How to Buy Beads from China on eBay
As any experienced beader will tell you, this hobby can get very expensive very quickly. It's nothing to be able to go through hundreds of dollars for supplies very fast, especially if you are buying from bead boutiques or other retailers.
Some beading fanatics are turning to eBay as an alternative to pricey beads. After all, if we pay more for supplies, we will have to charge more for the finished products, and everyone wants to keep their costs down.
Buying anything from eBay can come with a risk but, fortunately, eBay does have its buyer's backs. The Chinese, especially, have access to huge quantities and diverse styles of glass beads, sterling silver and other jewelry supplies. But, buying beads from China presents special difficulties.
First, there is a language barrier. I am in no way hating on the folks in China, but I do find it funny to get things like "we promise you happy time" in my eBay messages, in relation to the beads I've ordered.
There are other things you should consider before ponying up big money for beads from China. Here are my experiences. I'm sharing them so that others won't make the same mistakes I did.
Advice For Buying Beads From China On eBay
With a little bit of knowledge, buying beads form China can be a great thing. One reason why I do this is because I can't get the deals from US sellers that I can from China. You may be thinking "BUY AMERICAN!" Well, to be honest, when I buy these beads from Americans, I'm buying the exact same thing at often four or five times the price I pay when I buy from China. The American sellers are buying from China wholesale and selling at retail prices. Trust me, I've done this long enough to know the difference.
If you're just getting started, I have a few tips for buying beads from China that will make the process a lot easier for you.
- Seller Feedback - You should always check this before making any eBay purchase, because it will give you detailed information about the seller's previous transactions. Is all of their feedback good? Have other buyers had problems with this seller? What you especially need to look for are issues with shipping times or products that have never arrived at their destinations and any issues that buyers have had with returns or refunds. I'm sure there are some issues with shipping and customs - my best friend received something she had bought from a Chinese eBay seller literally months after the fact. If the seller has multiple bad feedback scores though, keep away. Don't just go by their percentage of good and bad feedback. If a seller has hundreds of thousands of transactions, a 98% feedback score indicates that they have had hundreds of bad scores. Always check the details.
- New Sellers - If a seller has very little feedback or their profile shows that they are new yet they have hundreds of items for sale, my advice is to skip them and find another seller. Some sellers do get banned, and all they do is set up another account and continue on with business as usual. There are plenty of sellers out there - check to see if another has what you want. If it's something you can't live without, buy one just to test the waters with the seller.
- New To You Sellers - If you're just starting out buying beads on eBay, then every seller is new to you. I have found though, that I have a specific group of folks that I will buy from when I'm in a bead buying mood. If you've checked this new-to-you seller's feedback and everything looks good, then make a small purchase to see what happens with the transaction. I would advise against buying multiple items from these folks until you know that they are trustworthy and your dealings with them have been successful. It can be a headache to get refunds from or have multiple returns for the same seller for several items.
- Know Your Amounts - This will definitely get you in trouble at least once. Know your sizes, to start with. Know that a 2mm bead is tiny and a 60mm bead is huge. Also, check the listing to see how many pieces you will be getting. Many sellers list bead strands, which are strings with a bunch of beads on them - usually they're about fifteen inches in length, but the auction may specify different. A fifteen inch strand of 4mm beads will be around 95 beads, but a 40mm bead strand measuring fifteen inches will give you only about ten. Some auctions are for a specific number of pieces, so be aware of how many you are buying.
- Authenticity - This is another sticky area. I don't always assume that the seller is trying to get one over on me but, if a strand of beads is advertised as, say, agate, and it's going for $0.10, it's likely either very bad quality agate or not agate at all. You know the old saying about how "if it's too good to be true," right? If I like the "agate" beads, I may still buy them, but I will not usually advertise the finished product as having genuine agate should I decide to sell it. This can get you in hot water with your customers and could cost you future sales.
- Shipping Time - Be aware that buying from another country often increases shipping time dramatically. What could take three days to ship to me in New York from California could take a full month to come from China. Prepare to be patient should you decide to buy beads from China.
- Photo Accuracy - Any good seller uses their best quality images for their auctions, and this is true of bead sellers as well. There are issues, however, especially with sellers who offer multiple listings of the same product. They will use one stock photo, so what you receive could be different from the photo on the auction. One of the best ways to check this is to view the seller's other auctions and, if you see the same photo used over and over again, you know that it is a "representative" photo. Some sellers will include a disclaimer in their listing that what you will receive may be similar but not exactly like the photo. Just be aware that what you receive could differ from what you think you're getting.
Problems With Buying Beads From China On eBay
It is very possible to have a problem with anything you buy online, or even in a brick and mortar store. But, when buying from a whole other country, the likelihood of having an issue does increase. I'm not trying to scare you away from buying beading items from China, I have had some exceptionally good experiences with some of the sellers. But bad things do happen. What follows are my bad experiences with Chinese bead sellers, just so you can have a heads-up in case these things happen to you.
- Items Not Received - This will happen, unfortunately. This is the fourth time I've taken up beading in the last fifteen years and I started buying from China a couple of months ago. I have already had four items that did not arrive by the delivery estimate. There are a couple of ways you can handle this. You can ask the seller to resend the item, or you can ask for a refund.
- Resending Items - Should you choose to have the seller resend the item, be aware that you only have 45 days from the original date of purchase to file a claim with eBay for non-receipt of your goods to obtain a refund. If it's already taken three weeks, then you only have a couple more before your refund window closes.
- Refunds - This can get sticky, too. I have had sellers readily give me refunds and I've had them argue and fuss and beg me not to leave them bad feedback. As long as you are within your 45 days from the purchase date, eBay will help you recover the money from the seller. I have had the product come in after the refund has been credited to my account, and I am honest about it. I did send the money back to the seller because I thought it was only fair. You do not have to do this, but I think it's the right thing to do - especially if you believe in karma!
- Returns - This is one of the reasons why many people will not buy from China in the first place. Case in point: I bought several items from a seller I had not previously purchased from before. The day I got my package, I was somewhat confused, because I'd gotten beads that I knew were much smaller than the listing stated - they'd advertised 10mm, and I got 6mm instead. I contacted the seller and they advised me to return the item. Well, since I'd paid a whopping $0.99 for this strand of purple crystals with free shipping, it wasn't worth the return shipping costs, even though the seller promised to refund my shipping. I replied to them and told them that it wasn't worth the effort. They did end up refunding my money however, even though I told them that I could still use the beads.
Obviously, I don't have to tell you not to buy again from a seller that you have had a less than stellar transaction with. I have a small notepad file on my laptop with the user names of sellers that I refuse to buy from again. I also have a list of sellers saved on my eBay account whose products, prices and shipping times I thought were awesome, and I try to buy from them every time they have what I need.
One little sneaky thing you may run into is a single seller using multiple accounts. I'm not entirely sure why they do this, but occasionally I will buy several items from different sellers and will receive them all in the same package. Unless you end up with items you didn't order or your shipment is short, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out where to leave your feedback. When this happens, though, and items from multiple sellers come in the same package, I won't buy from any of them again. I can't help but think they're trying to pull something shady and I am not going to help them do it.
Have you purchased direct from China via eBay?
Leaving Feedback on eBay
I have found that a lot of Chinese eBay sellers will leave me good feedback as soon as they receive my payment. This does not, however, automatically mean that I have to leave them good feedback if I've had a bad experience.
You may not want to leave bad feedback because it can damage the seller's online reputation. Consider this, though: How many people do you think believe the same thing? Many people don't leave any kind of feedback, but I think it's my responsibility to let other buyers know about my experience.
If I have had to ask for a refund and the seller readily gives it, I will usually leave neutral feedback and detail it as much as I can. If I have had a really crappy experience with a seller or their product, I do give a negative and detail that as well. My advice, though, is to wait a couple of days to cool down about it if you are very angry - your feedback cannot be changed once you leave it. So, if you're nasty to the seller, that gets shown on your profile under the feedback you've left. I don't want anyone to see me going off like an eight day alarm clock. I may not be a lady, but I do know how to act like one in certain circumstances.
By the same token, if you've had a great experience, detail that also. Sellers thrive when they receive good feedback, it's important to their business, so don't just skip it. Even if you only write a simple "thanks," at least they're getting a pat on the back for a job well done.