Bulk shopping at Alibaba
January 13, 2006 10:26 PM   Subscribe

Alibaba regularly ranks as one of the top destination web sites in the world, currently higher than Wikipedia or CNN, it is a mind boggling Bazaar of bulk items available for import and export, mainly from China. A popular site rarely heard about, it is for those who buy by the shipping container or become lost in the bewildering variety and possibilities of generic bulk commodities.
posted by stbalbach (28 comments total)
I've often wondered about this...there seem to be a lot of cool things for sale, but how do you find the price? How do you calculate the shipping?

Heck, I'd buy bulk amounts of some cool stuff, but I'm dumb and can't figure out what the special trick is with this site.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:37 PM on January 13, 2006

I'm stoopid too. Where's the prices? Do I have to haggle with a guy in China to buy some club chairs?
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 10:52 PM on January 13, 2006

"Welcome you, and have a good nice day! We are a manufacturer that specialize in producing MP3 watch"


I'll take 1000.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:53 PM on January 13, 2006

This is largely a B2B site operating with a classifieds model, as reported by NPR, and mostly serves the China domestic market. No, they're not yet another stupid Engrish site to make fun of. And no, they're not a retailer catering to the US consumer, so you're out of luck if you're wondering what you can buy there with Paypal. I guess it is "rarely heard about" to the general populace of the west, but working in the internets sector, I've been hearing about it for a long time and it is considered a major player in an up and coming market. There are several companies that would love to buy it, the likeliest match probably being eBay. That is, if such a thing were "permitted" to happen by the forces that be over there.
posted by scarabic at 11:11 PM on January 13, 2006

Well...it could be cool.
posted by graventy at 11:11 PM on January 13, 2006

I mean to say: yes, it is an Engrish site to make fun of, but it's also pulling down serious bank, so such cracks fall kinda flat.
posted by scarabic at 11:12 PM on January 13, 2006

Ok, so is there a wholesale/bulk website that offers specific prices for things (eBay's wholesale pages don't count because the selection generally sucks) and consumers can buy from? That would be incredibly popular.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:30 PM on January 13, 2006

Neat! I've always wondered where this stuff comes from....
posted by ph00dz at 11:57 PM on January 13, 2006

Isn't this how Batman got his custom masks?
posted by phyrewerx at 12:17 AM on January 14, 2006

Alibaba is a list of product sellers, not a company/catalog in and of itself... that's why the prices aren't on there...

It's a way to say "I want XYZ, I don't know who makes it.. I want to find some companies that do!"...

It's definitely responsible for a lot of business..
posted by twiggy at 12:36 AM on January 14, 2006

I was considering buying stuff from alibaba a while back. And then I checked out the forums on the site. Chock full of posts like:

"I sent my $20k for a pallette of 10,000 shirts, but they never arrived and the the phone number for the business doesn't work anymore". D'oh!
posted by Dag Maggot at 3:26 AM on January 14, 2006

You search for the products you are interested in, then contact the seller(s), haggle, wait for delivery and pray. What is so complicated?
posted by fixedgear at 3:46 AM on January 14, 2006

Craft/Religious is the best section. LED Holy Mary statue. I'll take 20,000.

( Contains a LED light, when turn on the LED light, the color of the light change into 7 clours continuously.)
posted by Jimbob at 4:35 AM on January 14, 2006

Actually this site is very interesting. I'd often wondered where those bargain stores full of chinese junk (you know...I'm sure everywhere has shops full of chinese junk) source their stock from. This explains it all. Now I know where to go when I decide to start up a store selling cheap chinese junk.
posted by Jimbob at 4:44 AM on January 14, 2006

Despite which, the Engrish is difficult not to giggle at.

"help your customer to solve the headache problem", provide extra value in your customer service and product, then you could make business with your customer for long time rather than "after initial and instant contact then leave each other". enjoy your days

When reading this stuff, I just try to remind myself how much Mandarin I know. None.
posted by Jimbob at 4:48 AM on January 14, 2006

These products, they vibrate?
posted by misteraitch at 4:49 AM on January 14, 2006

To think I have always believed Alibaba was some robber in the Arab fairytales. I must have been mistaken.
posted by Laotic at 6:08 AM on January 14, 2006

I feel so... small.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:56 AM on January 14, 2006

Whoops, wrong thread.

But the sentiment is the same.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:56 AM on January 14, 2006

These products, they vibrate?

How are you going to explain that shipping container of octopus-shaped devices sitting in the street in front of your house?
posted by gimonca at 8:07 AM on January 14, 2006

I think Yahoo bought %40 of Alibaba in June 2005.
posted by stbalbach at 8:41 AM on January 14, 2006

I used to work at Alibaba and I have to say don't believe the hype. It was very weird working there like taking a trip back to '98 and the internet boom. Most of the money they have has come from venture capatol. Though their Chinese B2B site is the biggest part of their company they claim that the only profitable part of the business. Though I doubt this too as Chinese accounting isn't exactly open and the graph of profits they showed us was way to linear with nice round numbers.

They way they make money is that Chinese companies will pay them to become a "gold supplier" which means that they get prioty in searches and a snazyy looking homepage. I think most of their money actually come from venture capitol.

It wasn't surprising that they were bought by Yahoo because Alibaba's CTO is Jerry Yang who was also the co-founder of Yahoo.

Alibaba's newest venture is taobao.com , from what I hear almost all the yahoo money and new venture capitol are going into this website. It is a customer to customer website that is directly competing with E-Bay in China. It's not proitable at all at the monet, probably because credit cards are not that common in China and people aren't used to making online payments. Things bought on taobao are usually paid for by money tranfers made through banks.

I have to say I am a little ashamed of all the Chinglish on the site because it used to be my job to fix that. But I hear that they are taking a quantity over quality approach to editing these days.
posted by afu at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

You know... I was actually thinking about trying to find someone to make something stupid for me in fairly small quantities. As it turns out, I found right what I was looking for on this site.

Kinda kooky... but super cool.

Anyone have any words of advice when dealing through a service like this?
posted by ph00dz at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2006

posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2006

er, that should be 对你说的阿里爸爸,振动吗?
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2006

> How are you going to explain that shipping container of octopus-shaped devices sitting in the street in front of your house?

A shipping-container full of vibrating octopusses may call for an explanation, but a warehouse full will demand only silent respect!
posted by misteraitch at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2006

Generally speaking, when sourcing from somewhere like China, you have to order a fairly large number of your desired item. For instance, I include a bath pouf in my gift baskets that we source from China, but the minimum order is so incredibly large, that I have to band together with others in my industry to be able to reach the minimum order, and not be buried under poufs.

You can also find consumer products, and other "dollar store" items in smaller bulk here, but not the industrial equipment and other heavy equipment available at alibaba.
posted by dejah420 at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2006

Fun fact: It is called alibaba.com because the name is able to be pronounced clearly in all of the major languages of those who deal with the site. (The name does not have anything to do with thieves, forty or otherwise.)
posted by perianwyr at 3:50 PM on January 15, 2006

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