Having now bought not one, but TWO of my important wedding outfit pieces from China (specifically for my wedding day, not to mention a raft of other things), I have learned much about dealing specifically with Chinese eBay listings.
Things you need to know about buying an eBay wedding dresses or accessories
1. They are a LOT cheaper than American/British listings
Initially I was suspicious. Our culture tells us that things are priced at specific points for a reason. I think you should make up your own mind about that. Personally I have found it a great way to save money shopping.
2. The quality is generally either the same, better, or poorer than US/UK items
Remember when you gave your Barbie dolls a haircut, and suddenly realized they had “made in China” stamped on the back of their neck? Well, a lot of the time you are buying the same goods but directly from the wholesaler or manufacturer, so you are effectively cutting out the middle man. This means that sometimes you get the exact same product for less. Sometimes, it means the product is better, because the American/British shops wouldn't be able to make the same profit margin on a slightly higher cost unit. Sometimes, it means the product is worse, because your American/British middleman orders samples before deciding which items are worth selling on.
3. Sometimes things just don't turn up at all
Other times, they take over a month to arrive. Other other times, they amaze you by turning up in a week. This entirely depends on the seller and their choice of postal carrier. When it's free postage, you can't really complain though. Often it's free postage on odd-sized items (I got free postage on SHOES last month); I haven't worked out how they afford this unless China Post has a special deal to improve foreign trade or something. Often they tick the “gift” column on customs decs. Sometimes they say “commercial sample” in which case you may or may not get hit by customs charges. To avoid customs charges on personal purchases, make sure you put multiple purchases through separately and ask for separate shipping (it will save you £££s and is completely legal in the UK if you're not a business).
4. There is absolutely NO POINT in returning items
I have seen (I'm a feedback reader) many accounts of people trying to return broken/damaged items to China and return postage costs more than the original item. Save yourself the effort, and make a decision to write off the amount you're spending on your item, then if it arrives then great, if it doesn't… buy a proper item from an actual shop.
5. You can find items that you just can't get anywhere else
I have an amazing Gothic Lolita dress that is made by a Chinese designer, it cost £30 plus about £11 postage. You can't get them anywhere else.
6. Jewelry will not have the proper hallmarks and you have no way of verifying what you're getting until it arrives, and you get it tested
Now onto the actual mechanics to make your transactions as smooth as possible
1. Check feedback
If it's less than 98%, they probably don't ship every item purchased. I don't personally deal with any sellers with less than 98% positive feedback. I also try and find item-specific feedback — who has bought the same item as me? Did it arrive? Were they happy with it? If so, I can offset this against negative feedback if it's not for my item (if that makes sense).
2. Be PATIENT
Many Chinese sellers have loads of negatives that say things like “I waited two weeks and it didn't arrive.” No shizzle, Sherlock. It takes time for overland post to get to you. Overland post means it has to go in a vehicle, until it reaches any sea, then it has to go on a boat. Then it goes in another vehicle. This takes anything from 15 to 30 days.
3. Raise a case within the 45 days via buyer protection if your item doesn't arrive
You should be patient, but don't be a doormat. Waiting 30 days is reasonable, waiting 35 days is saintly patience, but waiting 45 days means you no longer have any rights to a refund via eBay. This is very important because as long as you raise your case in time eBay will always reverse the transaction, if your item didn't arrive, so you have only lost a bit of time and no money on your failed transaction.
4. Don't raise a case with a faulty item
This is an eBay requirement on faulty goods — they have to be sent with a tracking number. Unless you happen to be going to China any time soon and can send your item by registered post, just save your time and just write off the original cash to experience.
5. Be aware of sizing conventions
Chinese sizings often run small (especially compared to UK shoes) but sellers very often post measurements in centimetres for you to check against something in your home that fits you. Also they jump from US to UK dress sizes so I always scour the listing very carefully to check which they're using, after that time I bought something listed as an 8 and it was really a UK 12 because it was a US 8. That went to a charity shop; lesson learnt. On the other hand, if they're a Chinese designer/manufacturer and are making things for you themselves (rather than a wholesaler), they will sometimes do made-to-order custom stuff.
To conclude, buying from China CAN save you loads of money. (My wedding veil cost £2.60 with free shipping. The cheapest one in a UK department store was £40 with £3.99 shipping and wasn't very nice. There were loads of veil options for under £5 from China.) But you need to be un-fussed about quality or perfect fit, and take steps to protect your purchases… but, above all, be a reasonable human being using common sense and you will generally be fine.
Has anyone else tried shopping for eBay wedding dresses? What shps did you use? What was your experience?