With shutdowns occurring worldwide due to COVID, it’s inevitable that component and product shipping will be impacted. This is a quick article to talk about the specific challenges we’ve faced at Verdi as a hardware startup ordering from AliExpress, and what we’ve learned.
At Verdi, we source many product components from AliExpress, meaning we regularly ship from China to Canada. With pandemic-induced shutdowns, however, we’ve had packages disappear off the map and get shipped back to the supplier. From what we’ve heard, we are not the only ones experiencing this problem.
So we dug deeper into the problem. We spoke to suppliers, couriers, and national mail carriers. We’ve compiled our findings below. For reference, we used AliExpress Premium shipping as it was was one of the fastest/cheapest options. Our findings may or may not apply to other AliExpress-affiliated shipping options as well (ex. ePacket).
A few findings:
- AliExpress Premium shipments can be tracked through an AliExpress-assigned number. However, these tracking numbers do not work internationally, meaning you cannot track them outside of AliExpress’ website. International tracking provides much more information on the status of your shipment, and enables you to know which organization(s)(ex. supplier, courier, etc.) to contact if something goes wrong.
- However, shipments do actually have an international tracking number, which AliExpress does not display on your dashboard. You can get the international tracking number by asking the supplier, using the AliExpress Message Center (see below) or by phone/email if available.
- AliExpress Premium is shipped through DHL. Once your package is in transit, you should reach out directly to DHL if you have questions or are experiencing delivery issues. Once you have the international tracking number, you can track your package via DHL or a website like http://parcelsapp.com/en.
- Due to COVID-19, DHL will now call you to pay duties. If you ordered your package before the shutdown and used your office phone number (like us), DHL will call that number. If you do not pick up, the package will be sent back to the supplier. We have heard from friends that in some cases they did not receive a call to pay duties.
- For peace of mind, we suggest paying the extra money to get internationally-tracked express options like UPS or Fedex.
- If you want to stick to AliExpress options, make sure to get the international tracking number from the supplier so that you can track the package through DHL.
- Be ready to pay duties by phone. If you ordered using an office phone number that is now inaccessible, call the carrier (ex. DHL) to switch the phone number. You can change the delivery address too if required.
- In the event of any problem during shipment, the fastest solution is to call the shipper — don’t wait for the problem to resolve itself.
- Use the AliExpress Message Center or phone/email to stay in touch with the supplier. We were pleasantly surprised to find that suppliers are quite willing to help.