Does this sound bad?
Dropshippers have found this huge gold mine called AliExpress that people were not taking advantage of and decided to exploit it by charging huge mark-ups to unsuspecting consumers? That makes dropshippers sound like common crooks.
Let me try again and phrase it another way.
Dropshippers have enabled people the ability and convenience to purchase products from shady AliExpress suppliers in a safe and trustworthy way for only a small mark-up. That sounds better, now dropshippers are saints.
Anything can be as good or bad as you want it to be. If you want dropshipping to be morally wrong and you start digging through the internet, then that’s what you’ll find.
With the incredible access we have to information these days, you can find anything to fit your narrative if that’s what you’re looking for. Why else are there so many flat earthers?
Now for the truth.
Dropshipping is an ethical business, the problem is with unscrupulous people trying to make money without caring about the customers needs. They do this with inferior product quality, slow shipping times and unreliable suppliers, which all give dropshipping an unethical perception.
First of all, dropshipping is a very general term. There are several methods of dropshipping and it’s a huge generalization to put them all in the same category. Dropshipping is simply a way of fulfilling orders whether that’s dropshipping from China, dropshipping using local suppliers or arbitrage dropshipping.
Why is Dropshipping Perceived as Unethical?
Dropshipping has a bad name and is why many stores try to appear as though they are not dropshipping stores. This perception is why successful dropshippers have transitioned into private labeling products and creating a brand so they are perceived in a different light.
Dropshipping has gained a bad reputation due to beginners creating Shopify stores, selling cheap low quality products, not caring about the customer and only interested in making a quick buck. This is common when dropshipping from China and makes it difficult for people running legitimate dropshipping stores.
The thing many beginners don’t understand is that not only is this type of store unethical, but it’s also an ineffective business model. You might make a few dollars initially, however, you will have many unsatisfied customers. This will result in poor Facebook feed scores and payment processors suspending your account due to chargebacks.
If you’re unsure whether dropshipping is a good business for you, I suggest you read this article first.
Is AliExpress Dropshipping Ethical?
When most people think about unethical dropshipping, their mind goes to AliExpress. This is due to the number of people using it unethically but also because it appears wrong to sell products that can be purchased for Aliexpress.
If dropshipping is scamming people, isn’t most retail just scamming people then?
Retail stores are just purchasing products from a supplier and marking up the price to make a profit. That’s what dropshipping is.
The only difference is that a retail store’s supplier purchases from a wholesaler instead of AliExpress, and consumers can’t generally purchase directly from a wholesaler. Does that make it more ethical?
A wholesaler and AliExpress is simply a middleman. However, there are rules in place stopping you from shopping at a wholesaler so you are forced to pay for another middleman without any choice and this is meant to make it more ethical. That seems more unethical to me.
The other argument is people are charging unreasonable prices for products. If they buy a product for $2 on AliExpress and sell it for $20, is that unethical? I guess it’s subjective. Companies don’t charge prices based on what is a fair price for a product, they charge what they believe the consumer will pay.
If a dropshipper can play on someone’s emotions with persuasive ads, product descriptions and images, is it wrong to charge $20 for that $2 item?
People pay exorbitant amounts of money for luxury and branded products because it makes them feel powerful, secure, accepted, loved, confident and many more emotions. In my opinion, if branding is ethical, then so is charging $20 for a $2 item if you’re persuasive enough.
We have become accustomed to branding so it feels normal and accepted. Nobody is protesting when Rolex charges 500 times the product price for a watch.
Long shipping times are another aspect of AliExpress dropshipping people despise. However, dropshippers know how to get faster shipping times that normal consumers just don’t know about. This is another reason why they can get away with dropshipping.
The most unethical part of this is how many dropshippers hide the shipping times from customers. If they do show them they can be crafty with how they state them.
For example, if a product is going to take 3 to 4 weeks to get to a customer, a store may have listed 9 to 12 days for shipping. But then it may be listed that the days are only business days and in the next section it will be listed that they require 5 to 7 days for processing before the item is shipped. It may also state that shipping times may take slightly longer than listed due to high demand.
These types of tactics are common and in my opinion, unethical. Stores that are fully transparent with their shipping times will have far fewer unhappy customers which will result in far fewer problems down the track. I believe this type of dropshipping will die as you are providing a poor experience for the customer.
Is it Unethical to Sell a Product You’ve never Touched?
This is another one of those issues many people find unethical about dropshipping. Is it wrong to create a website, write product descriptions and create ads around a bunch of products you have never used or even touched?
I completely understand why people have a problem with this. Personally, I think it depends on the types of products your dropshipping. If you’re dropshipping products that solve a specific problem or have a certain function to make it work, then it may be looked at as deceitful to dropship.
For example, I wouldn’t sell a retro gaming console from AliExpress without ordering a sample first and making sure it actually works properly but I would sell pet beds without ever touching them.
However, would I dropship retro gaming consoles from a domestic supplier who has a good reputation without touching the product? I would, so it’s up to the individual.
I would always be cautious of selling anything that could be considered unsafe or dangerous from AliExpress, especially if you’ve never used the product.
How to Dropship Ethically?
It doesn’t matter the type of dropshipping you’re doing, if you’re providing your customers with quality products, reasonable shipping times and great customer service, you’re dropshipping ethically as far as I’m concerned.
Most successful dropshippers will only dropship from AliExpress short-term and will eventually switch to purchasing in bulk from China. This is a far more ethical method of dropshipping from China, although I’m sure they’re not doing it for ethics, they’re doing it because it’s a much more profitable and sustainable business model.
With this you’ll provide consumers with:
- Faster shipping times
- Better product quality
- Competitive prices
- An easier way of providing customers with returns and refunds
- More reliable supplier
- Better packaging
If you plan to dropship from AliExpress and you’re concerned about whether your entering into an unethical business just to make some money, good you should be. Dropshipping should be done ethically because not only are you cheating people over in a way, you’re also ruining dropshipping for yourself and everyone else.
But how do you dropship ethically from AliExpress?
- Order samples and make sure the product is of high quality.
- Only work with suppliers who have been in business for several years and have a high positive feed back score and fast processing times.
- Use a shipping carrier that ships the products in a reasonabe time frame. ePacket is the best option for dropshippers.
- Offer returns and refunds to unsatisfied customers.
- Provide effecient customer service.
- Make sure your supplier offers blind dropshipping.
Platforms such as CJ Dropshipping and Zendrop will simplify dropshipping from China and reduce many of the issues causing AliExpress dropshipping to be unethical. If you’re looking for domestic suppliers, you’re best option is to search through Google to find them or using platforms such Salehoo and Spocket will make things easier.
The ethics of dropshipping vary from person to person. What I think is unethical you may think is ethical and vice versa. You do however have to draw the line somewhere and decide what you’re comfortable with.
Without throwing any specific store under the bus, I know of a dropshipping store that has a professional looking website and sell quality products with fast shipping times. However, when you make a purchase on their store, you’re automatically entered into a subscription they have created that will cost you a monthly fee. This is written in tiny print that is hard to see that 90% of wouldn’t notice.
Stores like this is what give dropshipping a bad name. At the end of the day, it’s not hard to create an ethical dropshipping business, all you have to do is provide your customers with actual value.