A few days ago Gearbest’s website went down and the site hasn’t been back up since. There were no announcements or explanations from the owners of the once vibrant Chinese e-commerce store. In fact, a lot of customers who had placed their orders with the site in recent months and weeks are now scrambling to find answers which may never come. Currently, if you visit the site you will get the following error:
A gradual fall from grace
I first learnt of Gearbest sometime back in 2017. They used to sell decent affordable electronic gadgets including phones, covers, action cameras and even laptops of a decent quality. They also had cheap delivery options including via European postal companies. Generally, you could expect an item you bought from them to be delivered to your local Post Office in about two weeks if you lived in Harare.
That was faster than what Aliexpress offers. I swear the guys at Aliexpress use tortoises and snails. Sometimes it takes three months for their packages to arrive! I was so impressed I ranted and raved about their good customer service here on Techzim and encouraged everyone to use them. I now take that back.
Their fall from grace, as it turns out was not as sudden as their site going down. It all began about a year ago and it seems it has something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. They started by jacking up the prices of items on their site so much that some items went up by 100%! So expensive were products such as the Mi Box S, for example, that it was cheaper in Harare than on their site.
Naturally, people stopped buying. Logistical issues and depressed incomes did not help and suddenly the company started failing to deliver packages. Right now on various sites such as Trustpilot, there are hordes of people ranting and raving about how Gearbest ripped them off. As complaints piled sales dropped. As the sales sank the company’s service became more horrible. Not only were they now failing to deliver orders they were also now failing to pay affiliate marketers. The very people who were responsible for their success in the first place.
Then a week ago Gearbest’s parent company was placed under bankruptcy review. The company known as Global Top E-Commerce Co Ltd (formerly Shenzhen Globalegrow Electronic Commerce Co. Ltd) appeared in Guangdon court in China and was placed on “bankruptcy review” according to several sources. Chinese law is a mystery and it’s not clear what this means but judging by the sudden going down of their website it cannot be good news.
There are alternatives
These days I generally do not recommend people to buy gadgets online. The waiting period can be quite long and unpredictable thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The only reason why buying online made sense back in years like 2019 was that global logistical lines were fully operational. You had more shipping options available to you during checkout.
These days the only shipping companies operating with predictable efficiency are couriers, and boy are they expensive. Not only will you have to pay for expedited shipping during the checkout process, but you will also have to fork out as much as US$50 in handling fees when your product arrives in Zimbabwe. This is a flat fee that couriers like DHL charge and that fee does not take into account the value of the item.
In comparison, the Post Office charges a fee of as little as US$2. Unfortunately, most online shops are not offering registered parcel deliveries anymore. This means that more often than not you are better served by looking at local alternatives. If it’s a cheap phone you want, go for an Itel or Techno locally and spare yourself the heartache and pain of waiting for a phone to arrive after paying for it.
If you however have no choice for some reason but to buy online here are my recommended alternatives:
- Banggood- these guys are solid but again thanks to COVID-19 there are limited delivery options. They also accept PayPal.
- Geekbuying-these guys also offer great prices but their delivery options are even more limited than those of Banggood. They also accept PayPal which is good as it gives you a little bit of protection in case something goes wrong. A good number of their products do not ship to Zimbabwe unfortunately
- Aliexpress-as I said this is a popular well known alternative but they do seem to use tortoises and snails to do deliveries. Again they take their sweet time and sometimes packages never arrive. They also do not offer PayPal as a payment option. Technically you can pay via PayPal but most sellers on the platform don’t offer it, so in reality PayPal is not supported. You can however claim refunds from Alixepress themselves.
Again, unless there is a real need to buy online, I strongly urge you to buy local. Like from our Techzim Market.