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Shopping in China

Those that travel 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 and with reduced risk.

I have a hobby of cooking over fire and smoking meats. While I have an assortment of outdoor grills, I have wanted an Argentinian Parrilla grill. It features a grilling surface that can be raised and lowered to adjust the cooking temperature. It also has a nest and firebox designed to create embers from wood, and then cook over those embers. The cost of a grill like this made of heavy stainless steel ranges from $5000 to $10,000, far more expensive than I could ever afford.

Some of these grills are made in China, so I decided to try to find a manufacturer, preferably of some of the products I’ve seen available in this country. Alibaba is a website that is designed to make buying Chinese-made products as simple and risk-free as possible. You can search for most anything and find manufacturers and distributors. In this case my attempt was to find the actual manufacturer to avoid an intermediary.

With about an hour of effort I located a manufacturer of grills 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 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 was $800 for the item plus $600 for shipping this large 150 pound grill by 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 to no risk in making this purchase. Most companies are very responsive and are very open and willing to share anything about their company. The biggest risk would be possible shipping damage that could be hard to fix from afar.

When I ordered and paid by credit card about six weeks ago, the manufacturer alerted me when it shipped to the dock and then told me the container ship it was on. I was able to follow the shipping progress, about 2 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.

The grill arrived a few days ago in a wooden crate on a pallet. It took about an hour to uncrate and assemble and it’s 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 many 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.

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.