Shopping in China

Those that travel internationally know that bargains can be found in other countries, but rarely have I found one like this that didn’t require any travel. With the help of their website, Alibaba makes the process simple to find the manufacturer of almost any kind of product, and takes much of risk out of the purchase.

I enjoy cooking over fire and smoking meats, and have learned much of my skills from practice, lots of reading, and this site, AmazingRibs. While I have an assortment of outdoor grills, I have wanted an Argentinian Parrilla grill for several years. It features a grilling surface that can be raised and lowered to adjust the cooking temperature and has a nest for turning firewood into hot embers for the heat source. The cost of a grill like this, made of heavy stainless steel, ranges from $5000 to well over $10,000, far more expensive than I could ever justify.

Some of these grills are made in China, so I decided to try to find a manufacturer, preferably one that makes products I’ve seen available in this country. Alibaba lets you search for most anything and find their manufacturers and distributors. In this case my attempt was to find the actual manufacturer and avoid a distributor – I wanted to go right to the source.

With about an hour of effort I located a manufacturer of grills that I liked a lot, based on their listing and their website, and contacted them. You can send messages via Alibaba or go to the company’s website and contact them directly. I began a series of email exchanges, all in perfect English, and learned more about the company and their products. They confirmed they are the manufacturer of one of the grills I found in the U.S. for about $6500. It was their own design and they could sell me one directly.

The cost for the exact same product was an amazing $800! I’d have to pay an additional $600 for shipping this large 150 pound grill. It would go by container ship and then directly to my home by truck.

Payment is made through Alibaba who guarantees that the product is as represented and withholds payment until you confirm receipt and condition.

Because I’ve worked with many Chinese manufacturers over my career, I was quite confident that there was little risk in making this purchase. Most companies are very responsive and willing to share information about their company and products. The biggest risk would be shipping damage that could be hard to fix from afar.

When I ordered and paid by credit card about six weeks ago, the manufacturer emailed me when it shipped from the factory to the dock and then told me the container ship it was on across the Pacific. I was able to follow the ship’s progress over about two weeks, to Long Beach, CA using a website that’s similar to the flight tracking apps we all use. A few days after the ship docked I received a call from a trucking company scheduling the delivery to my home about a week later.

Tracking Cargo Ships

The grill arrived in a wooden crate on a pallet. It took about an hour to uncrate and assemble and it’s now ready to use.

I would urge you to visit Alibaba and search for just about anything, but especially something expensive and unaffordable in the U.S. While some listings require buying more than one of an item, some of the more expensive items are available to purchase singly. It’s also possible and recommended to negotiate a bit. The grill company added about $150 of tools for the price I paid.

While some may question buying from China, consider that this product probably netted the manufacture a few hundred dollars, while the U.S. retailer selling it at $6500 likely made $5000!

As shoppers, the world is at our disposal, and with sites such as Alibaba, it’s almost as easy as Amazon. There are just no free returns.

by Phil Baker