not available locally.

Case in point, when I did need something from Amazon per morning express, it did not arrive until one day later. I got a refund for the shipping, but I had to buy the thing elsewhere.

Amazon's use to me is declining more and more. I already did cancel my prime...

> Searched for something, found only hundreds of mostly identical Chinese generic products.

This is my biggest problem with Amazon now and why I use it less and less.

Same here. I used to love that I could browse a large selection of top quality choices in one place, from my home, rather than whatever the store happen to have in stock. Now it's mostly just the same item with different fake-seeming brands that mostly seem to compete on review count/quality.

Well, yes, variance is the big thing. Even ignoring obvious fakes, the common argument, that brand products and cheap clones are probably made in the same factory, doesn't really hold water. They might very well come from the same assembly line, but the difference is in QA. Because there's always some copy-to-copy variation, it makes total business sense to make one hundred copies of a part, sell the top 10 to a big brand name with stringent QA criteria, and the rest to progressively less scrupulous companies.

Edit: Oh, you mentioned this as well in your edit.

Amazon must have a good reason for tolerating the counterfeits for this long. My hunch is that they hope to use it as leverage to get brands to use them as their exclusive online sales channel. The brands know these counterfeit products are hurting their image. Most consumers think that the junk that they receive from Amazon is authentic (especially when sold by a 3rd-party with a similar name).

One long-term challenge for Amazon will be not becoming a flea market of low-grade, generic ‘stuff’. Brands want to cut the middle-man and sell direct. You see similar things happening with big media: studios don’t want to have someone else distribute their experience. Plus, they don’t want to lose having direct access to their customers. But, without the brands, what will Amazon sell?

How so you actually tell if a brick and mortar store sources from the producer?

This is the single worst thing about Amazon (aside from the knockoffs); Every time I want to buy something, I do a search and all I get is 200 pages of the same shitty product with some generic brand name like "teksolv". Somewhere in that 200 pages is a product I want. So I go to another online retailer and buy it there.

Edit: the Brand filter would work, except if there are more than five or six brands it dumps you in a huge directory of brands that you can't search, and you can only select one at a time. It's been that way for like ten fucking years! The only thing that would explain such incompetence is some kind of dark pattern.

I recently bought a Parmak electric fence charger (horses, pigs, etc.) and when it came down to it I used Parmak's own site. I knew that it would take 3-7 days to get it but I wanted to make sure it was actually from Parmak and not a knockoff. Lightning strikes and a 3 year warranty. This may not be typical but anecdotally our family is purchasing most things directly from the company or going to an authorized dealer. It's just not worth the long tail hassle dealing with Amazon any longer...for us.

I find myself doing the same thing. I might use Amazon to find a product, but I end up going to the manufacturer's site to buy it. I also want to make sure that I'm looking at the latest version of the product, too.

It’s my experience that there’s usually a sweet spot between ordering directly from a slow, traditional, maybe slightly more expensive than necessary official manufacturer store and amazon: The specialized enthusiast store that’s usually slightly under the radar but known to anyone in the field. For me it’s often bicycle kit, audio gear or just japanese sencha - all of the those categories are much better served by non-amazon shops that have been around for a long time, offer competitive pricing and are selling genuine, curated products only.

I’m sure there are also great shops for the items you’re looking for.

Yeah I kept running into this exact issue and it was a big factor in my decision to cancel my Prime subscription after 10 years this winter. The research and product selection done by a more traditional retailer's purchasing department turns out to be more of a convenience than I would have thought in the past.

Now that I've largely stopped shopping on Amazon over the past six months, I've come to realize that a lot of retailers have really upped their game in the in-store-inventory-online space. I really enjoy the process of browsing online, reading some reviews and knowing what's in stock in the store, then stopping by in person to check out a couple of options and walking away with the product in hand. Some big stores even have bay/bin/aisle numbers on their websites so you can find things quickly. Better than two day shipping in my book.

This is also a major problem; I have no problem buying Cheap Generic Wotsit from Factory X in Shenzhen - just don't give me 300 different "brands" to "evaluate".

The French Press category is awful for this, for example.

Chances are the branded retailer just rebranded the shitty product from China and sells it at premium/luxury price.

This is undoubtedly the case with most of the clothing, but not for consumer electronics. Edit: No, it's the same with the clothing; buy one of those generically branded jackets some time and see how long it lasts.

I don’t recall any clothes I have that say made in China? I think the Chinese labor cost is too high for garments. Yes, there is a huge mark up, but if the clothing brand is ok they are doing quality control and providing some consistency besides the whole style/fashion part.

Hopefully the branded item will have better quality control. You see that with camera batteries for example. The name brands seem to take the best batteries of a lot and third party sellers then take the ones that are less according to spec.

Usually you can smell the difference.

I recently witnessed this with oven mitts. I bought a pair of oven mitts on Amazon but also found several other mitts that were slight variations. When I went to Rite Aid, I found they were selling a variant of the oven mitt pair that I had purchased for more than double the price. The branding was slightly different, but the product was identical.

> aside from the knockoffs

They're essentially the same problem since inventory can get mixed together. You could have fake Nike shoes from a 3rd party seller mixed in with Amazon's Nike inventory.

Even 3rd party sellers complain about having their inventory tainted by other 3rd party sellers who send in counterfeits.

“Why buy a $40 bikini made in America when you can buy a $4 bikini directly from China? For that matter, why buy a $20 bikini made in China but imported by a U.S. company like the Gap when you can buy a $4 bikini directly from China?”

– Alana Semuels, The Atlantic

^ 40% of merchants are in China but the percentage of goods made in China is likely much higher maybe like 75%.

I can answer that. It’s because when you order a four dollar bikini from China, it’s generally not the same product as one would order for $40 in the US. Merchants and wholesalers in the US have done diligence and quality assessments on their suppliers. You have no such luxury ordering from a seller on Amazon. Your only way of assessing quality is reviews and photographs, and then, the seller has essentially no liability or accountability. There are many tiers of quality for products in China, and almost always when you order a cheap one online, it is lower quality than the product you can buy for 5 to 10 times as much at a US retail store.

I’ve done small-scale importing from China for a retail business. The quality of the product you receive is generally related to whether the seller is concerned with repeat business in the future.

I used to work in a company importing textiles and fitness equipment, so I see and do agree with your point of view. While this is true, I’d wager it doesn’t matter for a large number of consumers and their buying habits. A lot of “durable goods” are really just consumables we collectively lie to ourselves about. That bikini may be used on one trip and a new one desired for the next. Is it actually worth spending a lot of money on that article of clothing? Does the increase in quality matter if it only needs to last a few days?

I do the same with ties. If I need a specific color for a wedding party and I never plan on wearing it again, to China/Amazon I go. A single tie from my much smaller “I’m definitely going to wear this repeatedly” collection costs more than the ten others I’ve purchased from Amazon. The cheap Amazon ones are practically falling apart after two parties, but it doesn’t matter because that second party wasn’t part of the plan. My upside is saving a few hundred dollars on ties I won’t wear.

You are saying middleman doing quality control deserves 400% markup. I can easily imagine middleman who adds 25% markup to find $8 high quality bikini for total cost of $10 to consumer instead of $40 to consumer.

The core problem is rather huge currency imbalance. Anything done in US, including quality assurance, is hugely expensive. The Gap has to pay massive executive and retail employee salaries in dollars and have stores with rent in dollars. The currency imbalance benefits merchants on one side and consumers on other side.

How is this a currency imbalance? Even if they used the same currency, the cost of doing things in location A (USA) is much higher than location B (China). Same reason the production isn't in downtown Beijing either.

Chinese brands do the same QA just fine. There's nothing wrong with brands like Anker for example.

I believe you pointed out the exception, not the rule

I think it's part of a broader trend of Chinese brands competing on equal terms.

Xiaomi and Huawei make phones that are quite comparable in quality to any of the established western and Korean brands; Xiaomi also apply their brand to a lot of very good electronic stuff that's very good value - electric scooters, air purifiers, smart home equipment etc. Rigol and Aneng make consistently good test equipment at a fraction of the price of western equivalents. Japanese brands used to dominate the radio control hobby industry, but they have been almost completely displaced by Chinese brands.

Yep, there are a few great brands based in China who sell on AliExpress/Amazon, another is ugreen. Everything I've bought from them so far is high-quality gear at a great price. Just wish there was an easier way to find other brands like them, other than randomly buying stuff from diff brands and testing the products your self.

I would argue Chinese brands have probably already overtaken non-Chinese ones at this point. Many of them just aren't really available outside of China. But if you started with a blank slate today and could buy either only Chinese or western products I think the Chinese ones would be the better deal for consumer products. And not necessarily only on price. As you said Xiaomi has a very appealing ecosystem that is hard to match.

Perhaps the problem is not China in particular, but the substitution of trusting brands for trusting reviews. Great Chinese brands exist, like Anker, but people still seem to go straight for that 5-star (probably fake) lorem-ipsum-esque brand at half the price.

Distributors in China certainly know the quality they’re dealing with. If they are establishing a brand, they are seeking repeat business and a good reputation. That’s opposed to ordering unreliable labeled or generic goods from an unknown seller on Amazon who could disappear at any time, and may operate ten another store fronts. So, like the principle I concluded with, a known brand will provide a higher quality.

Totally agree here. Price is only one factor. I live in Shanghai and from time to time will buy something cheaply that isn't of great importance. Still the quality difference vs. minimally acceptable level in the US is world's apart.

So fascinating that American companies, in their race to generate profits, jettisoned their connection to American labor and created this situation, where the Chinese manufacturers could remove those companies as the middleman.

> in their race to generate profits

Surely you mean in their race to survive in a bona fide market environment with low barriers to entry, low product differentiation and no switching costs to customers, right?

'Cause the alternative was to throw in the proverbial towel and close up shop.

It wasn't innate greed that caused jobs to move overseas – it was the end of the Cold War, the advent of instantaneous communications and significant leaps in logistics processes and technologies.

I agree with your statement 100%.

I'm not judging the companies. It's more a statement about American consumers who (probably like everyone else in the world) always care more about price than where the good is made (and things correlated to that, like labor laws, toxicity, etc.).

The companies simply followed their guidance. But, I would assert that these companies didn't fight that hard to keep ownership of their manufacturing, and it was a profit decision, and all that has put them in a difficult position.

Agreed. The tragedy is that the average person isn't equipped with the understanding that they vote with every dollar they spend – and if they are, they can't do much about it.

It's easy for a six-figure income earner to "buy local", but sadly, low-income workers are the ones most inclined to buy cheap goods produced abroad. In doing so they contribute to wage stagnation that disproportionately hurts them, while boosting profits to capital holders – who also happen to pay capital gains taxes and not income tax... – creating this perverse feedback loop.

Unfortunately, as an armchair economist I don't see a Real Solution – maybe you need Real Economist for that.

Whatever the solution may be, it doesn't seem we're doing much more currently than hunkering down and hoping wage gains abroad eventually lead to less inequality between US workers and third-world country workers so that the economics of offshoring invite companies to place jobs back in their home countries.

I literally have trouble sleeping at night thinking about this (combined with a fear of perpetual economic stagnation in Europe which I don't think we talk about often enough)

> maybe you need Real Economist for that.

They've got nothing too.

Eh, the outsourcing, moving and selling have been very deliberate in many countries. It isn't limited to manufacturing. You can go to smaller European country and see the fall of social democracy, how taxes have been lowered and housing is more expensive. I guess you can say globalization affected culture that then lead to the changes, but it is still culture no less. Most countries aren't even trying to keep their industries (with a few exceptions).

I have some Chinese friends who work in QA for an American company (visiting factories and such) and who do an amazing job, and I wish more American shoppers knew about this. These are really good people who care about high-quality goods. They are well-educated native-speakers and they can spot cut corners a mile away.

When you buy a $4 bikini you are taking a quality-related risk though, and a lot of the time, shoppers are correctly aiming for quantity, not quality. Personally, if I buy a $4 anything direct from China I know I'm taking that quality risk, but it's prospective risk: Periodically I want to broaden my horizons and check to see whether I'm being gouged or not, or just see if I can let my buddies know about something that is worth it at a surprisingly low cost. Given a product category that's been around for a while, that's important if you'll be buying a lot of stuff in that category.

I do this sometimes with simple electronic components, antennas, things like that. However in most cases the original/heavy-QA item is obviously way better, and in the case of electronics, maybe it's made in the _exact_ same factory, but the firmware, materials, and overall quality is simply worlds ahead of the afterthought/low-QA product. Yaesu released the FT-4X and FT-65 radios which are a great example of this, made in the same factory but far superior to the Chinese-brand radios (I own both and use them frequently). Nagoya and Comet and Diamond antennas "can" be cheaply replicated but surprisingly given such simple parameters, the result is periodically complete junk.

But much of the time, it's not complete junk. It's in the middle somewhere.

So the question becomes: Would I like "good enough" and _three of them_ (like three antennas for several radios), or "best on the market" and one of them. I personally find that I have some "best of market" needs like participating in a local emergency exercise, and in other cases maybe I just enjoy a low-key hobby and having access to just-OK equipment means I can string multiple devices together and have some broad-minded fun as opposed to the deeper, quality-focused type.

IMO it's good for consumers to know about both mindsets, and yet I think many more do get this than the HN crowd will credit. American companies were also warned of this shift long ago and a lot of them sure seem to be doing OK maintaining their competitive advantage. We are now in the information age and America is a cultural-informational dominator.

> where the Chinese manufacturers could remove those companies as the middleman.

You think they could sell just as much product to the American market using cheapflashlight.cn ? Come on..

There's made in China and made in China after strict specifications. Completely different kettle of fish.

See companies like Suitsupply, for example.

This being said there's a movement back to locally made in the US and Europe in the mid/upper range. The customer "connoisseurship" culture eventually made people more aware of things like fabrication quality, its relation to price and the trappings of branding.

Yes! It’s simple price compression. If you can outsource labor to China, why can you not buy direct from China?

Quality assurance is one thing: many companies that outsource to China have very strict QA setup to prevent being scammed by vendors. Also, while the manufacturing might happen in China, the IP is often not. That bikini’s nice design and the way the material is put together might be more valuable than the assembly. You might think you are getting the real deal, but it turns out it’s just a cheap copy.

Yeah i'd much rather buy form a western brand or someone I know is doing QA, even if it is made in China, rather than an ultra generic item from China.

The chinese companies will usually bend over backwards to satisfy you, though. They will happily ship you another product if yours shouldn't have passed QA, or refund you, or both. They know how important reviews are and act accordingly.

I'd rather buy a thing from a local company even though I recognize that same product from Aliexpress for the simple reason: if there's something wrong, it's easier to deal with locals. If there's something very wrong, it's easier to sue the locals. That's about the extent to which I trust small retailers. I don't trust their QA, not a little bit.

How is this different than cheap, low quality material already sold at Walmart and similar establishments (or even Amazon marketplace) at a first world markup?

You can have a lot of garbage come from Aliexpress and still come out ahead.

Actually Walmart's material isn't nearly as low quality you might think. When I'm in Asia, I struggle to find equivalent clothing/shoes for as cheap as Walmart. Walmart's purchasing power ensures the lowest prices for America, it's actually more expensive in Asia.

I found the opposite -- textiles are much cheaper in Asia. It's only the "imported" brands that are more expensive.

Haha, yes. In China, ironically, Walmart became a kind of an upscale establishment.

> Haha, yes. In China, ironically, Walmart became a kind of an upscale establishment.

It's interesting to see how brands are positioned differently in different markets. IIRC, Stella Artois is the PBR of the UK, but without the hipster cool, while it's relatively premium in the US.

I wouldn’t go that far. Maybe more upscale than WuMart, but not as upscale as even carrefour.

Maybe the equivalent of target in the US?

Walmart does do quality control. I'm not sure how much, but at the very least if your project has too many returns they won't let you sell anymore.

Within the western markets Walmart might be kinda crappy, but it is crappy... within it's own quality standards.

Other places, Walmart might be pretty good.

Everything is fine if you expect garbage. If you don’t expect garbage, you will be disappointed.

Depends on the goods and the product. If I care about quality at all (and apparently, I care a lot about quality...), I avoid Amazon.

I've bought counterfeit books from Amazon where the text bleeds due to poor inks. As well as low-quality paper from "international edition" textbooks instead of the high-quality paper I'm used to. Worse yet: a counterfeit copy likely is "pirated goods", where the Publisher / author don't get the money. (The main point of buying books is to support the author, more so than perhaps the text itself). It was fine when I was a student and needed to save money, but my personal library has no use for bleeding books printed on poor quality paper. I only have two bookshelves (for books) in my house, I don't have enough room to keep all the low-quality books.

Branded goods are often slightly miscategorized or mislabled on Amazon. I'm talking 2300mAh Energizer AA vs 2400 mAh Energizer AA. In these cases, I was trying to match up battery packs for electronics, where its very important to get matching NiMHs, but the Amazon Marketplace merged the two battery types ("close enough" isn't good enough for me). I now buy my electronics products from Adafruit / Digikey, two stores which understand the importance of documentation and precise SKUs. Commodity AA NiMHs I buy from Home Depot, which have been properly labeled in my experience.

Finally, Walmart prices are actually pretty fine, and sometimes beat Amazon's. A good example this past month was when I bought a Cast-iron skillet.

* https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lodge-Logic-Seasoned-Cast-Iron-12...

* https://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Skillet-Pre-Seasoned-Skillet-Si...

I made sure to shop around for the lowest price, and lo-and-behold, Walmart was cheaper.

> You can have a lot of garbage come from Aliexpress and still come out ahead

Do you trust the preseasoning of a Cast Iron skillet to a cheap no-name company? I guess if you're planning to strip the cast iron skillet of its seasoning and you're going to oil it up with Flax Seed oil yourself... its hard to get the "Cast Iron" part wrong. Its the pre-seasoning process that you're buying in this case.

Lodge's pre-seasoning isn't the best, but its type and quality is well listed and documented: Soybean Oil (http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-and-care/what-is-seasoning) . That's good enough for most people, and its probably too much of a bother for most people to find higher-quality oils and season the pans themselves.

Buying the brand-name has benefits. Final bonus points: Lodge Cast-iron is still made 100% in America, for those who care about that little detail. But the brand name trust is a benefit.

There's lots of people who review and discuss Lodge's choice of pre-seasoning, so its a well known constant. Buying no-name brands on Alibaba is a risk: you pretty much have to do quality-control yourself.

Perhaps I'm obsessing too much over the quality of a $20 pan. But frankly, if I can't trust the pan's quality in my kitchen, its complete garbage to me. I have enough cheap pans in my kitchen, I'm spending more time throwing out broken kitchen appliances than buying new stuff.

I mean, sure, I could risk it with maybe a $5 or $10 pan from Alibaba instead. But why should I even risk it? Lodge has high enough quality, is highly reviewed in cast-iron enthusiast online discussion, and is widely available.

> Do you trust the preseasoning of a Cast Iron skillet to a cheap no-name company? I guess if you're planning to strip the cast iron skillet of its seasoning and you're going to oil it up with Flax Seed oil yourself... its hard to get the "Cast Iron" part wrong. Its the pre-seasoning process that you're buying in this case.

It's worse than that. With random chinese jank, you don't know if that "cast iron" pan didn't include pot metals. I heard that lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals were "tasty". Because they, like iron, leech into the food. Fortunately, the amount of iron that leeches out is diet-wise necessary... Whereas lead - not so much.

I wouldn't risk a free "cast iron" pan from anywhere China. Or India. Or the South Pacific countries. There's too much at stake(steak) to ingest in things that have little to no: QA, testing, laws, quality standards. Not worth it.

Hmmm... perhaps for "Enameled Cast Iron", where the coating is ceramic, you have a point.

But pure cast iron is just that: Iron. Iron isn't "pure", it will have varying carbon content and other metals. But these metals (and other materials) all have far higher melting points than Lead, so Cast Iron itself is probably lead free (otherwise: the metallurgy process probably would fail if you didn't purify the Iron Ore enough before casting it)

The simplicity of the design and manufacturing is one of the reasons people buy pure, classic cast iron skillets. There are strong guarantees built innately to the casting process. The iron doesn't need to be particularly high quality either for the pan to work.

Higher-quality metals (ex: Steel) are somewhat against the point of cast iron. Steel pans are smaller and thinner, but the point of a cast-iron skillet is the huge weight which slows down the cooking process. A cast-iron skillet is slow to heat and slow to cool down, because its made of super-heavy iron. Aluminum or Copper Frying pans have a similar issue: they are so lightweight that they won't make the same kind of sear as a classic cast-iron pot.


But I think you have a point about lead-worries in Ceramic-enamel Cast Iron products like: https://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Enameled-Classic-Enamel-Island/...

The paints and ceramic composition are far more ambiguous and subject to quality-control issues. Lead used to be very common in a variety of paints

Lead tastes sweet, FWIW, and the Romans apparently used use it as a sweetener.[1]

Though typically one would use a cast iron pan for savory items more than sweet ones, so I have my doubts about intentionally adding lead.

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/sugar-of-lead-a-...

Why don't the Chinese simply add QA to the process if this increases the profit? Surely it can't be the most difficult or expensive part of the production process ...

Also, there are only so many ways you can put a bikini together. The Chinese should have learned this by now. Or they can simply hire an Italian fashion student for a small price.

> Why don't the Chinese simply add QA to the process if this increases the profit? Surely it can't be the most difficult or expensive part of the production process ...

I've been working in OEM manufacturing for 12 years, with short brakes for college and freelancing stints.

Answer to that: quite a few do, but it is very hard for higher quality Chinese goods to reach Western markets. It is that entire global trade mechanism that was built on trading nothing, but "cheapest shit" that is working against them.

Often, it is the original Western OEM client that insists on bargaining to the last cent, taking cost cutting down to such silly things like thickness of plastic parts, paint quality or borderline electronic component rating.

In worst cases, the appallingly low quality of a product may even be an intentional design decision by the buyer:

When I was an exchange student in Singapore in 2010, I worked in a trade company. One of our clients was another sourcing company that allegedly worked for Amazon.

So, those guys come to our office to check what power supplies we have for them. They pick apart our samples saying things along lines:

"Sample A has too high spec parts, they don't need to last that long. Plastic on sample B is unnecessarily thick. Sample C has non-essential stress reliever on the cable and the cable itself is way too thick..."

Why would a Chinese company try selling quality stuff to the West if no sourcing agency employed by American MNCs will pick them up? There is no incentive for that.

> What people in the West miss is that the appallingly low quality of some items is an intentional design decision by the original Western OEM buyer, or a direct consequence of them bargaining to the last cent.

A western OEM can overpay and still get bad quality. Unless you are willing to send your own QA people over there, you aren't going to get the quality you want. Anyone who successfully outsources in China is very hands on about it.

> "Sample A has too high spec parts, they don't need to last that long. Plastic on sample B is unnecessarily thick. Sample C has non-essential stress reliever on the cable and the cable itself is too thick..."

That's also true, but in this case they are at least working with their customers on costs, not promising something for a price they can't deliver on and silently cutting corners later on to make up their margins.

> Anyone who successfully outsources in China is very hands on about it.

> send your own QA

Rarely... what American big co. managers understand under "sending your own QA" is usually something like:

1. Hiring a lawyer "doing" that

2. Lawyer company hiring a manufacturing auditing company

3. Auditor company hiring an inspection and certification expert

4. That expert company finally hiring a professional services company which sends an underpaid engineer temp to finally visit the company and do a 5 minute check.

It sounds absurd, but I've seen that way too often, few times with things happening in this exact sequence.

Being hands on about that is the key. It is not rocket science, but so few are doing that... almost like if C-levels of American companies get some kind of "yuck factor" dealing with Chinese.

Those guys have it almost as an unconscious impulse to hide behind a wall of 10 legal counsels and other agents whenever anything involving China has to be done. Before coming to the West, I could not have imagined that it is even possible to hire an attorney for doing something like that.

True. Tim Cook got the CEO position at Apple in part because of his many many hands on trips to China.

Because the Chinese companies don't have the brand recognition. Most consumers would see a Chinese name and think "low-quality knock-off" and unable to distinguish a Chinese company trying to compete on quality versus one competing on price.

But some Chinese companies do have QA, brand recognition, and low prices. Like Xiaomi. Or Anker.

And it's working well for them.

But why doesn't it exist in many product categories ? Why it's so hard to find a list of similar Chinese brands for different product categories ?

Probably because nobody got to them yet. Or because they haven't determined where the "sweet spot" is between quality and prices... yet.

I observed a progression going like this in my hobby (firearms and accessories):

1. No Chinese goods. Expensive US and European brands dominate the market.

2. Chinese goods enter by extending their airsoft product lines, and quickly dominate the "cheap junk" market. But there's a huge gap in both price and quality between them and older brands. Older brands still retain a large part of the market, because the quality of that new stuff below "good enough" in most cases.

3. Small companies that don't have an established brand name and compete on prices start outsourcing to China and offering products at "made-in-China, QC'd-in-USA" prices, with warranty, tech support etc. The prices are now about 1/3 of established brands, unlike the junk before that was at 1/20. This creates a whole new market segment, which takes away a lot of customers from those brands, because it's past the "good enough" bar.

4. Large companies jump on the bandwagon to compete. You start seeing essentially the same design with minor cosmetic changes being rebranded and sold by various companies. Because this is fairly obvious in the age of the Internet, the value of the brands diminishes.

5. Chinese suppliers find their way to the American market, and start selling the same stuff directly, offering comparable warranties and customer support, but at even lower prices. New brands get established in this manner (e.g. Holosun).

6. Chinese brands start targeting the high-end market, and adding exclusive features for their own products, that are not available in generic product lines intended for rebranding (at least, not until sometime later).

The industry was around #1 up until mid-2000s or so, and it just got to #6 about a year ago. Anything that's not made in China is squeezed into narrower and narrower niche at the top of the market. Holosun got to the point where they are making $1K+ electronics that is competing against $2K+ equivalents by established brands - in other words, they're already contesting for the part of the market way above where most customers are.

Slapping a random name on a cheap product from the Yiwu market[1] is far quicker and easier than building a brand. There are a lot of Chinese middlemen who have the skills to ship boxes profitably, but don't yet have the skills to establish a brand name in the Western market. Dollar stores and big-box retailers are full of cheap no-name products of indifferent quality, because there's a sustained market demand for literally the cheapest option.

Chinese manufacturers and retailers are moving up the value chain as fast as they can, but it's not an overnight process and no-brand goods aren't going away.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDd10-poMm8

Because not all Chinese companies are the same? Some are selling non-brand or fake-brand on Amazon or Taobao, they might just be some factory in rural Guangdong or Zhejiang somewhere, not even a company. Some are actually trying to build a brand and are even controlling retail to avoid the hassles of middle men (Xiaomi).

My impression is that it is often a series of random companies. A "factory" doing some part, or assembly, might not be larger than a class room. These days you can pretty much just search for something like "tablet factory shenzhen" and see how it is [0]. Of course then there will be larger ones like Strange Parts visits [1], and sketchier ones [2]. And then on top of that will be all kinds of companies doing design, distribution, sales and whatnot.

[0] e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfyAjkPIYyc [1] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO8DQrSp5yEP937qNqTooOw [2] e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZh7VfxBmcw

For some reason many of them don't have much presence outside of China. (It is obviously not very hard to find Chinese branded products in China). Maybe the overhead or the cultural gap is just too big at the moment. I will however be interesting if they start selling internationally at scale.

Because retailers do the evaluation for you. We just bought a bunch of scissors and snippers. One of them sells well and some of them look OK and might wind up selling.

One packet from a factory came with each product individually wrapped in aluminum foil like a child did it (and probably did) and each product was still coated in a sheen of gross machine grease. That was the worst out of a round of Alibaba buying of maybe 20 SKUs.

There's also a big world out there and the discount that comes from buying products of poor quality is more appealing than the quality itself. There are, in fact, many ways to make a bikini.

Lots of Chinese go to Italy to grab clothes that are taken back to be cloned. You don’t just do a design, you want to copy designs that are successful and already heavily marketed.

As for QA, if they aren’t trying to build a brand with repeat buyers, QA is simply overhead. Even if they are, they might not have the foresight or management experience to implement QA correctly. The lack of merit-based management talent is a huge problem.

> many companies that outsource to China have very strict QA

I do not doubt this for a second.

OTOH, recently we've even seen quality on Apple's Mac products deteriorate noticeably. Assuming Apple is extremely good at this strict QA, I wonder if some sort of China manufacturing sea-change has occurred.

Has Apple's assembly quality declined? Feels more like design issues to me (e.g. keyboard, flexgate, overheating).

maybe that's a better question to ask. IDK. Apple's recent quality problems may involve problematic design more than fabrication/assembly/manufacturing. could be, I guess.

My girlfriend bought a dress off Amazon that was shipped direct from a Chinese vendor. It took a week to get there even though it was advertised as Prime. And she had to pay the $70.00 to ship it back when she returned it. And when it arrived at the address on the seller's pre-supplied shipping label, it then bounced and spent 2 months slowly making its way back to her because the seller was no longer at that location.

And thats when you use a heavy hand with scammyzon.

First, you proclaim loudly the minute PRIME failed.

Second, you reject the shipment on that you needed it within that time quote.

Third, you initiate "did not receive".

Fourth if Scammyzon balks, chargeback.

> why can you not buy direct from China?

Before somebody can buy something directly from China, the person have to know what they can buy... You know, entire business empires were built entirely on knowing what and where to buy.

I see a lot of talk in this thread about how Amazon's UI makes it hard to filter the good stuff from the bad stuff. But I haven't seen anyone suggest making a redirection website which does this filtering for a customer. Is there any reason one of you web slingers (not my gig) couldn't build a better site where all the links are Amazon affiliate links, thus using the entirety of Amazon as your backend?

Then, you would have a better website for Amazon than Amazon does. People would use it. Sure, Amazon would totally absorb you once you got big enough, but that doesn't sound like the worst problem for a millionaire to have. And it would fix the problem.

Amazon has very specific rules about affiliate links. You have to be providing what they consider a significant amount of content unrelated to the link. The site you just pitched sadly wouldn't qualify.

Two real examples:

If you have a site where you show a graph of all the IMDB ratings for a TV series, that isn't enough added value and they will ask you to remove the links.

If you have a site where you post the reading-orders for various short series with short introductions, that is enough value.

I've been thinking much the same thing, both to make search far better, filtering vendors & brands, etc. But I suspect that Amazon would not long allow the consistent access to their data sets this would require.

It seems that it'd be to Amazon's benefit to provide an API (perhaps they do, I haven't really searched, just haven't yet noticed one available) and see what data gets pulled related to sales...

Poison toothpaste and pet treats from China have been ongoing problems for the last decade:



I'm not sure getting a cheap price/good deal is worth the risk (even for clothing) as the materials may be dangerous to your health.

A good rule of thumb I use is: if it uses electricity or goes in someone’s body, don’t buy it from Amazon.

I just bought this for my cat:


I just bought one from Monster Pets and confirmed it was US based company: https://www.monsterpetsonline.com/2605-2/

Am I wrong in assuming this is not from China?

Rife Chinese product forgery is the greatest cause of my reticence to trust most any Amazon product. Second to that is wariness over resold return items which are not disclosed as such. I'm not much liking my shopping experience there lately.

And a significant portion of those 40% are spamming all of their competitors with fake negative reviews and/or false infringement claims to get their listings buried or removed. Both of those tactics are surprisingly effective and you can find many stories of people's businesses being ruined (or held ransom) by them.

Fulfillment by Amazon was a decent idea, but it's time for it to go the same way as the Dash button and Amazon pop-up stores.

I'm not surprised that this has happened. As soon as I started seeing ads for people selling courses on how to list cheaply imported things from China in your spare time to make 'passive' income, it probably was easy enough for factories/businesses in China to do it directly.

Amazon is a lazy man's AliExpress in 2019.

Amazon used to be my go to for the occasional hardware purchase, but now even searching for something simple such as "wireless keyboard" brings up a boatload of sponsored garbage with shady reviews (iClever, VicTsing, Qpao, Mpow, Topelek what the hell are these brands?)

Same here. I get really stressed when I see the same thing under 29 different names with different prices.

It used to be that I would pop open Amazon any time I want to buy anything. Now I have to actively search for my options since Amazon is no longer my go-to option. It's unfortunate but Amazon has made it clear they care about their merchant dropshippers over keeping a measly customer like me.

> what the hell are these brands?

This is what 1-man-brands are. I myself used to run a sunglasses brand in my student years :)

Most are just dropshippers, or people working out of home.

Recipe was simple: order cheapest 1 dollar sunglasses on Alibaba, have them put into fancy packaging and silkscreened with something Italian sounding. Then you make up a generic website with stock photos for your "brand"

I was surprised with the amount of people keen to buy $100 to $200 sunglasses with nothing more than an Italian sounding brand name.

Does this still work ?

Yes :D

Don't know about the keyboards but Mpow earphones are not that bad.

I won't use Ali Express because it requires invasive "identity verification." I have visions of whatever documentation they get ending up in some Chinese government intelligence database.

is this a new requirement? i've never had to verify identity to order from the united states.

I'm not sure if it's a requirement or something they use algorithms to select certain new accounts for.

AliExpress is a lazy man's Taobao.

> AliExpress is a lazy man's Taobao.

Don't you need a mainland bank card and phone number to use Taobao, and also know Chinese?

don't need either of those. shipping isn't even a problem now with taobao direct - taobao themselves will cover shipping to one of their warehouses, and then you can batch those to ship internationally.

once you get used to the format, you should be able to order things without knowing chinese; it's pretty consistent. helps to know the language for things like reviews, product descriptions, etc. though.

You can definitely settle via international credit cards (~5% fee = ~3% card settlement fee + ~2% currency exchange hit). Regarding language, online translation tools are adequate. Regarding shipping, I believe there are reshipment providers that you can batch purchases with, which means you can use all vendors (not just the ones who agree to ship internationally).

You can register on Taobao from overseas without any problem, few vendors ship overseas though, but the number is far from zero.

I find aliexpress very inconvenient and prices are not really much better than amazon or eBay.

My $0.99 pack of six combs that took 5 weeks to ship disagree with pricing being not really much better. Convenience.. the time it takes to ship is the only major deciding factor in my online purchases vs in-store purchases now. Do I need a comb tomorrow? No? How about in a week? No? Great, AliExpress.

Strangely Office Depot is sending out emails promoting AliExpress. Strange that a large company would undercut themselves.

Perhaps explained by this:

Office Depot and Alibaba team up to tap small and medium businesses

Office Depot on Monday teamed up with Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd to launch a co-branded e-commerce website, seeking to tap into the opportunities of selling to small and medium businesses in the United States.

While the Chinese e-commerce giant has inked deals with U.S. companies including Kroger Co to sell products in China through its online marketplace Tmall.com, the deal with Office Depot marks Alibaba.com’s first business-to-business collaboration with a major U.S. company.

The partnership would give Alibaba access to Office Depot’s 10 million customers and 1,800 sales agents.

Alibaba would also be able to take advantage of Office Depot’s distribution network that offers next day delivery in the United States, the companies said in a joint statement.

Office Depot’s customers will also get access to Alibaba’s global network of over 150,000 suppliers to find more product options or a reputed manufacturer to produce their goods.

For instance, a cutlery maker with a special design can find a factory to make it, which can be sold to restaurants or retailers across the world using Alibaba.com platform, John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group, said in an interview with Reuters.


As bad as Amazon is, it's far from the minefield that is AE

So, in the first week of April, I was browsing Amazon for a small bike part. I bought one for 1.99 EUR, no shipping costs. 1 day later I get an email that my article is now in transit via China Post, and I will receive it in 5-6 weeks.

How can they possibly make money selling bike parts for 1.99 EUR from China?

There is some postal agreement between countries which makes it possible to deliver packages at a very low cost from China.

But the US wants to end this: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/10/trump...

First, China is still a relatively cheap country

Second, developed countries offer China subsidies as an undeveloped country on postage rates. Postage stamp for international mail is in between 50 to 90 cents. Prepaid envelopes go for 1 to 2 USD.

Third, E-commerce companies are eligible for Chinese own postal subsidies on top of that, and they get some volume discounts. Subsidised price for prepaid envelopes was around 40 cents last time I checked, so it is probably closing on 20 cents in wholesale volumes.

Fourth, China still has a lot of people in abject poverty. You may be surprised, but a lot of these 1 dollar goods sellers are working out of small towns or villages. For them, earning even 10 dollars a day selling abroad may look more attractive than trying to sell to Chinese domestic market where they have no chances.

Edit: they actually got a website in English http://english.chinapost.com.cn/html1/report/1208/204-1.htm

Interestingly, even small air parcels that are not considered postal correspondence get crazy low rates http://english.chinapost.com.cn/html1/report/1208/188-1.htm

Aside from what everybody else mentioned about the worldwide postal treaties (which strongly favor developing nations, including China) this could be done profitably. It all comes down to profit margin per pound or volume. If it's coming by sea, and with a 5 week delivery - I'd assume it would be, you are really only restrained by volume. Cargo ships can carry hundreds of thousands of tons so volume is often the bottleneck. As for volume, they're packed with 20x8x8 foot shipping containers - that's 1,360 cubic feet. And a cargo ship can hold thousands of these containers, the biggest cargo ships can hold tens of thousands of them.

And the operating costs for these ships are not huge. You're looking at a ballpark of a million bucks. Convert that into $/cubic foot and you can see the point. They can make a very near $0 profit per foot, and still show substantial profit. So cheers for economies of scale! If you ever get a chance to see one of these ships in real life, I'd strongly recommend it. These words and numbers mean nothing compared to actually seeing one of these monsters.

I find a great irony that Amazon decided to wrap up in China's domestic market.

I believe Jeff Bezos simply failed to comprehend the market.

Amazon in China was actually beginning to do quite well in the last year when they found their niche in second tier cities.

Second tier city may not sound appetising, but you have to keep in mind that even second tier cities in China have more buyers than entire USA.

> Amazon in China was actually beginning to do quite well in the last year when they found their niche in second tier cities.

Maybe they got caught up in the stupid VC mindset that unless you're the dominant player with exponential growth, you've failed.

FWIW, I wouldn't really question Amazon's judgement here just because of a comment on HN. Amazon has vastly more information about how their business was performing than anybody outside of the company. And they have management that has a track record of being able to run a business very competently. They probably had very good reasons for exiting China.

> Amazon has vastly more information about how their business was performing than anybody outside of the company.

You can literally say the exact same thing about VCs that treat anything short of market dominance with exponential growth as failure.

It's not a question or more/less information. People with the same extensive information can make vastly different decisions based on having different values and priorities. The person with the most information doesn't necessarily make the best decisions.

While I generally agree that incompetence explains a lot of decisions and, more specifically, the need for exponential returns explains a lot of VC decision making, we’re talking about Amazon here. They’re one of the most long term oriented companies in the world. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Jeff Bezos spent tons of his own money to build a clock that is designed to work continuously for 10,000 years. And Amazon’s trajectory has been an abject lesson in long term thinking.

> While I generally agree that incompetence explains a lot of decisions

I'm not talking about incompetence at all.

> They’re one of the most long term oriented companies in the world.

That still doesn't change anything. More information or a very long term focus isn't going to make someone see that being a successful #2 or #3 player in a market isn't a failure.

What I'm saying is that an extremely competent company decided that an opportunity wasn't worth pursuing. Are you seriously arguing that you have better insight into how Amazon should run their business than they do? Despite the fact that you have no information about what their prospects were other than whatever tiny morsels were publicly known? Has it occurred to you that there is non-public information that is informing their decision?

> They probably had very good reasons for exiting China.

My guess would be her government stipulating 'joint venture or leave'.

Maybe they pulled out because they did comprehend the fact that if they succeeded, the Chinese government would stomp them down anyway.

I don't understand why the US puts up with this while largely being denied market access to China. In my mind, it would be more symetrical to have applied tariffs to brands that aren't incorporated and substantially operating in the US and are imported into the US from China. This would help American businesses by having American consumers buy quality items from US companies, even if a substantial portion of the product was built in China.

There are many examples where American brands gained or dominated in market share in China. GM sells more cars in China than in US for example.

Paywalled so can't read the whole thing.

In general, my understanding is that it is NOT exactly what happened. We are putting tariffs on ALL IMPORTS from China, whether designed, maintained, operated by a US corp or a Chinese corp.

A better policy would have recognized that there is a distinct difference between Chinese and US corps looking to sell into the US market.

The simplest example would be anything internet connected product with software. If the design, software, marketing etc. is all largely in the US and just the physical product is manufactured in China, it seems like a reasonable economic policy to say that China can keep the manufacturing business and the US corps can continue to do this - largely because it acknowledges the reality that US manufacturing for high volume/low mix is simply not going to be competitive and if it is, it will only be due to automation.

Leaving the manufacturing in place but blocking Chinese market access would impart substantial hardship to Chinese companies who are able to ignore US Trademark, IP, deceitful advertising/low quality (read other threads on this HN post), all the while largely not interrupting US businesses.

It would have provided needed leverage while avoiding doing damage to US business and consumers.

"Give us a 5 star review, email us, then get a free battery pack" - a note in the parcel from one particular top seller from China. How is this allowed?

I recommend Episode #857 of Planet Money, which talks about how postal rates are set by the UPU, and the impact on e-commerce.


Transcript: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?stor...

I think that they might be making wrong conclusions. For example, they say that USPS is losing 80 millions dollars on delivery from abroad. But USPS is delivering letters and goods to Americans, so you should also count how much they save on getting cheaper goods, how much they save because prices lower due to competition, and maybe the total balance would be in favour of Americans.

Also, they mention that the last mile delivery is expensive, but often goods are delivered only to the post office, not to the customer's door so the expenses are not that high.

This is not all to postal rate. Even parcels not subject to UPU subsidies go at relatively low rate in China.

Amazon should make it easier to filter away things with long shipping.. Looking for motorbike parts that i prefer shipped from Germany (to the Netherlands) i sometime go through 20-30 products before i find a local seller. I didn't used to do this and in 80% of the cases delivery of 2 months, with some 20% shipped within days. Amazon is terrible on tracking the objects too. After waiting for 2 months, the day come when stuff is suppose to arrive, only to wait another day and find out it was not even shipped yet.

To play devil's advocate: why? Unless it's fraud, those Chinese sellers aren't violating any laws that are relevant to Amazon, and it makes them tons of money, so why would they change something that doesn't make them run afoul of the law? Because "to improve customer experience" is only a valid reason of that comes with increased revenue, and it sounds like your suggestion wouldn't.

Also worth reading into "Universal Postal Union", an agency within the United Nations that is responsible for managing postal service policies for its member countries.

"Under the current UPU’s treaty, China and other countries deemed a 'developing nation' receive a lower rate for packages shipped to the U.S. via the United States Postal Service."

That's why it is convenient to get $3 iPhone case from Chinese/Asian country seller at $0 shipping cost. Gotta love the loop holes, eh?

This will make little difference. Large number of Chinese sellers already participate in Amazon Prime to get the SEO boost. Shipping through containers to Amazon warehouses is massively inexpensive compared to shipping via US post even if it was subsidized. Only small inexperienced sellers just starting out and tasting waters use US post.

Trump plans to withdraw the US from the UPU unless they fix that [1].

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-made-the-right...

Is that so different from Walmart? Perhaps not "Merchants" but the country of origin of the products.

15 years ago we were watching reports on the Walmartization of america, and one key line from the Frontline documentary (I think) was that Walmart basically taught China how to sell to America.

Walmart buys a surprising number of US sourced things for a bunch of reasons that are well outside the scope of this comment and basically have to do with the difference between a business that chooses what to sell and buys things by the box car and stocks them on shelves vs a business that basically proxies consumers to many small sellers and also operates a bunch of warehouses.

Walmart has QA, where they actually test and source products, ensuring quality and legal compliance. Buying direct from China runs the risk of toxic paints, metals, and that sort of thing.

There was a HN article yesterday about Washington State suing Amazon for selling toxic toys. That's why you don't buy direct.

IMO, not different at all. The retailer/distributor model is going away for lots of consumer goods, it's simply not as efficient as selling direct to consumers.

The world has come full circle. You used to buy your candles from the candlestick maker. Then you bought them at the department store. Now you buy them on the internet directly from the candlestick maker.

The title and conclusions of the article are not backed by the data presented in the article.

According to the data presented by the article, Chinese sellers have ~40% market share.

It is possible (and likely) that these sellers represent a long tail of small operations, and therefore << 40% of the top sellers are based in China.

Something I've found frustrating as of late is when a merchant isn't transparent about as much.

Case in point, I ordered an urgently needed textbook off Amazon and was disappointed to learn that the package ended up delayed at customs for numerous weeks. I felt somewhat violated.

i do wish that was move obvious (like eBay), or there was a way to automatically exclude results from abroad by default on all searches. bonus points for allowing me to specify some countries (like Japan) or exclude others. it wouldn't even impact Amazon's bottom line that much, as most people would never turn it on if it's opt-in

What's an online store that doesn't allow chinese knock off today? Amazon used to be good, a stamp of "This is quality" but now it's a numbers game and the quality is a dice roll.

Newegg is okay for computer parts. The various online outdoor equipment stores aren't flooded with knockoffs. And you can always go to the manufacturer.

Amazon is still fine if you're looking for a name-brand item, but as soon as you leave that path, who knows what you'll get? Don't take my word for it, but I even remember reading about their "Fulfilled by Amazon" program substituting items from different sellers with the same SKU. The result was predictable: people scammed the system by mis-labeling cheap knockoffs.

Now that Amazon makes so much money off AWS, maybe they could use a bit of it to put third party sellers in their own "Wild West" tab, and taking a bit of responsibility for what they sell.

The last time I ordered from NewEgg, five different items came from five different vendors, one sent me a cat 5 network cable instead of the keyboard I ordered (the address indicated the source was only 400 miles away in southern California so can't blame China for this one oddly.) NewEgg is now no different from Amazon with third party sellers. I just drive to Fry's now or if I'm willing to take chance, eBay.

Amazon is polluted with knock-offs. It's often a hit or miss when ordering cheap electronics

40% of top sellers because every item is sold under a hundred different made-up brand names to pad the search results. No one of them pulls in many suckers (the products sold this way are consistently crap) but they do add up.

Amazon is essentially AliExpress with a 50-500% markup. Especially if you live in a country nearly nobody delivers to. Like Switzerland.

This is how things work. Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc... they are all just the local landing pad for the global container shipping system, which statistically originates in china.

they aren’t. they add value by doing QA, stocking inventory, having a reputation to uphold (taking returns, etc), handling recalls, and so on.

China's manufacturing dominance is the ultimate Trojan horse.

Figures for aliexpress are even more shocking.

To what extent are Americans even allowed to sell anything in China?

In addition to the 25% levied on the $200 billion in Chinese imports, today:


President Donald Trump says his administration is beginning the process to impose 25% tariffs on another $325 billion in Chinese imports, covering everything China sells the United States.

This will definitely have an effect on Amazon FBA sellers eventually, as foreign factories continue to move out of China until...they're all gone. Then the Chinese factories will try to flood Amazon with goods...until Trump focuses on Amazon, after he tariffs all of Chinese's goods.

If the reports about them basically extorting U.S. companies into giving away technology are true, coupled with the outright theft of technology then we can't put enough tariffs on them until they start playing by the rules.

I only wish a smarter guy was doing this. We could've used our allies to also slap tarrifs on them as well. The top export markets for China are the US, Japan, Germany, South Korea. A pretty good list of strong U.S. allies. We could've crippled them with a steadier hand.

I'm surprise. I was expecting a higher percentage.

Walmart is a town killer, Amazon is an economy killer

That does explain all the fakes.

Does a single DB query qualify as research?

Is it possible that the tariffs are an attack on Amazon (Bezos) who Trump doesn't like?

No, tariffs are waived on packages <$800 so Chinese merchants can skate by while US importers are penalized.

Packages whose declared value is under $800... will generally be cleared without any additional paperwork prepared by CBP.


Well, it will play against people who resell from inland, and towards dropshippers from abroad.

This is absolutely gutting the American small-business retail sector and the jobs that sector supports. I'm not 100% confident what the solution should be, but these types of stories really underscore how tech is enabling accellerated job displacement in America, and the need for new solutions, perhaps like Andrew Yang's UBI proposal.

The point stands.

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